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BUTTE – In the final saddle bronc ride of Thursday night at the Northern Rodeo Association Finals, Andrew Evjene made his eight seconds atop Jacobs Rodeo’s Mustache Mike, and then he hit the dirt.

He wasn’t down long, and he didn't stick around long on the arena floor either. Evjene sprang to his feet, cradled his left arm with his right hand, and ran back to the bucking chutes.

“When I ran out it was just about keep moving so I didn’t pass out or something,” he said. “Cause it really hurts.”

The injury the Two Dot cowboy clearly nursed for the three-day NRA Finals is nearly a month old. He said he’s pretty sure he’s either torn the rotator cuff or labrum of his riding arm. It happened on Sept. 15.

“I got bucked off a horse and it stepped right on the middle of my back and popped it out,” he said from the locker room Friday night. “... I can only get it about chest high before I can’t go any higher.”

Still, Evjene says the prospect of sitting out the finals wasn’t on the table.

Riding broncs is how he makes a living. Discussing the decision of how to make that living with one arm crimped to his side, it was a simple call.

“I help at the ranch, but I only work part time. Rodeoing is how I actually make money. It’s my only job,” he explained. “So it’s either try surviving on no money or try to go win money.”

Evjene secured $175 for his ride Thursday night, but Cody R. Miller, a Pryor cowboy trailing first in the year-end standings by a little over $1,200 heading into the weekend, took the first go with a 77.

Coming back Saturday night, Evjene notched a 69 on Big Circle’s Dusty Boots. The score was enough for another $350.

It was also enough to put Evjene second in the average heading into the final day. With a liability of a riding arm, he still had a shot at taking the finals average along with his year-end title.

Only four cowboys had qualified rides on two horses heading into the finals. Miller, still second in the standings, was not one of them after getting bucked off Friday night.

And while Evjene charged down the homestretch of the NRA season, Miller wouldn’t have been a bad candidate to usurp him anyway.

“Me and Cody travel together a lot. You obviously want to win, but if you have a good friend like Cody who beats you, it’s OK, you know,” Evjene said, his tone the same as when discussing the injury. “There’s another year and we’re always traveling together. But you definitely do want to win.”

Heading into the third day, with his year-end title all but wrapped up, Evjene took the second-to-last ride.

Two rides before him, Douglas Hall of Browning – one of the final four to have two scores on two horses – suffered his own shoulder injury while still in the bucking chute, an injury that forced him off Red Eye’s Locked N Loaded short of eight seconds.

Evjene went 72 on Big Circle’s Chick Flick, and passed up the opportunity for a reride, with Fortine’s Leroy Eash the only cowboy left and three points ahead in the finals average.

But Eash was thrown from Big Circle’s Dark Alley just early. With that, Evjene had his year-end and finals titles wrapped up. He scored 215.5 on three horses and made $1,575 on the weekend. His year-end total was $8,675.76.

Miller, his friend and travel companion, finished the year second with $7,319.85 in winnings.

As for what’s next, Evjene says he’s hoping to get an MRI to find out the full score of the injury. He’s looking forward to the Montana Pro Rodeo Circuit Finals in January.

Before then though, he’s still not going to shut down entirely. He says he’ll be competing next weekend at the Billings Nile Rodeo, still nursing that shoulder.

Rodeos are, after all, how he makes a living.

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