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HELENA — Bull riders Connor Murnion and Michael Crews stood back from the bucking chutes during Thursday’s opening performance of the Last Chance Stampede.

The bulls were restless in the pens near them were making noise but the duo paid no attention.

Preparing for their eight-second ride was their sole focus.

“I really don’t like waiting around a whole lot,” Murnion said Murnion. “I have to get my equipment ready, so that takes my mind off of it."

Murnion’s ride would be two hours later with bull riding concluding the evening performance. All he can do is try and calm the nerves.

“You do get a little nervous when the bulls run in the chutes,” Murnion said. “You just block it out.”

Murnion grew up in Jordan and graduated from Garfield County High School.

Rodeo took him to Dillon where he attended the University of Montana Western and was a part of its rodeo team.

But his love for rodeo was rooted from his family.

“My dad actually rodeoed,” Murnion said. “He went to the (National Finals Rodeo) riding bareback horses.”

So it wasn’t surprising that he was riding a sheep during the mutton busting competition.

“It wasn’t a rodeo this big,” Murnion said. “It was in Richey.”

It didn’t take long before those sheep were replaced by 500-pound steers and 1,800-pound bulls.

Now, he spends weeks at a time traveling from rodeo to rodeo, riding bulls looking to earn that paycheck.

But he isn’t the only one.

When Murnion leaves one rodeo and arrives at another, it isn’t uncommon than another competitor rides with him. Lately, Crews has been sharing the road with Murnion.

And they get to know each other pretty well with the road they take.

During the last two weeks, Murnion and Crews travelled from Nampa, Idaho, to Salinas, California to Ogden, Utah, to Cheyenne, Wyoming with a quick stop in Spanish Fork, Utah, before arriving in Helena.

A trip like that totaled more than 3,000 miles but Crews said he wouldn’t trade his life for anything else.

“It’s the greatest feeling you will ever have,” Crews said. “When you get off, whether it’s 90 points or 70, you are just happy doing what you love.

“We could be at work every day working an eight-hour shift but we get to drive 500 miles a day to get on some of the best bulls. It really is a dream come true.”

Even if that means not having a steady income.

Winning the bull riding competition can earn a competitor up to $3,000 here this weekend but for guys like Murnion and Crews, they will take anything they can get.

Murnion said a good weekend he can make up to $10,000 he wins a few rodeos in one week, but nothing is guaranteed. His best win came at the Montana Circuit Finals in Great Falls where he won $5,200 this January.

“It’s kind of in our blood to be gamblers,” Crews interjected. “If we weren’t doing this we would probably be betting some money at a table somewhere.”

Murnion and Crews both bucked off at this weekend’s Last Chance Stampede, but they know they aren’t done yet. After dusting themselves off they jumped in their truck and are on their way to Plentywood.

That’s just the life of a bull rider.

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Ryan Kuhn covers Carroll College athletics and occasionally other things for the Independent Record and 406mtsports.com. Email him at ryan.kuhn@406mtsports.com or follow him on Twitter at @rskuhn

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