Tim Shirley admits he can’t help but look.
Call it an addiction and a validation of years of backbreaking work.
The Conifer resident came into the Evergreen Rodeo ranked No. 15 in the world in bareback riding, the highest he’s ever been ranked this late in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association season.
When he peeks at the rankings again, something he says he does all the time, Shirley won’t have done himself any harm after scoring an 87 on Sunday, June 15, to take first place at his hometown rodeo.
Shirley remains in position to qualify for the prestigious world championships held in December in Las Vegas, Nev. Perhaps more importantly, he’s having a great time and keeping his head above water prior to a busy July rodeo season.
“Normally I wouldn’t have any money right now and I’d be just kind of putting everything on my credit card and worrying about that,” Shirley said. “This year I’ve got enough money where that’s not stuck in my mind. I don’t have to worry and I can just go have fun.”
Fun came on the back of Bronco Billy as the blond-haired Shirley vaulted to first place just minutes after Jerad Schlegel had grabbed the lead with a score of 81. Shirley’s ride earned the cowboy $798 and further cemented his status as a contender for the 10-day National Finals Rodeo – the Super Bowl of rodeo – where the top-15 individuals in each event vie to become world champions.
Just the thought of getting to Sin City causes Shirley to stop and smile like a young kid.
“Oh ee I wouldn’t even know what to say.”
The Evergreen Rodeo always has a special place in Shirley’s heart, where his family’s company, Shirley Septic, remains one of the title sponsors. But instead of coming home and relishing the free bed and laundry service, Shirley is rolling with the momentum he gained by a top finish at the mammoth Houston Rodeo in March.
Shirley credits his good form with an improved mental outlook, in addition to the natural maturation process of being able to score good points even when given a mediocre horse to ride.
“I quit playing head games. I think it’s 90 percent mental,” he said. This year I’ve just been trying to be positive about everything. If I don’t ride good I have the five-minute rule where I’ll be mad for five minutes and that’s it.”
And that could be all it takes to get this local boy a shot at rodeo’s biggest stage this year.