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Dillon Graham Talks Rodeoing With Family, Roping in The Great North and Climbing Out of the Heartbreak Hole
"Dawson throws fast, and I just try to catch." 
Brothers Dawson Graham and Dillon Graham roping at the Fiesta Days Rodeo.
Brothers Graham doing work at the Fiesta Days Rodeo in Spanish Fork, Utah. | Phil Kitts photo

Canadian cowboy Dillon Graham finished 16th in the 2023 world heeling standings roping behind his big brother, Dawson, who finished last year 19th on the heading side with the same money won. The Graham brothers—Dillon’s 23 and Dawson’s 25—are from Wainwright, Alberta, and won Canadian Professional Rodeo Association team roping titles together in 2022

Q: How long have you been heeling for Dawson at the rodeos, and who taught you guys how to rope?

A: We started rodeoing together in 2016. Our grandpa Roger Fletcher and our uncle Kurt Fletcher taught us how to rope. The Fletcher side of our family ropes, and the Graham side is mostly farmers. 

Q: How big is team roping up in Canada these days?

A: Team roping’s pretty big up there, and is getting bigger, for sure. Some of the lower-numbered ropings in Canada are getting 600 teams now. 

Q: What’s your favorite career highlight so far?

A: Winning Canada, for sure. To win that was definitely a goal of ours. Our parents always took us to the Canadian Finals when we were kids, and it was a goal to win it since. 

Q: In the last three years, you finished 46th, 33rd and 16th in the world heeling standings. Are you happy with how fast you’re climbing the world-class roping ladder?

A: I think you always wish you would have done better, no matter what you do. Last year was our first year of really rodeoing hard.  

Q: Did you look at finishing 16th as the heartbreak hole, or as more major progress? 

A: Nobody wants to end up 16th, but it motivated me to be better. When you get that close and don’t make it, you have two options—dwell on it and not get any better, or keep moving forward and get better. 

Q: Are there pros and cons to brothers being partners? 

A: I don’t really see any disadvantages to it, and there are a lot of advantages. When you win, you win with your brother. There’s not much better than that for me.  

Q: Do you guys travel together? 

A: Yes, we travel in the same rig, and Dawson likes to drive. We buddied with Rhen Richard and Jeremy Buhler last year, and Rhen did all the entering. This year it’s on us, but we always have Rhen to call.

Jeremy Buhler, Dawson and Dillon Graham, and Rhen Richard riding scooters
Jeremy Buhler, Dawson and Dillon Graham, and Rhen Richard honing their scooter skills out on the rodeo road. | Courtesy Dawson and Dillon Graham

Q: Does being the big brother give Dawson the upper hand? 

A: Dawson’s a big softy, and he’s always in a good mood. The best part about him is he’s always the same, so there’s the same vibe in the rig no matter how we’re doing. He stays pretty even keel, and we just keep moving on. 

Q: Did you start out rodeoing mostly in Canada?

A: Yes. In Canada there’s no age on it. I was 15 when we first rodeoed up there. Dawson and I both won rookie of the year up in Canada in 2016, when I was 15 and he was 17.

Q: When did you start venturing down to the States, and how do you split your time between Canada and the U.S. now?

A: We first started coming down here 12 years ago, when our parents bought a place in Arizona. We started entering the PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) rodeos—Tucson and a few others—in 2018. But we didn’t go to many rodeos until I turned 20 in 2021. We go back to Canada from May 1 to Reno in June. Then we bounce back and forth. We enter 20-25 rodeos a year in Canada now that we’re rodeoing down here so much.

Q: What’s your favorite rodeo down here? 

A: Probably Pendleton. Roping on the grass is something different. It’s a cool rodeo, and something different from all the rest. 

Q: And your favorite rodeo in Canada? 

A: Wainwright. It’s a pretty big rodeo, and it’s our home-towner.

Q: Have there been people who’ve gone above and beyond to welcome you and help you when you started coming down here?

A: A lot of people have helped us. JD Yates and the Yates family stand out a lot. I’ve stayed there and roped with them a lot, and have gone to some horse shows with JD. We hang out at Hunter Koch’s place in Texas quite a bit when we’re there. 

Q: Do you have goals up there and down here?

A: Yes. They’re both kind of the same—to win Canada and make the (National) Finals (Rodeo). The goal is always to win it if you’re going. 

Q: How is team roping different in the two countries? 

A: It’s pretty much the same. Team roping is a standard event in Canada, too. The only difference is the amount of entries at the rodeos. It’s tough up in Canada, there just aren’t as many entries or rodeos. There are only 52 rodeos in Canada. I’d say about 80% of the rodeos in Canada have equal money in the team roping. Lyle Kurtz, who owns CVS Controls, has definitely fought for equal money in the team roping up in Canada. 

Q: Describe your team’s style.

A: Dawson throws fast, and I just try to catch. 

Q: Who’s your favorite heeler to watch, and why?

A: There are a lot of guys I like to watch—Jade (Corkill), Clay O (Cooper)—all the greats. 

Q: What were the most important lessons you learned coming so close last year that you’re using now?

A: Every steer counts. They all matter, no matter where you’re at or what time of year it is. 

Q: How do you like your team’s chances of getting over the NFR hump in 2024?

A: I’m pretty high on our chances. We’ve got good horses, and we work hard at it every day. Hopefully luck falls our way.

—TRJ—

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