When Shay Carroll made his first Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in 2014, one man stood a little taller, a little prouder, than anyone else—Shay’s grandfather, Truett Carroll. The elder Carroll had missed his own chance at the Finals in 1967 when he finished just $17 out of the top 15 in the calf roping, and he’d spent his life coaching his son, Dick, and later his grandson, Shay.
“I knew I had to make the Finals really quick, and it was the only time I’d ever seen him cry,” Shay said. “It was my goal, but it was a family goal.”
Truett would get to watch his grandson win RodeoHouston in 2015, but on August 25, he passed away. Carroll drove all night the whole way home from Caldwell, Idaho, then turned out of rodeos for 10 days to stay with his family in La Junta, Colo.
“But I told my grandma I wanted one buckle of Grandpa’s, whichever she wanted to give me,” Carroll explained. “So we walked in to the room with a whole wall full of buckles, and I was looking at the wall. And she said ‘No, I want you to have this one.’ And then she gave me the one he’d worn every day for 20 years. It’s just a team roping buckle, it’s nothing special. It’s nothing prestigious, but it was his favorite buckle and he wore it every day.”
Carroll replaced the RodeoHouston buckle on his belt with the buckle from his grandfather, and said that no matter what other buckle he wins, this one will remain on his hip.
“I am who I am for so many reasons because of him. Now that he’s gone, he’s still always with me.”