Drake Armes celebrated his fourth birthday last December in Las Vegas.
He'd like to do the same for No. 5.
You see, his daddy is Bray Armes of Ponder, Texas, who wrestled steers at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo for the first time. In order to return, he needs to finish the regular season among the top 15 bulldoggers on the money list when the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association season concludes in September. He's No. 14 right now with $33,824, but he stands a good chance of moving up.
On Wednesday night during the opening performance of the Dodge City Roundup Rodeo, Armes grappled his steer to the ground in 3.2 seconds to take an overwhelming lead in the second round; combined with his 4.6 in the first round Wednesday morning, he has a four-tenths of a second lead in the average with a cumulative time of 7.8 seconds.
"I just lucked out and drew two really good steers and was fortunate enough to use them," said Armes, who was raised on a farm near Gruver, Texas, just 155 miles southwest of Dodge City. "I'm very blessed, and I just thank the Lord for getting me here and letting me be safe and being able to do what I love to do.
"This morning, the guy that had that steer broke the barrier (not allowing the steer a long enough head start) and missed the steer right there in front of the chute. I knew if I started good, he'd be waiting on me right there. I didn't know it was going to happen that fast, but it worked out good."
Drake Armes is one of his dad's traveling partners this week, so he got to see first-hand the fastest run of the rodeo so far. Rodeo cowboys spend their seasons on the road and, oftentimes, away from home for weeks, even months at a time. There are 32 PRCA rodeos taking place this week alone, including three others in Kansas – Hill City, Phillipsburg and Abilene.
"It means everything to have him with me," Armes said, noting his wife, Neelley, and daughter, Breely, returned home to north Texas after spending a little time on the rodeo trail last week. "Last year when I got into a rut and couldn't win anything, I picked him up, and it just took off.
"Hopefully it just keeps rolling this year."
The main thing about Wednesday's performances is that he's a virtual lock to return to Dodge City for the championship round Sunday evening – the top 12 contestants by virtue of the best cumulative time (in steer wrestling, team roping, tie-down roping and barrel racing) or best scores (in bareback riding, saddle bronc riding and bull riding) qualify for the short go-round.
For now, though, Armes will take a moment to enjoy runs before hitting the trail again.
"The toughest thing about rodeo is being gone from my family, so any time we get to spend together is great," he said.
Now he needs to parlay a solid performance in Dodge City into a return trip to the NFR so he and his family can get a little more quality time in the city of lights.