I didn’t come about a career in rodeo in the traditional way. I didn’t go to junior, high school or college rodeos. I home-schooled. There were so many reasons I did it, and it wasn’t just because of roping. My grades were good, but I wasn’t reading as fluently as I should have been. My family felt like I could get more personal attention one-on-one at home. My mom (Linda) home-schooled me, and I had a tutor on occasion.I come from a highly educated family. They didn’t have any reservations about taking me out of school, because there were plenty of smart people around to educate me
We had the Slick Stick (team roping simulator) business when I was a kid. I’ll never forget the first day of seventh grade. Charles Pogue and Bret Tonozzi were at our house, and Bret was endorsing the Slick Stick. Dad asked me if I wanted to home school, and how serious I was about roping. I was so pumped about Bret and Charles that I made a split-decision to home school that day. I wanted to go rope with those guys more than anything.
I first touched a rope when I was 9 years old. I was at a jackpot with my dad, and a girl I still know came up and said her brother would rope a calf down there at the back end for me if I wanted to ride him. I’d ridden horses, but had never been around cattle very much.
So her brother roped him and put me on him, and I fell off immediately. He hadn’t even let him go yet. The calf wiggled, and I hit the ground. I said, “Let me try the roping part.” I had no idea how to even hold a rope, so when we got home I asked my dad (David) to teach me how to rope.I already knew how to ride,
so I started roping on a horse right away. I entered my first jackpot shortly after I started roping, and won my first check heading for my dad three days after my 11th birthday. We won the roping, and we won the buckles. That’s still my No. 1 day of roping ever.My dad showed cutting, pleasure and halter horses. He roped a little as a hobby, but when I learned to rope he didn’t want me to go through 15 frustrating years trying to learn it on my own. So he developed a method of roping that he believes works, and it’s not just the old cowboy way of looking at things and saying we do it this way because that’s the way it’s always been done.
All his ideas about roping are scientifically based. They’re about physics and horsemanship. He breaks roping down like no one else. His idea is that there are certain things you have to do in order to catch. Everyone has a little different style, but if you can execute those things you can have success.
Everybody’s got their own little twists, but there are things that have to happen for you to catch. For example, your back strand has to be high enough that you have room to make a decision about where to put it. Your rope has to enter the corner before the heel horse and the heeler, because that’s a place you can get behind the rhythm of the run.When I was learning to rope my dad had me concentrate a lot more on the swing than the delivery. A rope is not a projectile, like a ball, a rock or a bullet. It’s a loop, and he always put into me that it wasn’t something I could target and throw.
I had to target my swing to be able to put the rope where I want it to go.When I was about 16 and just starting to figure some stuff out, I complained about our practice steers quite a bit. I’d say that steer jumped out of my loop or dragged and I couldn’t get my loop under there. So my dad sold all the cattle, and for six months or a year my only practice was on the Slick Stick. The Slick Stick gave me a place where I could see where to put my rope, and confirmed our ideas about roping. I learned a place to put my rope that would catch a lot of steers. Once I got that figured out on the Slick Stick I started roping a lot more steers by two feet at the ropings.
Kinney Harrell was 14 when I met him at a jackpot. He came and stayed with us off and on for the next few years, and my dad instilled these thoughts in him also. I was the original guinea pig, but this method doesn’t just work for me.
This (2003) was my third full year to rodeo. I thought from all the stories and all the dinner-table talk that rodeo was a lot more of a party and good time every weekend than it really is. It’s a 24-7 job. It’s serious business, and to succeed, the object at hand-winning-comes first. Winning has to come first. It has to be the priority.
In 2003, there was no shortage of good times, but my priorities did change. I found a good partner and stuck with him all year long for the first time ever. I also took better care of my horses than ever before. There really are no secrets to success. Hard work and dedication pay, and you really do get out of it what you put into it.