BILLINGS — Laundry could wait.
Chase Brooks was tired.
After getting home late Monday night, the Deer Lodge cowboy tossed his gear bag in the corner. It stayed there as Brooks didn’t do much of anything on Tuesday.
He stretched when a muscle ached and checked his phone, which was blowing up. Brooks considered going into town later that night, but for the most part, he stayed put.
Brooks certainly earned the rest.
The 23-year-old Brooks had been gone from home for 12 days and in that time put together one of the most profitable Cowboy Christmas runs ever by a Montana cowboy.
A little more than a week ago, Brooks was 30th in the July 2 PRCA world saddle bronc standings.
When the dust settled at the Estes Park, Colorado Rodeo on Tuesday night, he had rocketed to 11th in the world standings, more than doubling his season earnings in less than two weeks.
“It was just crazy,” said Brooks when reached at home late Tuesday afternoon. “Everything I put my saddle on, bucked. I’m a little sore right now, those horses made me work for my money.”
Brooks pocketed a season-changing $30,819, second only to two-time world bareback champion Tim O’Connell’s $31,014 for the most money won by a PRCA competitor.
He has improved his 2018 earnings to $49,203.
Brooks got on bucking horses at 13 rodeos in 10 states.
“I threw in as many shirts as I could into my bag,” he said. “It was getting pretty skimpy at the end, we had to re-ride a few.”
Brooks left home on June 27. He traveled with Tyrell J. Smith of Cascade, Joe Harper of Nevada, and Melstone’s Sage Newman. “A great group of guys,” Brooks said.
The 33-year-old Smith, a 2012 qualifier for the National Finals Rodeo, was the unofficial leader of the group.
“Tyrell, he’s our wise one,” Brooks said. “He did all our entering and he tells us where we’re going.”
Smith was also the primary driver.
“He’s got a new car and I don’t think he trusts us to drive,” Brooks added with a laugh.
Brooks started his Cowboy Christmas with a June 28 win in Prescott, Arizona for $6,119 and followed with a third-place in Lehi, Utah for another $1,053.
He also won at Belle Fourche, South Dakota ($5,640) and Livingston ($3,836) and placed at Cody, Wyoming ($2,027) and Oakley, Utah ($553). His 89-point win in Belle Fourche on July 4 tied for the high-mark saddle bronc ride of Cowboy Christmas.
“I knew I was drawing good,” said Brooks. “I just had to do my job and I had a good opportunity of winning some money.”
Brooks made his first appearance at St. Paul, Oregon count, winning $9,997, the single-largest check of his young rodeo career.
“I don’t think my bank account has ever seen $10,000,” he marveled.
Brooks closed out his Cowboy Christmas with a sixth-place finish at Estes Park for another $883. He caught a ride home from bareback riders Blade Elliott and J.C. Hester Jr., on Monday.
“I got it started in Prescott and it just kept rolling,” he said. “I feel good, but I am a little sore. Those days in the car made it feel like we were rodeoing for a month.
“It’s still hitting me of what happened. I started realizing what I had done on the way back from Toppenish (Washington).”
Newman, a former national high school champion, won Toppenish. Smith is currently 26th in the world standings, while Harper is 35th.
Brooks, a 2012 graduate of Powell County High School, has climbed the saddle bronc ladder, winning the state high school title as a senior and a Northern Rodeo Association championship in 2013. He also won the average title at the Montana Pro Rodeo Circuit Finals in Great Falls in 2017.
“The biggest goal this year was to make the Finals,” Brooks said of the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. “To make a run at the gold buckle. I was slowly easing up that way in the standings.”
This Fourth of July run accelerated his plan with three hard months of rodeo remaining in the 2018 season.
He plans to ride in Sheridan, Wyoming and Wolf Point this week, skipping Casper, Wyoming to attend a friend’s wedding in Deer Lodge on Saturday.
“I haven’t been home much. It will be good to see everyone,” Brooks said. “I just have to keep busting it until the end of the season and see where we’re at in the end.”