Yeoman's Effort

During the week, Luis Escudero plays a key role in helping to prepare U.S. Army troops for their missions in the Middle East, all the while being a full-time father to two teenage daughters.

On the weekends, Escudero unwinds by riding bareback broncs. He's done it well enough to earn berths in the Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo the past four years. This year, Escudero earned his ticket to the March 16-19 event in Pocatello, Idaho, by winning the bareback riding aggregate riding title at the First Frontier Circuit Finals.

At 44, Escudero will be one of the oldest competitors at the DNCFR. The fact that he competes in bareback riding, considered one of the most physically demanding of all rodeo events, makes his accomplishment all the more impressive.

Yet, Escudero simply shakes off the age factor. He?s been competing in rodeo for the past 22 years because he enjoys it.

"We ask each other, 'What keeps you going?' And I don't think there's one thing that I can say, 'Hmmm, that's why.' It's healthy. It beats watching TV," Escudero said.

Escudero has nurtured a love for rodeo for as long as he can remember. He grew up in a ranching family and wanted to take up rodeo full time after high school. However, his father intervened.

"I had to go to school," said Escudero, 44, of Vado, N.M. "My dad wouldn't let me not go to school."

Escudero earned a degree in electrical engineering that helped him land a job as a civilian employee of the U.S. Army. In his Army job, Escudero helps prepare materials U.S. troops will use when they deploy to various locations around the globe.

With U.S. Army troops in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East, Escudero's job has grown more demanding.

"It's 12 hours a day now," Escudero said. "With the things going on over in the Middle East, some of the weapons or the material the Army uses gets accelerated from the normal pace."

Even so, Escudero finds time to compete. He takes pride in the fact that he's qualified for all the major U.S. rodeos and had ridden some of the best bareback broncs around.

"It's something I've always wanted to do so bad," Escudero said. "I'd like to do it full time, but I've got to feed my family."

So, he'll take pride when he arrives in Pocatello to compete in the DNCFR, because he likens it to the (Wrangler) NFR for part-time competitors. If a world champ or other big-name cowboy shows up to compete, it's even better.

"It doesn't bother me one bit," Escudero said. "I like it better. In the rodeo arena, you're really competing against the animal. The points fall where they fall. That's the beauty of the thing."

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