Dale and Florence Youree arrived at the Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center while the sun slept early Thursday morning.
Dale had to prepare as the first rider for his second senior run at 9 a.m. The Yourees, however, were soon interrupted.
"A man came up and said, `I want to know. Does he teach private lessons?' " Florence said. "And I said, `Yes, sir.' He said, `Well I live in Pennsylvania and I'm coming to Oklahoma for private lessons from Mr. Dale."'
The Yourees are legends in the world of rodeo. Dale, 71, has been riding for nearly 50 years. Florence, 66, no longer rides because of a spill she suffered when riding one day. However, she is an honoree in the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame.
Dale still has a competitive fire burning inside him. On Monday, he won the Sweepstakes on Dolls Little Bully with a time of 14.864 for first-place prize money of $4,004.
"I won more money in that one run the other day than my wife did when she was runnerup at the World Championships (in 1953)," Dale said. "It took her all year to win $3,300 and I won over $4,000 in one run."
"Of course, gas was 20 cents a gallon then," Florence added.
Youree now has the opportunity to do something never achieved in the six-year history of the World Championships -- become a double winner. His Senior run of 14.851 on his other horse, Mr. Billy Jim, was the second-fastest and puts him in good position in today's 8 p.m., finals.
"It's a big honor to win Augusta in any event," he said. "I'm getting old enough now that I may not want to try and make that trip next year."
The Yourees traveled 1,200 miles by truck from their ranch in Addington, Okla., where Dale still works and rides horses. The ranch is where they have taught barrel horse racing for years. Also, the Yourees have traveled around the country teaching clinics on barrel horse racing.
Some of that training has already passed down through the genes. Granddaughter Janae Ward is already an accomplished high school rider, while twin 11-year-old granddaughters Cassie and Kylie ride as well.
"I sent them twins to Fort Worth (Tex.) three or four weeks ago and I put them on (Dolls Little Bully) and a horse I left home and they won $3,800 at one rodeo," Dale said. "They love to ride. They usually take our good horses away from us."
This week, though, Dale got permission from his grandchildren to ride Dolls Little Bully.
"They understand," Florence said. "They want their papa to win just as bad as anybody."
The Yourees have seen a few changes over the years.
"When we first started, there were a few good runners," Dale said. "When you come down here to Augusta, you don't have three good horses to outrun, you've got 40."
Ironically, the Yourees, who will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary in February, met at a rodeo.
"He was a calf roper and I wanted to be a barrel racer," Florence said. "I wasn't all that good. But the time we worked at it through the years we both became pretty good."
And now Dale is trying to put together a world-champion run.
"You don't get to go to many places where you win a world championship in one rodeo," he said. "It takes many, many miles to be a world champion. And when you get here, you can be a world champion in 14 seconds."
If not this year, though, there's always next year.
"I'll probably qualify to come back next year," Dale said. "If my health is good I'll probably be right here trying it again."
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