Professional rodeo is all about pushing boundaries. Year after year, cowboys compete to tame the toughest animals, record the fastest times and push the envelope more than ever before.
But of the hundreds of pro riders who compete every year, no one embodies rodeo’s pioneering spirit better than Evan Jayne. The bareback bronc rider, who competed during Tuesday’s opening round of the 82nd annual Caldwell Night Rodeo, was born in France — an extreme rarity in a sport dominated by North American athletes.
“It’s really neat to be pushing the French flag into the arena,” said Jayne, who last year became the first European cowboy to qualify for the National Finals Rodeo. “I’m very proud of where I’m from, but I would say 99.9 percent of people in Europe have never even been to a rodeo.”
Jayne’s passion for rodeo started at an early age. His father was a trick horse rider and performer, but Yvan (he changed the spelling of his given name to ease English pronunciation) wasn’t allowed to ride rodeo as a child.
Jayne, however, would not be denied. As a teenager, he signed up for a school exchange program to study in the U.S., privately hoping to chase his dream across the Atlantic.
“That was the secret plan all along,” Jayne said. “I had my fingers crossed.”
Fate was on Jayne’s side, as his host family in Texas came from the rodeo business. Jayne worked tirelessly to hone his craft, hoping to make up for the more than decade-long head start his competitors had on him.
“He paved his own path,” said fellow bronc rider Kash Wilson, a Gooding cowboy who traveled the circuit with Jayne last season. “Even if you’re an American in this sport, it takes a lot to get to this level. But Evan did it all on his own, and he did it by working twice as hard as everyone else.”
Jayne’s work ethic has paid off to the tune of more than $420,000 in career winnings. It’s a figure that, combined with his groundbreaking 2015 NFR appearance, makes Jayne the most successful European rodeo cowboy in history.
“It means a lot,” Jayne said. “Nine months of travel, lots of injuries, lots of hard work — it takes a lot to get to the NFR, so it was definitely great to be the first one to do it.”
This season, Jayne again is ranked among the top bareback riders in the world. And while he’s now based in the U.S. — he married a Texas girl, has a young daughter and frequently hosts French relatives traveling to watch him compete — his success is inspiring his countrymen.
A few new European cowboys are starting to pop up on the pro circuit, and Jayne also teaches a rodeo school every October in his hometown of Cuges-les-Pins, a small town near Marseille.
Perhaps someday, one of Jayne’s protégés will eclipse his accomplishments and push French rodeo to even greater heights.
“Hopefully I can stoke a fire in at least one of them,” Jayne said. “It can be hard to get around back home because every 10 yards, people are stopping me with hugs and questions and well-wishes. But it’s great to have so much support from my hometown.”
It was an uncharacteristically tough night for the bronc riders, with both bareback and saddle bronc contestants battling low scores and uncooperative horses.
Saddle bronc cowboy Joe Lufkin was one of the few competitors to get a clean, hard-bucking ride, and he took full advantage.
The Oklahoman scored an 87.5-point ride aboard Lunatic Fringe to win Tuesday’s opening round and lock up a spot in Saturday’s final.
Bareback Riding: 1, Cody Kiser, Carson City, Nev., 77 points on Powder River Rodeo’s Big Show. 2, Caleb Bennett, Tremonton, Utah, 76. 3, Bill Tutor, Huntsville, Texas, 74. 4, Zack Brown, Red Bluff, Calif., 72.
Steer wrestling: 1, (tie) Nick Guy, Sparta, Wisc., and Judd Austin, Preston, Idaho, 4.9 seconds each. 3, Clay Lloyd, Dingle, Idaho, 5.0. 4, (tie) Cody Kroul, Solon, Idaho, and Josh Peek, Pueblo, Colo., 5.9.
Team roping: 1, Clay Smith, Broken Bow, Okla., and Paul Eaves, Lonedell, Mo., 4.8 seconds. 2, Colton Campbell, Klamath Falls, Ore., and Daniel Holland, Bonanza, Ore., 6.2. 3, Kaleb Driggers, Albany, Ga., and Junior Nogueiria, Burleson, Texas, 6.4. 4, Tee Luttrell, Woodlawn, Texas, and Clay Sieber, Arp, Texas, 7.0.
Saddle bronc riding: 1, Joe Lufkin, Sallisaw, Okla., 87.5 points on Burch Rodeo’s Lunatic Fringe. 2, Zeke Thurston, Big Valley, Alberta, 82.5. 3, Cody Wright, Milford, Utah, 79. 4, Rusty Wright, Milford, Utah, 76.
