DEADWOOD — Matthew Jones enjoyed the best of both worlds as the Days of ’76 Rodeo began Tuesday at the rodeo grounds in Deadwood.

The 34-year-old resident of Midland, S.D., is in his first year of professional steer roping. He faced the likes of Trevor Brazile, Tuf Cooper, Rocky Patterson, and many others who have made names for themselves in the sport.

Tuesday marked his Deadwood debut, and he had a simple reason for coming here.

“I needed to get a rodeo count for the (Badlands) Circuit Finals to make the finals,” he said. He also entered a recent event in Kadoka.

Jones competed in high school rodeo, roped calves, and participated in team roping. He moved on to amateur rodeos, but steer roping always appealed to him.

“The first time I saw it was in Cheyenne with my grandfather,” Jones recalled. “My wife and I have been coming up here and watching for a few years.

“I just can’t stand sitting in the stands watching,” he added. “It looked like too much fun.”

Ora Taton helped Jones get started roughly three years ago. Jones purchased a solid horse from a brother-in-law and said he and that horse are learning together.

Jones is a first-generation steer roper but a fifth-generation rancher. The ranch located roughly six miles south of Midland has existed for more than 125 years.

His great-great-grandfather Tom trailed horses from Idaho’s Snake River country to Fort Robinson, Neb., and sold them to the Army.

Camaraderie is one of the things appealing to Jones the most about roping steers. “This is a great group of guys,” he said. “You can’t find any better in the world.” He also enjoys roping and watching the horses work.

The sport’s mental aspect challenges Jones and most. “Knowing I’ve got a green horse, I feel like I have to compensate in certain ways,” he said.

Jones watches how other competitors ride their horses, handle the slack, and how they conduct themselves inside the arena.

When asked how this season has gone, Jones said things are tough for everyone. He added things will get better, and people cannot let the virus get them down.

Jones entered three or four rodeos before Deadwood. He agreed that number would likely have been much higher in a typical year, depending what happens on the ranch.

“We were busy calving and things like that,” Jones said. “The start for everybody else was about the same as what I got to start.”

Getting back to steer roping was not difficult for Jones. He and others cared for cattle on the ranch, which naturally involves a lot of riding.

“I just want to go do my job,” Jones said in describing his mindset for each run. “I want to be right on the line, and I want to get him caught as quick as I can and get him tied up.”

The COVID-19 pandemic did not affect his preparation. Jones said the people in that area are rather isolated and try to take the same precautions as during flu season.

“I don’t like getting sick any more than the next person,” Jones said. “We have so much work we have to do anyway. We’re just going to get it done.”

Jones planned to compete in Burwell, Neb., on Thursday.

Cole Patterson and Chris Glover took home average titles when the day ended.

Patterson resides in Pratt, Kan., and claimed the average title by completing three go-rounds in a total time of 34.4 seconds.

Glover hails from Keenesburg, Colo. He finished three go-rounds in a total time of 36.9

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