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Johnson brings a little extra cash to Vegas
Chet Johnson rides Robin Mountain during the Pendleton Roundup rodeo this summer in Pendleton, Ore. Next month Johnson will compete in the National Finals Rodeo for the third time the last four years.

Chet Johnson had a choice earlier this month.

He could go south and ride for the money.

Or he could go north and ride for the money.

There was just one caveat.

If Johnson went south to Texas, for the Wrangler Tour Championships in Dallas, any money won would count in his 2008 world standings.

If Johnson opted to go north, to the Canadian Finals Rodeo in Edmonton, any money won would just be there to spend. It wouldn't count in the world standings.

Johnson went north.

"It was an opportunity to win a little more money," the Wyoming saddle bronc rider said.

The Wrangler Tour Championships featured two rounds of competition, along with semifinals and finals. The CFR was a full six rounds.

"I was already in the top 15," Johnson noted about his decision to go to Canada. "Nobody could bump me out of the standings."

Besides, Johnson had a little previous success in Canada. He won titles at Marwayne, Hand Hills and Bonnyville in Alberta this summer.

"It's a great rodeo and has great horses," Johnson said of the CFR.

The decision proved financially sound: He pocketed $20,440 and finished fourth in the final Canadian standings.

Johnson hopes to add a little more cash to his bank account at the National Finals Rodeo, scheduled for Dec. 4-13 in Las Vegas.

This is Johnson's second consecutive trip to the NFR and third in four years. Last year, he placed in three rounds to earn $32,524 at the 10-performance rodeo.

"It helps to have been there before," said the friendly 28-year-old. "You learn so much every time.

"I remember my first NFR (2005), I was just blown away. It took me a while to settle down."

Johnson enters the NFR 12th in the world standings, with $64,454 won. Along with his victories in Canada, he also shared the saddle bronc title at Guymon, Okla. He also placed second at Houston; Spanish Fork, Utah; and Nampa, Idaho.

"It's been kind of and up and down year," said Johnson, who graduated from Lusk High School. "I started pretty good during the winter, then I kind of cooled off."

Johnson heated back up again with the weather, earning around $30,000 in July.

"I felt like I was riding good. I drew good horses, made good rides," Johnson said.

He spent some time on the bubble - bouncing in and out of the top 15 for a stretch - before using a late surge to put himself safely in the top group.

"My parents watch the standings," Johnson said. "I don't … but I just didn't want to go down to the last day.

"I'm just happy to be going back to the Finals. A world title isn't out of the question. With the money being paid out, anybody can take a shot at it.

"I just want to ride good horses, and the standings will take care of itself."