Cameras galore followed Brody Cress around Cheyenne Frontier Days Park on Sunday afternoon, moments after the Hillsdale native cemented his name in the 123-year old rodeo's history books. After no other saddle bronc rider was able to surpass Cress' 87.5-point ride of Smith Rodeo's Resistols Top Hat, the hometown boy made three victory laps — one for each consecutive CFD saddle bronc championship.
Cress fulfilled his media obligations, engaging with even more cameras and questions. His father, Tommy, stood out of the way with a prideful smile. Following questions, the two shared their first moment together since Brody brought his hometown crowd to pandemonium for a third straight year. Tommy said he was proud of his son. Brody said thank you.
The two parted without any emotional breakthrough. Brody had more obligations elsewhere; Tommy went back towards the chutes. He returned with Brody's saddle.
"He just asked me to grab it," Tommy said. "I want to stay out of his hair, like earlier I handed him his shaving bag and stayed out of his way. He does this all by himself everywhere else. But I'll do whatever he needs."
Brody's been on the road, rodeoing full-time for years now. Two years ago he won the National Finals Rodeo saddle bronc championship. Tommy watched his son finish the season in Las Vegas, on rodeo's largest stage, achieving a childhood dream.
Of course, Tommy also watched a season get derailed. When Brody's shaky dismount at the Home on the Range Championship in Sentinel Butte, North Dakota, resulted in a broken ankle, Tommy was back at the Hillsdale ranch with welcoming arms. It was the first significant setback of Brody's career, and they experienced it together.
"That was scary," Tommy said. "It was a lot for a couple of weeks. I mean, he had three surgeries. He's worked hard to get back here and it's taken some time."
Brody went into last year's NFR at 70 percent and struggled. He resolved to heal in the offseason and returned rejuvenated for 2019.
Although his season hasn't been as successful as he had hoped going into the Daddy Of 'Em All, Brody knew that could be the turning point to his season. After all, it was his dramatic comeback re-ride in 2017 that started his run toward history and shot him far enough up the world standings to make the top 15. That's exactly how the three-time state champion wrestler at Cheyenne East looked at the 2019 edition of CFD.
"Our job is a business and we have to take care of it, especially since I'm out of the top 15, so I need to dang sure take care of my business," Brody said. "I've had some amazing horses but to come out here and do this in front of these people who have helped me and supported me and got me to where I am today — to be able to pay them off and have it go good is outstanding."
There have been four-time saddle bronc champions at Cheyenne Frontier Days before, but no one had ever won three consecutive championships in that event. Before last year, no one had even won back-to-back since before World War II (1936 to be exact). That's a lot of history to absorb, especially for someone who grew up a gravel road away.
"Being able to come here and win this rodeo once was enough," Brody smiled. "I was fortunate enough and blessed enough to have it happen three times. It's amazing to have it go that way."
And while he never dreamed of winning the event three times in a row (how could he?), he never doubted his abilities. He trusted himself and the draw to deliver, and together they'd accomplish great things. He worked hard in high school and etched his name into the hallowed halls of East in the process. He worked hard in his first full-time rodeo summer and stood atop the podium in Las Vegas with an NFR title.
Brody Cress has been the personification of hard work, perseverance and dedication. He's also been a beacon of pride for his community. At least, that's how his dad has always seen him. So Sunday was just another day.
"It takes a lot to get your name in the history books, so you've got to take it where you can get it," Tommy said. "He grew up here, supported the community, great teachers, great coaches, great friends that can pick up and do stuff for us. What a day."
And if that day can be replicated throughout August and September, the two may be reunited in Las Vegas one more time.