Q: You roped at 10 consecutive NFRs from 1994-2003 with your big brother, Chris, Allen Bach and Kory Koontz (shown above). Which year was the best of your professional rodeo career, and why?
A: 1999 was my best year. Allen and I set a record going into the NFR for most money won during the regular season that Jake (Barnes) and Clay (O’Brien Cooper) had held for a long time. We went into the Finals only about $500 ahead of Speed (Williams) and Rich (Skelton), and they won their third championship that year. It was a good rodeo year for us, and it was also the year Grace was born, which made it really special.
Q: Now that you’ve had a little time to look back and reflect, was there one favorite NFR run or moment that stands above the rest?
A: My first NFR go-round win—Round 8 in 1995 roping with Chris—has to rank up there pretty high. We were 4.1, everything just clicked and it felt so easy. We won Round 9 the next night, too, after winning that first one. Another highlight was when Kory and I tied the record, which was 3.8 at the time, the last year I went to the Finals in 2003.
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Q: When did you retire from the full-time rodeo road, and how did you know it was time?
A: I told Kory at Albuquerque in 2003 that my heart was at home with my family, and that I didn’t want to keep leaving them. Then I got a little scared about that being it, so I went one last year in 2004 with my cousin Travis Woodard.
Q: What do you miss most and least about roping for a living?
A: I miss the competition and the camaraderie the most. I miss getting up in the morning to work at trying to be the best I could be at something I love. I also miss the friendships. Some of the best Christian men I’ve ever known in my life were there at the rodeos. Stepping away from them was hard. Their walk with God was strong. I don’t miss driving down the road or all the down time. My wife was gracious enough to go with me for a while. But I remember how sick of car seats our kids got.
Q: What are you doing now?
A: I do some roping clinics, give some lessons at the house and do construction work with my dad’s company, VN Construction (VN is for Vernon and Norma, who are Chris and Daniel’s parents). I pound nails, get on roofs—we do all kinds of construction. We’ve been putting siding on a church here lately.
Q: Do you get to rope much these days?
A: I have been roping quite a bit. Kyndall and Eli are both into roping and rodeo, so I practice with them at the house.
Q: A lot of us had a blast watching Grace play for the Oklahoma (University) Sooners softball team in the Women’s College World Series last year. She has a special new teammate a lot of roping and rodeo people will recognize this year, right?
A: Yes, Charles and Londa Pogue’s daughter Raylee is playing for OU this year, too, and she’s already come through big this season. Grace and Raylee are both utility players, which means they go play wherever their team needs them in multiple positions.
[Read: Home Run for Grace Green]
Q: How many games do you hope to get to this season?
A: We got to go to some games in Southern California earlier this season. It’s going to be tough to get to a lot of the Oklahoma games this year, with the other kids’ rodeos. I’m going to try to schedule a roping school in Oklahoma, and go see Grace play when I’m down there.
Q: You’re a three-time Cinch Timed Event Championship winner. You missed it for the first time in a long time last year, because Shawnda was having a tough time with health issues. How’s she doing now?
A: Yes, after Shawnda fought off a virus last year, her immune system was compromised and nerve damage from a rare condition called Guillain-Barre Syndrome temporarily paralyzed her. She’s getting around pretty good now, and just went back to work at the cancer center in Sonora, where she’s a radiation therapist.
Q: After all your success at the Timed Event, you just missed it for the second straight year.
A: Yes, with all that’s going on with our family it’s just getting tougher and tougher to get ready for it. Shawnda was still in the hospital during the Timed Event last year, and it’s just harder and harder to line up all the horses a guy needs and to feel prepared for all that goes into competing there in that many events.
Q: Any regrets about your roping and rodeo career, or do you have complete cowboy career satisfaction?
A: As a kid, I dreamed of winning the world in the team roping. When it was over, I realized I should have done more to focus on the all-around. I should have dreamed bigger, because I sort of pigeon-holed myself as a team roper when in hindsight my greatest talent was that I could do more. When I was rodeoing, I was always in search of that next head horse. But when I look back, my biggest wins were in the all-around. I was the national steer wrestling and all-around champ, and the reserve national tie-down champ my senior year of high school in 1990. I won the Timed Event three times, won the World’s Greatest Roper twice when they had that and a bunch of circuit all-around titles. I mainly only entered the bulldogging and calf roping in the state of California, and when it was all over I regretted that, because my greatest asset was my versatility. I didn’t dream big enough. That’s why I tell my kids to dream big and work harder.