America's top cowboy is an Australian.
Dave Appleton, a small-town Australian who came to the United States eight years ago with a dream of making it big in rodeo, did just that Sunday when he captured the bareback riding final to edge three-time defending champion Lewis Feild and win the coveted all-round cowboy award."I'm living proof that dreams come true," Appleton said. "I'm an Australian until the day I die, but you'll never find me badmouth this country. It's answered every dream I've ever had."
Appleton, who now lives at Arlington, Texas, came from behind on the final day of the world's richest rodeo to capture the bareback riding event and take the all-around title that Feild has owned the last three years.
Feild, of Elk Ridge, Utah, failed to place in the bareback final and finished in a tie for third in the saddle bronc riding. He won $12,081 on the day to finish second in the year-ending overall money race for cowboys who compete in at least two rodeo events.
Appleton ended the season with $121,546 in winnings, with $44,064 of that coming in the nine-day National Finals Rodeo. Feild finished just behind Appleton with $120,902, including $47,508 in NFR earnings.
Appleton, who came to the United States in 1980 after honing his skills on the Australian rodeo circuit, drew the toughest horse of the competition when he went for his final ride before an appreciative sellout crowd of 16,672.
Feild qualified in both bareback and saddle bronc and seemed on his way to a fourth consecutive world title before he floundered in bareback and Appleton had the best ride of the day.
"Lewis Feild has got nothing to be ashamed of," said Appleton, who helped hold Feild's horse for his last ride. "He's a great cowboy. They don't come any better than Lewis Feild."