Jess Martin got a package in the mail a couple of weeks ago.
The large box came all the way from Spain. It included Martin’s hand-crafted saddle and other rodeo gear.
When the package arrived, he muscled it through the front door of his Dillon home and tossed it in a closet. The box will be gathering dust for a while.
“I’m done,’’ Martin said.
Martin might be done with his saddle, but he’s not done with rodeo.
A year ago, Martin announced he was cutting back his professional rodeo schedule, keeping it regional for 2009. The four-time National Rodeo Finals qualifier finished 24th in the 2008 world saddle bronc standings.
Martin cut back even more than that: he stopped altogether.
Martin rode at RodeoHouston during the winter and at the invitation-only event at Cloverdale, British Columbia, Canada in May.
“I was done,’’ said Martin, who turned 39 this past July. “I was getting to the point in my career where I didn’t enjoy the travel any more. I can’t get in the truck, drive 20 hours, get on a horse, then get back in the truck for another 20-hour drive. I can’t do that again.
“Don’t get me wrong, I love riding bucking horses. And I can still win. But I need to get on the perfect horse and have the perfect ride to win against these young guys. And they’re so many good young guys out there now. I wanted to walk away while I could still ride. I didn’t want them to ask me to leave.’’
Martin won almost $750,000 in a pro career that started in 1994. He qualified for the NFR in 199, 1997, 1998 and 2002. He was part of a 1-2-3 Montana finish in the world saddle bronc standings with Dan Mortensen and Ryan Mapston.
In recent years, Martin has turned his focus on raising bucking horses. He is partners with Fred Hirschy of Jackson and the two run approximately 100 horses in the Big Hole River region near Wisdom.
“We’d like to bump that up to around 130,’’ Martin said.
Martin had bucking horses at the College National Finals Rodeo this past June in Casper, Wyo., and at Cheyenne Frontier Days in July. And a couple of weeks ago, he sat at home and watched like a proud father as one of his horses, Lori Darlin’ was bucked during the NFR in Las Vegas. The horse was purchased by Scotty Lovelace of Classic Pro Rodeo, located in Waskom, Texas.
“That was pretty neat,’’ Martin said. “And we’ve got a bunch of young horses coming up that will be outstanding in a couple of years.’’
Martin did break out his saddle and spurs once again this fall. He was part of a rodeo group that toured Spain. Organized by stock contractor Bronc Rumford, the contingent included Wyoming bull rider Bobby Welsh and Brent Jordan, an announcer from Pray.
“I had never been to Spain,’’ said Martin. “That trip, it was awesome. The people of Spain absolutely loved rodeo.’’
The well-read Martin — he prefers books over television — soaked in every bit of the experience.
“I loved Madrid,’’ he said. “Spain has amazing architecture. There were buildings 1,000 years old and still in use. That shows how new everything is here.’’
• • •
Beau Hill won a title the easy way.
He didn’t have to leave his seat.
Out with an injury from the Professional Bull Riders World Finals, Hill could only watch as a field of bull riders made a run at him for the Canadian PBR championship.
Hill, of West Glacier, had won $48,776 at PBR events in Canada the past year. That money won helped him earn a slot into the PBR World Finals in Las Vegas.
Hot on Hill’s heels were Canadian bull riders Aaron Roy and Zane Lambert, who came to the Canadian Finals event in Calgary second and third in the standings, respectively.
Hill held off Roy by $1,825 for the Canadian title.
• • •
It’s too late to ask Santa but a couple of books are must-read for rodeo and bull riding fans.
The PBR has published its colorful book, “The Official Guide to the Toughest Sport on Earth.’’ The book offers a complete look at the PBR, from the bull riders, to the bulls, bullfighters, stock contractors, even a chapter devoted to Montana funnyman Flint Rasmusssen.
It is available on the PBR website.
And for those more number-oriented, the PRCA has come out with “The Finals,’’ which offers a detailed report on the first 50 years of the National Finals Rodeo (1959-2008). It includes offerings from the top competitors of the era, including Benny Reynolds of Melrose, who won the world all-around title in 1961. It offers results from every go-round of every NFR.
So when the person at a party starts bragging how he won three rounds of the NFR in 1967, you will have the proof to prove otherwise. The book is available at the PRCA website.
If you like rodeo or bull riding, or both, these need to be in you library.
Even if it’s the only two books you own.