In 2010, a 21-year-old Georgia reacher named Kaleb Driggers was on top of the world. He was in his second year in ProRodeo competition, and he was heading for seven-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo heeler Brad Culpepper. That same year, a 30-year-old header from Powell Butte, Ore. named Brian Rosebrook, who once had NFR dreams, was lying in a hospital bed, paralyzed after a logging accident broke four vertebrae in his back. Driggers’ and Rosebrook’s lives couldn’t have been more different then—but seven years later, team roping brought Driggers into Rosebrook’s life in a big way.
Rosebrook was a 6-Elite header who had been roping his whole life when that piece of logging equipment broke loose and rendered him unconscious. His friend dragged him through the snow to a pickup truck, then out of the woods to an ambulance. He woke up in a hospital bed, where he’d stay for four months, unable to walk, with two plates and “a bunch” of pins in his back.
“I woke up and I couldn’t walk, but I was alive,” Rosebrook said. “I could use my hands. I figured I could still do something. I did therapy for a year and a half, and they had me almost walking with braces. But it was hurting my back. I had to arch my back to balance myself, so I decided I was going to quit and figure out how to rope again instead.”
It took a few years before Rosebrook could get strong enough to start roping. He had a gentle 20-year-old Paint who helped him learn how to ride again, and he struggled at first with finding the horse’s rhythm. He figured heeling would be physically easier for him. He never heeled a day in his life, but he figured he’d give it a try. Some friends put on a benefit roping to help Rosebrook afford a Randy Bird saddle, which is specifically designed for heelers who don’t have use of their legs.
One day, Rosebrook was struggling in the practice pen with some friends, including WNFR header Brandon Beers, who lives just down the road.
“I was really fighting it heeling,” Rosebrook said. “Brandon told me to go back to heading, and I roped every one that day. I’ve been heading ever since. I did some modifications on my saddle. Randy told me nobody headed steers out of his saddles before. It has a strap on it and a big cantle like a wheelchair back. I tie my feet in, I tie my stirrups together, and I have a really good horse.”
That really good horse came from Texas trainer Ty Murphy, a friend of Rosebrook. Rosebrook bought now 14-year-old Goldie in 2014. The palomino mare is gentle, so she doesn’t mind when Rosebrook’s brother Don and partner and roommate, Biff Talbott, throw him into the saddle. And she lets Rosebrook do all of the steering just with his left hand, not minding that he can’t help position or push her with his feet.
Goldie also lets Rosebrook run right to the hip every time, a position that Rosebrook had to get used to after his accident.
“Not being able to reach is really frustrating,” Rosebrook said. “I could really reach before. I ride to the hip every time now. I have a lot better horse than I ever had. She’s fast—as long as I get a good start I’m good to go. I probably handle cattle better now. I take my time more. I try to set my heeler up and let them make the time up.”
Rosebrook and Talbott, who have roped together since high school, set the goal of qualifying for the World Series of Team Roping Finale as soon as Rosebrook could start going to jackpots again. They spent three years working toward that goal, and finally, in September 2017, he and Talbott won fourth in the Flying R Ventures’ World Series of Team Roping qualifier in Pendleton, Ore., worth $4,870 and a spot in the Finale in Las Vegas.
As Fate Would Have It
That same day in early September, PRCA world standings leader Driggers was sitting at the World Series of Team Roping qualifier just watching the roping. He’d been in the Northwest for the final big run of ProRodeo’s regular season, and he hadn’t had much luck.
“I was sitting there in my big truck watching, waiting to rope in the #15,” Driggers said. “I saw him go, and it broke my heart. He tried so hard. We hadn’t been doing very good, and I was down and out. I was wanting to do good, you know. And then you see that guy, who has faced what he has and overcame it to rope and doing well.”
Driggers didn’t go introduce himself to Rosebrook, but he didn’t forget the roper he saw strapped into his saddle. Instead he wrote to Rosebrook on Facebook, telling him how much of an impact watching him rope had made.
“I told him how much I look up to him and admired him,” Driggers said. “It breaks my heart that whatever happened, happened, and I told him it’s amazing how good of a life we live. He told me he’d been trying to qualify for Vegas for a couple years, and he told me he finally earned his spot to go.
“Honestly, God had been on my heart lately about helping someone else. Brian mentioned if I knew of any way to get sponsors or any way to help with expenses, to let him know. I didn’t say I’d help or anything. But I had a hat sitting in a box that I’d won, and I stuck $2,500 in it and sent it to him to help with his expenses.”
For Rosebrook, the day he got a hat-box-sized package from Kaleb Driggers was something out of a movie.
“It was like Publisher’s Clearing House. I got a box from Kaleb, and I saw it was a hat box,” Rosebrook explained. “I thought it was going to be a straw or something, and I thought, ‘Dang that’s so cool.’ Then I opened it up, it was a 15X buckskin Resistol in my size. I didn’t even see the check to start with. I texted him a thank you, and he asked me if I saw what was in the hat, and I looked and said, ‘WHAT?!’”
Rosebrook was quick to tell Driggers that the money is just a loan—he plans on winning it all back and then some in the #8 Finale Saturday, Dec. 16.
“I was in awe of what a good guy he is,” Rosebrook said. “I just thought it was so cool he got a hold of me on Facebook. For him to do what he did was unbelievable.”