Rodeo destination: North Platte | TSLN.com

Rodeo destination: North Platte

Joe Gunderson of Gettysburg, SD stretches out on his bareback ride scoring 83 for his effort during Thursday's performance of the Nebraskaland Days Buffalo Bill Rodeo in North Platte. Photo by George Hipple Photography

For many Nebraska cowboys and cowgirls, the Buffalo Bill Rodeo in North Platte is a homecoming.

It's not only a place to compete, but it's when their family and friends can see them in action, and they have a chance to catch up and visit.

Two-time world champion steer wrestler Dean Gorsuch has competed in North Platte for at least fifteen years, he estimates, and even though he's rodeoed around the nation, he loves coming to North Platte. Born in Mullen, his family moved to Gering when he was about ten. But he still has relatives in the Sandhills. "Heck, everybody my family knows, is from around there," he said. "That's the one rodeo they come to."

Gorsuch, who was world champion in 2006 and 2010, had Tommy John surgery two years ago to replace an arm ligament and suffered through an injured clavicle last year. The injured clavicle bothered him more than the arm. "It hurt worse," he said. "It took most of last year to where it felt good again." The 36 year old cowboy has qualified for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, pro rodeo's world championship, eight times. This year is going OK, he said, with the rodeo season just getting a good start. "It's been decent, so far. It was slow at first, but now it's starting to pick up."

While Gorsuch is a veteran to the sport, a young cowboy is just starting his pro career. Tucker White, a team roper from Hershey, will compete at the Buffalo Bill Rodeo for the second time. The heeler is excited about his chances at this year's rodeo: he's team roping with Paul David Tierney, the son of legendary roper Paul Tierney, the 2014 Timed Event Champion at the Lazy E Arena in Oklahoma, and an excellent roper. White is excited. "He had to see me win somewhere for him to put his money up with me," White said.

He likens roping with Tierney to baseball. "I compare it to the minor leagues and the major leagues. The guys in minor league are good. They get called up to the major leagues, and get a shot, and that's what I'm getting in North Platte. I'm getting a shot from a guy who tries to make the National Finals (Rodeo) every year. He's giving me the chance to make the major leagues."

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White roped in North Platte in 2014 but missed last year's rodeo because he was a contestant at the College National Finals Rodeo. He will be a senior at Hastings (Neb.) College this fall and will graduate with a degree in ag business.

White and Tierney will get in some practice time on Tuesday night, before roping in slack on Wednesday, June 15 and in the performance on Sat., June 18. After the Buffalo Bill Rodeo is over, Tierney will head on to Reno, Nev., where he will rope with Cesar de la Cruz.

Four-hundred twenty-six contestants will compete in North Platte this week. The tie-down roping, team roping and steer wrestling is two head, meaning each contestant gets two runs. The other events: bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, and barrel racing, are one head.

The rodeo begins at 8 pm each night. Rodeo clown and barrelman Troy Lerwill will entertain. Bullfighters Quirt Hunt, Gordon, and Wacey Munsell, Ulysses, Kan., will work the bull riding, and Hadley Barrett and Randy Corley, the father-in-law/son-in-law duo, will announce. Barrett grew up in the North Platte area, and Corley lived there for about twenty years. Beutler and Son Rodeo Co., Elk City, Okla., will provide the bucking horses and bulls.

Slack, the extra competition that doesn't fit into the performances, will be at 8 am on June 15 and 16 and is free to the public.

Tickets for the rodeo can be purchased at the NebraskalandDays office, online at NebraskalandDays.com, and at the gate. For more information, visit the website or call the office at 308-532-7939. F

– Nebraskaland Days