Inside the November 2019 issue of The Team Roping Journal.

Dear Roper, 

I sat in silence, with tears blurring the sight of my computer screen, when I first read the email from a reader, letting me know about Dominic Romero and his mother Michelle Arbizo. 

Michael Calmelat, 11, one of the youngest high-numbered heelers in history, and the reigning Junior NFR Open Champion.

Michael Calmelat, 11, one of the youngest high-numbered heelers in history, and the reigning Junior NFR Open Champion.

Dominic—or “CheChe,” as he was known in the tight-knit Tucson roping community—died on his 20 birthday on Jan. 4, 2019, in a hit-and-run accident along the side of a lonely road outside of Marana, Arizona. Michelle remembers the police officers at her door that morning, a full four hours after her son left this world alone and in an instant. She doesn’t recall much more from the hours and days and weeks that followed, but eventually, a good horse, a good dog and a family of team ropers helped pull her out of that dreadful fog.

I wish I could say talking to Michelle and the rest of Dominic’s friends and family was the first time I’d had such a conversation, sobbing in silence in my office as I pressed the heart-broken mother on the other end of the line for more details of her loss. I wish I’d never, ever had to ask these impossible questions and bring back the terrible memories from loved ones who’d experienced such great loss.

I’m thankful, though, that families like Dominic’s, and the families of other ropers before him, are trusting us to tell their stories. It’s one of the great honors of my career, and at the same time the responsibility I dread most. You’ll read the results of these hard conversations on page 70, in A Mother’s Love.

There’s not just heartbreak in these pages, though. Senior editor Kendra Santos, whose written more than her fair share of painful stories, gets the chance to tell a fun one this month about guys who’ve both headed and heeled at rodeo’s big show in Vegas, and new contributor Jolyn Young talks to pros leading the drive for online coaching services on page 66.

You’ll also notice you’re receiving our special Arizona Guide. This is the second year for our custom publication that introduces readers across the country and the world to team roping’s winter paradise. I hope you’ll take a look, and maybe we’ll see you in Wickenburg?

Let me know how we did this time around: cshaffer@aimmedia.com

Chelsea Shaffer 

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