Gambler's Choice


There was a time in Cody Jessee's life when he figured he'd need something besides the paychecks he earned on the ProRodeo road to live comfortably. Being a practical sort, Jessee decided to learn a trade.

So, he studied stone carving and learned how to carve headstones while attending the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Jessee won't have to pick up his stone-carving tools any time soon. At the moment, his performance in the rodeo arena is bringing home some nice, fat paychecks, as evidenced by his No. 1 ranking in the Jack Daniel's World Bareback Riding Standings with $27,390.

The 26-year-old bareback rider from Prineville, Ore., capped one of the biggest weeks of his career by winning the aggregate title at RodeoHouston, finishing the rodeo with a four-head total of 320 points.

Jessee locked up the win with an 81-point ride aboard Burch Rodeo's Margaritaville that tied him for second in the Wrangler Tour round with Tim Wilkinson (Fort Scott, Kan.).

The victory earned Jessee $15,335.

"This is huge," Jessee said. "It's probably one of the biggest single rodeo wins I've ever had. This is awesome. I've always dreamed of winning this rodeo. I guess you just want to do good every time and try your hardest. It worked out [in Houston]."

If that's all Jessee did last week, it would have been plenty. But he did more, much more.

Before coming to Houston, Jessee competed in the Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo in Pocatello, Idaho, and dominated the competition. Jessee won the first and second rounds, as well as the two-head aggregate, pocketing $12,662.

Then, he had a choice to make. He could stay in Pocatello, where he'd be favored to win the DNCFR title, or turn out of the DNCFR and travel to Houston where he was up on Saturday in the Wrangler ProRodeo Tour round.

"The money counts [toward the world standings] at Houston," Jessee said. "The money you win at the DNCFR doesn't. That's why I decided to go to Houston."

The gamble paid a huge dividend, but not without some effort on Jessee's part. To get to Houston, he had to drive from Pocatello to Salt Lake City on Friday night, and caught a 6 a.m. flight out of Salt Lake City for Houston, arriving just a few minutes before the rodeo started on Saturday.

"I got two hours of sleep, but after winning here, it feels like 12," Jessee said. "It was a risk, but it all worked out."

Jessee's performance at the DNCFR and at Houston only reaffirmed that he's one of the top bareback riders in the world. He emerged as a world-title contender last December when he won the bareback riding aggregate title at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

This season, Jessee has been drawing well and riding well. So far, it's been a difficult combination to beat.

"I've been drawing really good," Jessee said. "I picked this time to ride my best. It's been great."