My reason has been the same my entire career. When Treston was born, I started saying I’d step away when the kids started school. I’ve been lucky that Shada loved the homeschooling so much, and that kept us together rodeoing longer. There was nothing better than when I was traveling with my family. We were able to enjoy the travel as much as the winning, if not more. As bad as the travel is alone, it’s that good when you’re able to be around family.
By the time my oldest daughter, Style, decided she wanted to go to school the last half of the 2017–2018 school year, I was already committed to this year with Patrick Smith. I was going to finish the year with Patrick, because I’d made a commitment to him. I couldn’t have had a better partner over the last what felt like 40 years. When we started rodeoing together, there were no kids. Now we can’t go into a restaurant together because we have so many. It takes a table of 10 to go eat. We’ve lived our lives full circle together. We discuss parenting, we discuss rodeo, we discuss other businesses outside of rodeo. It’s been as good a partnership as I could ask for. And that’s why I worked my tail off to make it count, and to make the most of the time we had.
My kids have always said something about wanting me to retire. I told them if I did, I’d need to work at McDonalds, but at least I’d be closer to home. Then they’ve let up and said I could rodeo some more so I didn’t have to do that. Now that I’m going to be home, I want to take them to school. I want to embarrass them on a regular basis. I want to know every kids’ name they play sports with. I want to know the kids at their school.
I’m looking forward to not missing anything, to not having anxiety that I’m going to miss something important. Example: I watched my son’s first home run on video. As cool as that was to see him succeed, it hurt. I was so happy he did it, but I was so mad I missed it. That was just a realization that we never know when those moments are going to happen. It doesn’t have to be those big moments. It’s all the little moments. We were so lucky because I rodeoed forever with them. The way Shada and I did it, I was around more than if I’d had a job for most of it. Since they started school, it’s been really sobering for me FaceTime-ing them on the way to school.
Shada and other rodeo wives have to be the strongest women in the world. When my kids started school this August, I had to stay out there just from August to Sept. 30. If parents on my kids’ sports teams didn’t know me, they’d have to think Shada was a single mom. And that was just for a month. That didn’t feel right.
Somehow, I want to make it known now that my plan is to ease around to 20 rodeos. If there’s something that pays a lot of money, or gives cool trinkets, I still love what I do, so I’m going to try to be there. I still rope every day. I will have to evaluate it from there to see if my limited practice schedule makes me competitive enough to do 20. I would still like to go to some steer ropings. Shoot, I could go to 20 steer ropings.
The reason I want to be clear about this: it doesn’t matter if I win; it doesn’t matter if I don’t win. Neither of those things affect my decision. That’s why I’m not afraid to talk about it now. Good, bad or indifferent, it doesn’t change what I’m doing. I’m thankful I’m doing it and I’ve gotten to do it this long.
I’ve been afraid of the unknown of it all. I’ve been a competitor all my life. It’s all I’ve ever known. Everybody thinks a break is good, but this isn’t a break. This is a definite, complete change of pace. I don’t know if it will drive me crazy or make me want to do 20 again the next year. I know I couldn’t quit cold turkey. I need to wean myself off what I love to do, to see if I can do it in a smaller capacity. And if that doesn’t fulfill me, then I won’t do it. I don’t have those answers.
Another thing I want to be clear about: I’m not getting out of the industry. I’m trying to find the balance to be the best dad and husband I can be and still enjoy the industry at whatever level that is. I have a lot of fun working on the Relentless products. Whether it’s the equine part, or the boots and apparel, I see myself spending more time with that.
I feel like social media will help this transition more than it would have 10 years ago. I still feel like everything I’ve learned and the experiences I’ve had can still be shared without being out by a campfire somewhere talking to five or 10 people. I can still reach people without having to be by the bucking chutes at a county fair rodeo signing autographs. To slow down on the road and do more social media could help my sponsors and the fans and ropers out there even more.
I called Champ (Clay O’Brien Cooper, pg. 36) and asked if he had any plans. And I said I’m looking for a partner who just wants to go to the good ones in the winter—Fort Worth, Houston, The American, San Antone. He said ‘Let me call ya back.’ And he called and said, ‘OK, let’s do it.’ And that was it. I’m like that too—we may not talk until I have to get his card number to enter Fort Worth. But that’s cool, too, because I don’t worry about him. It’s so nice to have someone who says he’ll do something, and he’ll be where he needs to be. I’ve had that for most of my career, and I don’t want to change that now.
I have no regrets. I’ve feared the regret of not doing this. That’s the one that wakes me up at night. There’s no way I was going to let anything else be a factor: whether sponsors took it good or bad, whether I did good or did bad. It didn’t matter when I went out, as long as I went out on time as far as my family is concerned.
I don’t know if it’s that I grew up with no money, but I never had the luxury of Round 2, or of a second chance, so I never let myself be in a spot to have a regret or wish I’d have done something different or better. There was no safety net. I tried to do all I could do so I wasn’t the weak link anywhere. I didn’t ever want to quit rodeo and need to do something else. I worked hard even when things were going good so I could just be a dad when rodeo was over, and that’s what I’m going to be.