Craig at Midnight, owned by Powder River Rodeo, carries Tyler Scales to 87 points and a win in the bareback riding last Saturday night at the PRCA NILE Rodeo.

CASEY PAGE, Gazette Staff

BILLINGS -- Craig Roe is a large man.

At 6-feet, 7-inches tall and 300 pounds he can handle ornery animals easier than most.

But when the festivities go long into the night, his ability to walk tends to veer off a straight line.

So when a young bucking horse was haltingly making its way down an alleyway a few years ago, John Franzen joked to those assembled, “That looks like Craig at midnight.”

From that moment, the pair, Roe and newly named Craig at Midnight, were forever linked.

One is the well-respected foreman for Powder River Rodeo of Riverton, Wyoming.

The other is one of the top bareback horses in North America.

‘Yeah, it’s pretty special,” said Roe of being connected to one of the best bareback horses in professional rodeo.

Both were at Rimrock Auto Arena in Billings on Saturday night. Roe working behind the bucking chutes, Craig at Midnight, bursting from them.

Voted on by the cowboys, Craig at Midnight has been voted among the top three bareback horses in the PRCA three years running. The 11-year-old horse was third in 2015, selected the top bareback horse in 2016 and second in the voting for 2017.

SweetPro Bruiser, owned by D & H Cattle, which partners with Powder River Rodeo, was selected the PRCA bull of the year for the second time in three years.

The 6-year-old, 1,900-pound bull is also in contention for the Professional Bull Riders bull of the year, giving SweetPro Bruiser an opportunity for a rare sweep. The bull trails Pearl Harbor by a quarter-point in the standings entering next week’s PBR World Finals in Las Vegas.

SweetPro Bruiser wasn’t in Billings Saturday night. But Tyler Scales was. And for one reason.

“I’d go anywhere to get on that horse,” said Scales of Craig at Midnight. “Look at him. Look at that animal. He’s a breed of his own.”

Craig at Midnight carried Scales to 87 points on Saturday and a bareback win to start his 2018 season.

“He doesn’t have a set pattern,” said Scales, who was 88 points on Craig at Midnight a few years earlier. “He’s different every time.”

Craig at Midnight, according to owner Hank Franzen, is a late-comer to professional rodeo. He originally bucked the horse as a four-year old, but Craig at Midnight suffered a shoulder injury and spent next year healing.

“We didn’t buck him again until he was six,” said Franzen, who was among the 2017 nominees for PRCA stock contractor of the year.

Franzen began delving into football terminology to describe the horse, which stands 17 hands tall.

“He’s so big. He’s huge,” Franzen said. “Craig at Midnight bucks like he’s a 1,000-pound horse. He’s so athletic.

“Craig at Midnight is like a defensive lineman with the agility of a defensive back.”

And expect to see Craig at Midnight around for a while.

“Barring injury, he’ll buck until he’s 20,” Franzen added. “We take good care of him. We take good care of all of them.”

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