South Dakota boys take Cheyenne by storm
Lane Schuelke and Rhett Fanning have bumped elbows behind the chutes at college rodeos through the fall, winter, and spring, and pro rodeos this summer, trading turns grabbing firsts when they can. Fanning, a junior transferring to Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas, from Gillette College, grabbed the champion buckle at his first ever pro rodeo at Bennington, Kansas. Schuelke, a sophomore this fall at Sheridan College, grabbed first at the Daddy of ‘Em All, Cheyenne Frontier Days (CFD) rookie bronc riding. Fanning was right behind him with a second, only trailing by two points after two rides.
“Rhett and me, we go back and forth,” Schuelke said. “He will win one, I will win one. He’s been winning quite a bit.”
PRCA permit-holding cowboys can enter the rookie bronc riding at CFD, and try their hands at two head and no short-go. The highest point-earner on two head wins it. Schuelke rode Monday and Tuesday and Fanning Wednesday and Thursday.
“We always went to Cheyenne as a kid growing up, so finally coming out of those chutes was pretty surreal,” Fanning said.
His first horse, one out of Clete Schmidt’s bucking horse string, allowed Fanning to “make a good spur ride,” earning him a 72. His second horse, Carl, a big white bronc of Wes Stevenson’s, a nine-time WNFR bareback bronc qualifier, helped Fanning land a 74.
“He was kind of a little bit bucky right out of there, and I had a pretty good spur ride for the first six seconds, but then the last two seconds, he kind of bucked me off, but I clung to him,” he said.
His 146 combined points wasn’t quite enough to reach Schuelke’s 148, whose first horse, from Dakota Rodeo Co., landed him a 77-point ride and his second a 71.
“My first horse sacked up with me, and was really nice for a while, then turned back again. It about bucked me off once,” he said. “The second was pretty good but pretty weak. It went straight across the pen.”
Schuelke left Cheyenne with $2,610.06 and Fanning with $2,293.12, enough for both to meet the $1,000 minimum to fill their permit and qualify for a PRCA card, in addition to what they’ve already earned at other rodeos.
“I wasn’t thrilled to say the least,” Fanning said of trailing behind Schuelke, “but it’s better that it comes back to the 605 than not. Lane rode good out there; he definitely deserved to win it.”
Schuelke will be a sophomore next year working toward a construction major. In high school, he team roped, calf roped, and rode bulls. He decided to taper the events back to just saddle broncs in college.
“It’s a lot easier. I didn’t have to take a horse to college and I could concentrate on one thing,” he said. “Plus I liked it a lot more.”
Similarly, Fanning did the same, narrowing his focus from team roping, calf roping, and bronc riding in college to just bronc riding when he goes to pro rodeos during the summer and after his college career.
“I just kind of excelled in it a lot more, and it’s a lot handier not to pack a horse around. It saves on cost,” he said.
Having already gone to 20 to 25 pro rodeos this year, Fanning is looking forward to having the opportunity to rodeo more throughout the winter at college in Texas, versus frigid temperatures and harsh road conditions in Wyoming.
“It’s tough to rodeo while going to Gillette. Being in Stephenville, it’s handier to hit winter rodeos,” he said. “I plan on getting my rookie card this next year.”
His sights are set on the Permit Holder of the Year Challenge in the beginning of December in Las Vegas, in which the top five finishers in each event vie for a strong year-end competition. He isn’t far out from his goal, currently sitting seventh with $7,437.39 less than $1,000 in earnings away from the fourth place position, with five rodeos yet to go just this week.
Fanning and Kash Deal, another South Dakota bronc rider, are on their way from Sidney, Iowa, to Abilene, Kansas, and while Fanning has been collecting a lot of second- and third-place checks, he’s hopeful to grab another first and make it all worth being on the road.
“It’s kind of hectic to leave the family back home,” he said of his ranching family near Martin, South Dakota. “They’re behind me, pushing, the whole way. I kind of feel guilty, but on the Fourth of July, my dad said that hopefully he doesn’t see me the rest of the summer. That’s how he would know I was doing well.”
Schuelke said being on the rodeo road requires a lot of driving. “You learn to like it, and if you don’t, it isn’t your calling,” he said. Along the way, he has gained good traveling buddies and met a lot of new folks in the industry.
He has hit about 30 rodeos this summer, he estimated, and is 13th in the permit standings with $4,169.58, but he plans to slow down once he returns to college and only attend college rodeos and pro rodeos close by, finishing the summer with about 10 more rodeos.
Schuelke’s family ranches outside of Newell. “We don’t have a very big place,” he said. “Just enough.”
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Outtagrass Cattle Co. cartoon by Jan Swan Wood for the Oct. 23, 2021, edition of Tri-State Livestock News