Q: What are you up to these days?
A: I’m a ranching stay-at-home dad. From taking care of my little girl to taking care of all these critters—11 ranch horses, five rope horses, one pony, nine work dogs, two puppies and cattle—to maintenance, fixing flat tires and old corrals, and building new ones, cowboying and Brindle is how I spend all my time. I don’t consider the work I do a job, because it feels like I do whatever I want to do, whenever, and how ever I want to do it.
Q: How’s fatherhood treating you?
A: I never knew I could be this proud or love someone this much. It’s unexplainable having your own kid. It’s fun to just sit back and watch her play, laugh, cry and try to figure things out. I always thought I had a love for horses and cattle. But nothing comes close when here comes a human, and it’s your own kid. I love everything about being a dad.
[SHOP: Derrick Begay’s Team Roping Essentials]
Q: Have you been entering any rodeos in 2020?
A: I’ve entered everything that’s close by—pro rodeos, amateur rodeos, ropings—and I went to Guymon (Oklahoma with Ty Romo) in August. I just enter wherever and whenever I want. I’m never going to quit. I love rodeoing too much. I love backing in the box and seeing all my friends.
Q: When was the last year you rodeoed hard, and why did you decide to pull up from full-throttle pace when you were a constant contender for the world championship?
A: The year I made the Finals with Petska—2018, when we started after the Fourth of July—was the last time I went hard. After that, I just didn’t want to anymore. I have always been and always will be addicted to rodeo. I love the smell, the people—all of it. But other stuff in my life outweighs being gone now.
Q: What do you miss most about rodeoing for a living?
A: The competition—getting to compete and seeing if you can win. I also miss the friends, the food, seeing everybody, joking with them and talking serious with them. But I don’t miss hauling my horse 12 hours a day or waking up in a living quarters trailer.
Q: Do you have any rodeo regrets?
A: Just the steers I missed. There are two that really stick out in my mind. I came back high call at the George Strait with Petska one year and I missed. The other one was the last time I made the Finals. Cory and I were creeping up on those guys, and we roped toward the bottom in the seventh round. All I had to do was catch the steer to give us a chance to win the world. I got a good start, the steer was right there, I took an extra swing and I missed him. Those are the only two I really remember. They always said if you won the George Strait, it changed your life. So I guess I’m glad I didn’t win it, because I love my life.
Q: Which is harder, ranching or rodeoing for a living?
A: Living’s living, no matter what you’re doing. It’s about living, not how much money you’re trying to make. Money makes the world go round, but you have to live, which means doing what you want to do. I want to be around my family, these horses, cattle and dogs. So I’m making a living doing what I want. And rodeo is what set me up to live this way. All these trucks, trailers, horses, tractor—rodeo paid for all of it. Rodeo gave me a jumpstart to living this life I have now.
Q: Might we ever see a rodeo come-back for Derrick Begay?
A: I hope so. It would take the right horse. And with the right horse comes the right partner. If my little girl says I better go, then I will. It’s going to take those three things—well, four, because I’d only go back out there if I’ve still got it.
Q: Who was the best fit in a partner in your rodeo career?
A: For me, that’s like asking someone which kid they love most. I started with Victor Aros in 2007 and made my first Finals with him in 2008. Then I roped with Cesar (de la Cruz) for five years, and we never had a cross word. Cory Petska is the best heeler going right now, in my opinion, and he got all the good out of me. Champ’s (Clay Cooper) a living legend, so every time I backed in the box with him I never took it for granted. All those guys were true partners to me, and have been really, really good to me. Every time I roped with somebody, I finished the year out with them.
Q: Are you especially glad you aren’t trying to make a living on the rodeo trail in 2020?
A: I’m 37 now. I would hate it if I was 27 and all-in.
Q: What are you most proud of about your roping career?
A: I always wanted to be a professional cowboy. Having that be where it all started, then being able to go where I did, win what I won, meet the people and make the memories I have—that’s all pretty special to me. I truly did what I wanted to do. I don’t know if it was pure luck or destiny or the answer to my prayers the way it all went. But it’s what I wanted to do, and it happened. I never got up in the morning and said, “I need to make X amount of money or I need to win a world championship.” I truly did it for the love of the sport. That, and being a Native American role model are what I’m most proud of.