A familiar refrain preludes nearly every Cole Reiner ride regardless of where in North America the chute that encloses him on that particular night is located. Even on nights like Thursday night when the near triple-digit heat of the Central Wyoming Fair and Rodeo pounds his vest and seeps sweat onto his rig, announcer Doug Mathis still introduced the cowboy who grew up 66 miles north just like so many others have before.
It’s always “Kaycee, Wyoming,” followed by an applause for the nearly-always mentioned Chris LeDoux, who competed in the same event. Then comes a nod and Reiner gets his own moment in the spotlight. For eight seconds he’s the only Kaycee native the crowd’s attention is focused on. And lately he’s stayed in their consciousness after the horn, carving his own name into Kaycee lore one ride at a time.
The former state champion wrestler at Buffalo and former rider for both Sheridan and Casper College scored a 77-point bareback ride to put himself on the verge of the short go at the Central Wyoming Fairgrounds. He thanked the crowd and the arena dirt tracked his boots on his way out. He has yet to feel added pressure from his birthplace. In fact, he enjoys being another Buckaroo.
“Everyone’s familiar with Kaycee because of whose been there and it’s pretty cool to carry it on because of where I’m from and what I do,” Reiner told the Star-Tribune after his ride. “A lot of famous cowboys come out of there — Chris, obviously. They ask about him and everything else and it’s pretty nice being from there because you have something in common with everyone everywhere you go.”
Despite his travels, Reiner hasn’t been able to shake his Wyoming ties. Not only did he qualify once again for the College National Finals Rodeo last month as a red vest, but his fourth-place finish in the national championship helped him gain momentum going forward.
Reiner finished fourth at CNFR and has notched rides in nine rodeos. That includes his 84.5 ride in Oakley City, Utah on Independence Day. A day before he was in Killdeer, North Dakota, for a 84-point ride, coming just hours after scoring a 77 in Red Lodge, Montana, and a 83.5 at the Cody Stampede in the same day.
“Been carrying the momentum from (CNFR) and, heck, I’ve been placing a lot of places,” he said. “Winning enough money to keep going so I can’t complain.”
Some of that momentum has come from rolling with the big broncs when they come and then finding the most out of the weaker ones along the way. While he stayed along the spine of his bronc on Thursday, the horse didn’t buck with conviction and wasn’t doing Reiner any favors. Part of his success lately has come from knowing what to do when that happens.
“You do what you can with her and keep yourself vulnerable as much as you can,” he said. “Judges see it and you try to get as much out of her as you can, just like any other horse, go out there and max every one out, then win some money eventually.”
There’s no time to hit a rhythm like Cowboy Christmas. Reiner rode in the Sheridan WYO Rodeo on Friday before having to decide whether he’d ride in Colorado Springs or the short go of the Central Wyoming Rodeo on Saturday. He hoped he could stay in Casper, if he qualified. Of course, his schedule opens up to more rodeos after, including the big prize of Cheyenne Frontier Days.
The flip-side of the schedule has brought more mileage, more broncs and more bandages. His right arm was more heavily wrapped this week than it was during CNFR. He’s currently working through a lingering lower back injury but that’s been the worst of it.
“Everyone’s starting to get banged up this time of year,” Reiner said. “Getting on this many horses, going to this man rodeos, being in the car this much, it starts taking a toll on your body no matter who you are. So it’s important to keep stretching and keep yourself as healthy as you can.”
There’s onus on Reiner finishing the season healthy and getting in the money as much as possible. He’s on the last year of his permit and he sits second in the bareback permit standings, less than $3,000 out of the lead. That’s further in the standings than 2018 national champion Tyler Berghuis. And in order to stay there he’ll have to finish out the season on broncs.
He walked away from the Central Wyoming arena, unbuttoning his deep blue Wrangler shirt so he could begin unwinding the athletic tape holding his right arm in angle. He accepted congratulations from other cowboys who asked where he’s traveling next.
It’s likely his introduction at the next rodeo would also include his hometown and a mention of the town’s most famous cowboy whose been immortalized in bronze along main street. And Reiner’s alright with that. He’s still laying the groundwork for his future in the last year of his permit. But hopefully he makes a big enough impression that they hear “Chris LeDoux” upon introduction but leave remembering “Cole Reiner.”
“I’m trying to get my name out there so everyone knows who I am,” Reiner said, “and then next year go at it.”