CHEYENNE – Ty Blasingame has been working a series of odd jobs in order to earn steady paychecks since the COVID-19 pandemic brought the world to a standstill.
The team roping header, who lives in Casper, has a wedding to pay for, a baby due in October, and lost the upper portion of the ring finger on his right hand while roping in February in San Antonio, Texas.
Competing in rodeos doesn’t assure Blasingame of a paycheck, but roping well can earn him more money than he can make most places. That’s why one rodeo after another being canceled because of the novel coronavirus has been so hard on rodeo athletes.
Cowboys and cowgirls were dealt another blow Wednesday when Wyoming’s six premier rodeos – including Cheyenne Frontier Days – announced the 2020 editions of their events were being canceled.
“I never imagined everything would be wiped out, but it’s been crazy,” said Blasingame, who has worked construction, laid pavement, done landscaping and oilfield work over the past 10 weeks.
Rodeo Houston – one of the biggest stops on the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association circuit – would have been Blasingame’s first rodeo since his rope severed his right ring finger at the first knuckle. Blasingame estimates he was nowhere near 100% healthy then, but he wanted to defend his title there. He also knew a big payday in Houston could catapult him up the PRCA’s world standings.
Instead, Houston was halted in mid-March as COVID-19 spread across the United States. Rodeos small and large in March, April and May were canceled altogether.
The Cave Creek (Arizona) Rodeo Days, which had been scheduled for March, was contested this past weekend. It’s the first PRCA-sanctioned rodeo to be held since the outbreak.
Blasingame didn’t enter at Cave Creek, but has entered a few jackpot events – rodeos where the purse comes strictly from entry fees. He is healthy, but is still working to regain his touch with a rope. The benefit of the injury and the shutdown is that his horsemanship has improved.
“This may have helped me a lot and made me a better roper,” Blasingame said. “I’ve been known to throw fast and throw quite a lot of rope.
“Since this has happened, I can’t quite do what I could with my rope, so I have had to get better at riding my horse and start using my horse more.”
Cowboys held out hope COVID-19 was going to ease enough for CFD and other rodeos later in the summer to be contested, bull rider Boudreaux Campbell said.
“It’s been a big letdown as we’ve seen all these big rodeos get canceled,” Campbell said prior to Wednesday’s announcement. “We really look forward to going to those events all year long, competing, seeing new stock, new places and meeting new people. It’s a pretty big letdown when you hear this rodeo or that rodeo has been canceled.”
Like Blasingame, some cowboys have had to get jobs to make ends meet during the shutdown. Campbell described himself as fortunate because he had enough money saved to pay his bills. However, he has been working with a friend pouring concrete to keep himself busy, and so he doesn’t have to dip too far into his savings.
“Most guys make money and feed their families by going up and down the road rodeoing,” said Campbell, who calls Crockett, Texas, home. “Now, they can’t do that because all of the rodeos are shut down. It has hurt the industry a little bit, but it’s going to come back stronger.”
Smaller rodeos and jackpots are benefitting from the shutdown. Not only are they some of the only events going right now, their crowds are smaller than groups allowed by public health orders.
“If there’s a jackpot or little amateur rodeo, everybody is going to it right now,” Blasingame said.
Blasingame is entered in an upcoming rodeo in Prescott, Arizona. He is preparing to take a hard look at his schedule as more rodeos fall by the wayside.
“How hard is a guy going to want to go if they end up not having the finals?,” Blasingame said, referring to the PRCA’s year-end National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. “I’m not sure how much I’ll rope this year if they cancel the NFR. It’s crazy what (COVID-19) has done to the world.”