Tie-down roping: 1, Marcos Costa, Childress, Texas, 9.5 seconds. 2, Jake Pratt, Ellensburg, Wash., 10.1. 3, J.C. Malone, Hooper, Utah, 10.6. 4, Rhen Richard, Roosevelt, Utah, 11.4.
Barrel racing: 1, Danna Jo Whitford, Browning, Mont., 17.41 seconds. 2, Sherry Cervi, Marana, Ariz., 17.44. 3, Jolee Lautaret, Jordan, Kingman, Ariz., 17.49. 4, Kellie Collier, Hereford, Texas, 17.55.
Bull riding: no qualified rides
Steer wrestling: (second round) 1, Rowdy Parrott, Mamou, La., 4.1 seconds. 2, (tie) Straws Milan, Cochrane, Alberta, and Seth Brockman, Wheatland, Wyo., 4.2. 4, (tie) Olin Hannum, Malad, Idaho, and Tyler Waguespack, Gonzales, La., 4.4. (total on two) 1, Judd Austin, Preston, Idaho, 9.8 seconds. 2, Dakota Eldridge, Elko, Nev., 9.9. 3, Nick Guy, Sparta, Wisc., 10.1. 4, Olin Hannum, Malad, Idaho, 10.2.
Team roping: (second round) Paul David Tierney, Oral, S.D., and Cesar de la Cruz, Tucson, Ariz., 4.7. 2, Clay Smith, Broken Bow, Okla., and Paul Eaves, Lonedell, Mo., 4.8. 3, Spencer Mitchell, Colusa, Calif., and Justin Davis, Cottonwood, Calif., 5.0. 4, John Alley, Adams, Tenn., and Clark, Adcock, Smithville, Tenn., 5.6. (total on two) 1, (tie) Kaleb Driggers, Albany, Ga., and Junior Nogueiria, Burleson, Texas; and Randon Adams, Logandale, Nev., and Jory Levy, Logandale, Nev.; 12.1 each. 3, J.B. James Jr., Bennett, Colo., and Brock Hanson, Casa Grande, Ariz., 13.7. 4, Cody Snow, Los Olivos, Calif., and Dugan Kelly, Paso Robles, Calif., 17.0.
Tie-down roping: (second round) 1, Tyson Durfey, Weatherford, Texas, 7.9 seconds. 2, (tie) Westyn Hughes, Caldwell, Texas, and Cody McCartney, Ottawa Lake, Mich., 8.2. 4, Sterling Smith, Stephenville, Texas, 8.4. (total on two) 1, Westyn Hughes, Caldwell, Texas, 16.9. 2, Tyson Durfey, Weatherford, Texas, 17.7. 3, Cade Swor, Winnie, Texas, 18.1. 4, J.C. Malone, Hooper, Utah, 18.4.
Barrel racing: (first round winners) 1, Sherry Cervi, Marana, Ariz., 17.28 seconds, $2,123. 2, Benette Little, Ardmore, Okla., 17.36, $1,820. 3, Brittany Kelly, Paso Robles, Calif., 17.37, $1,516. 4, Amber Leigh Moore, Salem, Ore., 17.38, $1,314. 5, Ivy Conrado, Hudson, Colo., 17.40, $1,011. 6, Jane Melby, Burneyville, Okla., 17.41, $809. 7, Jana Griemsman, Piedmont, S.D., 17.50, $607. 8, Kimmie Wall, Roosevelt, Utah, 17.51, $404. 9, Christine Laughlin, Pueblo, Colo., 17.52, $303. 10, Stevi Hillman, Weatherford, Texas, 17.57, $202. (second round leaders) 1, Michele McLeod, Whitesboro, Texas, 17.37. 2, Danna Jo Whitford, Browning, Mont., 17.41. 3, Sherry Cervi, Marana, Ariz., 17.44. 4, Jolee Lautaret – Jordan, Kingman, Ariz., 17.49. (total on two) 1, Sherry Cervi, Marana, Ariz., 34.72. 2, Jolee Lautaret – Jordan, Kingman, Ariz., 35.41. 3, Danna Jo Whitford, Browning, Mont., 35.52. 4, Kellie Collier, Hereford, Texas, 35.69.
The Caldwell Night Rodeo continues through Saturday, the championship round. Pre-rodeo events begin at 6:30 each night and the rodeo starts at 8. Adult tickets range from $15 to $22.