Monday, December 06, 2021
45.0°F

COLUMN: Long May he stay this way

by FRITZ NEIGHBOR
Daily Inter Lake | October 27, 2021 10:34 PM

The 47th Northern Rodeo Association Finals begin today at 7 p.m. inside Majestic Valley Arena, with youngsters and veterans alike taking on rough stock for three straight nights.

The Northern Rodeo Women’s Association Finals run concurrently, it should be mentioned, and nobody has won more money on either circuit than Choteau’s Celie Salmond ($10,373.79).

Kalispell’s Tammy Jo Carpenter continues to pile up points and money in barrel racing, and the event features talent from in and around the Flathead Valley.

One of the locals is Dalton May, a 2017 Glacier High graduate who has ridden horses successfully since before he can remember and in recent years — he’s 22 — has been making money at it.

“I always rode horses and what-not,” May said Wednesday. “Then I just started rodeoing one day. I guess I don’t rightfully know (when).”

May might look and sound like a cowboy, and he sits seventh in the bareback riding standings coming into Thursday. But he didn’t grow up on a ranch, and while his dad has packed into the Bob Marshall Wilderness a time or three, the father of four works for Flathead Electric.

Enter Ben Richmond, his mom’s brother who, in 2009, was the NRA Finals bareback champion.

“My uncle rode bareback horses, and bulls, too,” May said.

Now he excels in a sport that has already thrown in its share of hurdles. Take his one semester at Miles City Community College, for example.

“I got run over,” said May, who broke his arm. “Unfortunate, but part of the sport. I’ve broken about every bone you can.”

This might seem like hyperbole, but — well, let’s let him tell it.

“Broke my neck,” he said. “I was in a bull-riding accident in Darby a couple years ago. Out in the arena, but not very far into it.

“I ended up with the C8, C7 and T11 (vertebrae) — getting that all fused, all that fun jazz. It healed up pretty well, or feels like it at least.”

A look at his Instagram feed bears this out — as he hangs onto his ride his hat shoots off on the first or second violent kick. But his bull riding career ended in the dirt at Darby’s Cromwell Memorial Rodeo Grounds.

“It’s fun, but boy,” he said of the bulls. “I think I’ll stick to the horses.”

Four years ago May was a 120-pounder who competed for the first time in high school rodeo, doing well enough to make it to the Montana State High School rodeo, and well enough there to earn a trip to the National Finals in Gillette, Wyo.

Now he weighs 160 and if he hasn’t competed as much as he wanted in 2021 — he’s building houses — he still made the Montana PRCA Circuit Finals and won the bareback at the Conrad NRA to start the year, before adding a win in Havre.

Competition begins anew this week.

“There’s a lot of good young riders,” he says. “I guess I shouldn’t say young; they’re just a couple years younger than me.”

If May is an elder statesman at the NRA Finals, long may it stay that way.

“I don’t think I ever will stop,” he says. “Well, until I’m too old. Or I break enough bones that I can’t do it any more.”

Fritz Neighbor can bre reached at 758-4463 or fneighbor@missoulian.com.