Beau Hill was sweating hard.
With youngest son Jory walking behind carrying his helmet and wife Keri preparing the car for a long overnight drive to Canada, Hill stopped by a fence and began stripping off his protective vest and shirt to be exchanged for a fresher set of clothes.
A smelly dad in a small car wouldn’t be the most pleasant thing for the family as Hill was scheduled to ride in Pincher Creek, Alberta, on Sunday afternoon.
The lean West Glacier cowboy had just won the bull riding at the Yellowstone River Round-Up rodeo last Saturday night, battling his bull in the chute and the arena.
He was the only bull rider to post an eight-second ride in the final performance and only the seventh overall during the three-night rodeo.
Hill scored 79 points on the belligerent bull for a healthy $3,236. The bull belly rolled and then settled down in the chute before Hill’s initial attempt to ride.
“This win was huge,” said Hill, 35. “I hadn’t been riding too well lately.”
He was bucked off the previous night in Kalispell.
“That was kind of embarrassing, to have that happen at your hometown rodeo” Hill added with a smile.
While good for his confidence, the bull riding victory was important for a much bigger reason. The money won in Billings, coupled with the money earned at Canby, Ore., and Pincher Creek, lifted him back into the top 15 of the PRCA standings. Hill placed third at Canby for $2,106 and fifth at Pincher Creek for another $378.
He earned $5,723 for the week and is now a more comfortable 13th in the world standings. The PRCA regular season ends Sept. 30.
“This was big,” Hill reiterated.
After spending almost the past decade in the Professional Bull Riders – coming within two-tenths of a second of winning the PBR event in Billings in 2007 – Hill returned to PRCA competition full-time in 2014.
“It was time for a change,” said Hill, who qualified for the National Finals Rodeo in 2002 and 2004. He is also a four-time qualifier for the PBR World Finals. “I got injured and it’s so hard to get back to the Built Ford Tough Series events the way it is set up. I just wanted a change. And now the family travels with me.”
Hill has won three bull riding titles in Montana – Billings, Chinook and Cascade – and three in Canada, at Medicine Hat, Leduc and Falkland in British Columbia.
He’s earned $52,167 this year, more than double the $24,112 he won in 2013 and finished 45th in the world standings.
Third in the Canadian Pro Rodeo standings, he has already clinched a berth in the Canadian Finals Rodeo this November in Edmonton.
Hill spent most of the year bouncing around the top 15 but dropped out after getting injured at Shelby in late July.
“A bull stepped on my right calf,” he explained. “I missed Cheyenne (Frontier Days) and Salt Lake City. And I’m still battling my wrist injury but you just have to ride through it.”
Hill’s other two children, daughter Lakia and son Jace, didn’t make the trip to Billings. They were enjoying their last days of summer vacation with grandparents, according to their mother.
But Hill took a break from the rodeo grind on Tuesday as the family celebrated Lakia’s 12th birthday. Then it was back in the blue Honda in pursuit of the NFR.
“You just keep going,” Hill said. “You never know how it’s going to end.
“I want to ride in those bright yellow bucking chutes at the NFR again.”