McAlpine has traded back flips for bucking horses and bulls
By JOE KUSEK
July 7, 2022
Bucky McAlpine had Olympic dreams.
So strong the dreams, he and his sister Cassidy moved to Prosper, Texas at a young age for more intense high-level training.
“The first time I broke my nose, I was doing a back flip,” McAlpine remembered. “I was in gymnastics all my life.”
He is no longer pursuing Olympic gold. Life, and things like a hip replacement, have steered him in a new direction.
McAlpine has traded back flips for bucking horses and bulls.
Now he has gold buckle dreams.
“Ultimately to win Northern Rodeo Association championships in bareback, bulls and the all-around,” said the Anaconda cowboy of his current goals.
The friendly 20-year-old McAlpine, who likes to poke fun at himself, is on a fast start in chasing a bareback riding title.
After coming up empty at the Mountain Health Co-Op Tour opener in Conrad, McAlpine cashed a check at six consecutive rodeos in June.
The final weekend of the month he placed second at Polson, third at Big Timber and first at Opheim to earn $1,140 and put himself atop the bareback standings. He accounted for 60 percent of his season winnings in just 24 seconds.
“Opheim, it felt amazing,” McAlpine said of his first win of the summer.
McAlpine and traveling partners Caden Fitzpatrick and Sha’lon Freeman made the long drive overnight drive from Big Timber to Opheim.
“There is no direct route,” McAlpine said with his first of many chuckles. “We left Big Timber right after the rodeo was over and got into Opheim around 4 a.m. We slept in the car until it was time to ride.”
The car rides were more fun with Fitzpatrick winning the bull riding at Big Timber and Opheim. “It’s all fun in the Cash Cab,” McAlpine said, adding that Freeman, also a bull rider, is his half-brother.
McAlpine’s stretched his continuous check streak to eight by placing at Harlowton and Choteau during the Fourth of July run. He finished out of the money on the evening of July 4 in Ennis.
“It’s just being a lot more consistent,” he said of trips to the pay window. “The basics are all coming to me. I’m not holding on for dear life.”
When the gymnastic dream started ending, “I was doing sheep riding while I was in gymnastics,” McAlpine said, he made the seamless transition to rodeo.
His father Keith was a professional bareback rider and Larry Peabody, the 1984 world bareback champion and ProRodeo Hall of Fame member, is McAlpine’s godfather.
Originally a bull rider, a quip directed at his father put him on a bareback horse.
“I told dad bareback riding looked easy,” McAlpine remembered. “He, ‘OK, tough guy.’ It was tougher than I thought.
“It’s just fun. No other feeling like it. You’ve got so much power at your fingertips. When you get a good ride, your feel on top of the world.”
He is quick to credit his father for his success.
“I would not be where I am without my dad Keith and his devotion to all his kids. He is my biggest supporter,” said McAlpine.
McAlpine got hurt at a high school rodeo in 2019 in Oklahoma. He snapped his spine and injured three vertebrae.
After healing up, he moved back to Montana in the summer of 2020, where his family ranches just outside Fairmont Hot Springs. Through Brandley Peabody – Larry’s son – McAlpine got connected with Andy Bolich, then the head coach for the Montana State rodeo program.
Last year, McAlpine qualified for the Montana Health Co-op Tour NRA Finals in both bareback and bull riding.
Part of the teenage wave that dominated NRA bareback riding in 2021, he finished sixth in the year-end bareback standings and ninth in bull riding.
“I’m a two-eventer,” said McAlpine,
It’s that second event giving him problems this summer.
“I’m good at riding for the first six, seven seconds. The starting is good … the finishing has been tough,” he said offering a small laugh of his bull riding struggles.
And while bull riding is not going as planned, McAlpine is still smiling.
“It’s a blast,” he said of his season. “I like all the traveling.”
Just don’t ask his real first name.
After continually flipping a spring horse backward on himself as a very young boy, the elder McAlpine started calling his son Bucky and it has stuck ever since.
Eldon is rarely mentioned these days.
“Darn reporters,” said Bucky McAlpine.
The annual Fourth of July run offers competitors a chance for a whole lot of cash in a short period of time.
And plenty of cowboys and cowgirls created their own fireworks at Harlowton, Ennis and Choteau bringing seismic movement in the event standings.
Trevor Kay of Chester started his weekend with a bang, winning the bareback riding at Harlowton. His 81.5-point ride is the high mark of the season. Kay would earn a share of first place at Ennis and place third at Choteau.
Young Cash Trexler was competing in junior high rodeos just two years ago. The Corvallis teen stepped up and won the tie-down roping against a field that included former PRCA rookie of the year Chad Johnson of Cut Bank. Belgrade’s Tracey Bolich won the breakaway roping where only seven-tenths of a second separated the top eight finishers.
Other Harlowton winners were: Judd Applegate, saddle bronc; Clayton Haverland, bull riding; Tyler Houle, steer wrestling; Dustin Bird and Ike Folsom, team roping; Abby Knight barrel racing.
It was Ladies Day at Choteau, where women comprised 50 percent of the team roping pairs that placed 1-2-3. Hometown father-daughter duo Mark and Celie Salmond won, followed by Shelby Rasmussen and Hayden. Mykayla Tatsey and Rocky Racine were third. Celie Salmond is the reigning all-around cowgirl champion, while Rasmussen, also Choteau, is a former all-around winner.
The day was profitable for the Salmond family as Celie and sister Mollie also tied for fourth in breakaway roping.
Other Choteau winners were: Spur Owens, bareback; Garrett Cunningham, saddle bronc; Kolby Bignell, steer wrestling; Levi Delamarter, tie-down roping; Brittney Cox, barrel racing; Hailey Burger, breakaway roping. There were no qualified bull rides.
Ennis was highlighted by the fastest times on the Mountain Health Co-op Tour in steer wrestling and team roping. Brady Boyce of Lewistown won the steer wrestling in 5.1 seconds, while Miles Kobold and Clinton Brower used a season-best time of 5.3 seconds to win the team roping.
Former all-around cowgirl champion Tammy Jo Carpenter of Kalispell jumped into the 2022 race by winning the barrel racing and sharing second place in breakaway roping. Carpenter pocketed more than $2,200 at her stop in Ennis.
Other Ennis winners were: Rowdy Cranston and Trevor Kay, bareback; Andrew Evjene, saddle bronc; Ty Owens, bull riding; Dillon Hahnkamp, tie-down roping; Alexa Wilcox, breakaway roping.
The Mountain Health Co-op Tour goes to the central part of the state with rodeos in East Helena and Malta.
East Helena will have 7 p.m. performances on both July and July 9, while Malta will be July 9 with a 6:30 p.m. show.
Rodeos coming up include Havre (July 14-15), Three Forks (July 15-16), Scobey (July 21), Jardine (July 21 and 22) and Eureka (July 22-23).