It’s definitely finals season for the amateur associations around here. Last weekend the Northwest Pro Rodeo Association finals took place in Salem, Ore., and a few notable names (in an adjacent story) came out as either year-end champs or finals champs. This weekend’s ProWest Rodeo finals are in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and the following weekend the Idaho Cowboys Association hosts its finals in Homedale, Idaho.

The PRCA cowboys and cowgirls get plenty of attention, but I like watching the amateur associations as well. You’ve got a mix of weekend warriors, guys and gals who work in the ag industry for a living and then there are a few people who get to as many amateur and pro rodeos as they can. It’s a good mix of different talent. Talent that might be competitive if they were professionals, but life gets in the way of that happening consistently.

This is crunch time for a handful of professional cowboys this week. Less than a week from now, we’ll know who’s headed to Las Vegas as a competitor and who’s watching the National Finals on TV since the regular season comes to an end Monday. A few guys might have a whirlwind of plane, trains and automobile trips over the course of three or four days to try and get to every rodeo to get that extra $1,000.

Wait a second, these guys have been rodeoing for pretty much a year and a grand makes a difference? Yep, ask Isaac Diaz. The 16th-ranked saddle bronc rider in the world is less than $400 out of that top 15 (behind Colt Gordon) to make the trip to the NFR. You can bet he’s trying to squeeze every drop of money from this schedule into his bank account. I don’t know if he’s stressed because he’s that close but still not there, or if he’s thankful for paydays that got him this close in the first place. That’s right, Diaz won the first round in Ellensburg and placed in the short round and average, leaving Ellensburg with $5,967. Without Ellensburg, Diaz is $6,300 out of the running instead of $400.

Ask Trey Kimzey. The Oklahoma bull rider is known as Sage Kimzey’s brother, but he’s a heckuva bull rider in his own right as he’s earned more than $104,000 this season. That’s just $1,500 out of the top 15 behind Parker Breding.

So, will guys stay in the Midwest and hit up Kansas City’s American Royal in Missouri, The Cowboy Capital of the World rodeo in Stephenville, Texas, and the Omaha River City Rodeo in Nebraska? Or will they hit Bakersfield, Poway and San Bernardino in Southern California?

Can we talk about steer ropers Roger Branch, Thomas Smith, Jason Evans, Brady Garten and Trenton Johnson? Those guys are ranked 15th through 19th in the tripping event and just a grand separates them. Total. That’s it. Four guys, one spot. Stephenville is the last steer roping event of the regular season. Talk about a made-for-TV ending.

Can’t wait to see it all play out.

I can probably tell you how the bucket list bull riding will go at Cowboy Cross this Saturday at the arena. It’ll probably go about as well as it did last year for me. I’ve got schedule conflicts this year, but I’m trying to make it work. That sounds like an excuse, but don’t worry. You’ve got to give the fans what they want and they want more comedy of me versus a bull, part two.

Jon Guddat covers rodeo – from the kids to the kids at heart – with a weekly rodeo column in the Daily Record. Contact Jon with story ideas at jonguddat@yahoo.com.

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