Fourteen-year-old Everett Reeves is taking his time in the house while his brother, 16-year-old Quincy, and father, Kenny, saddle horses for their evening practice session. Randy, who rarely misses a practice at the Reeves home arena, hollers at Everett to hurry as he walks out the door.
“I have to get after him,” Randy, 50, who prefers to speak as matter-of-factly as possible, said.
While the rest of the Reeves ready the horses and warm up, Randy is busy. He’s bringing up the steers, hooking the sled up to his neon green Artic Cat ATV—what he calls his squad—and readying the arena. When everyone else is a’horseback, Randy will work the Priefert chute (suit, according to Randy), load steers and drive his squad to pull the Hot Heels when the boys need a tune-up.
Randy, a man on the autism spectrum and eight years Kenny’s senior, has been under Kenny and wife Michelle’s care for several years, since before the death of his parents. He came to the Reeves through their Reeves Foundation, which runs group homes and provides a variety of services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Randy has an apartment with his brother, Eddie, in town, but Randy is one of a group of individuals who spends time at the Reeves’ Douglas, Arizona, Price Canyon Ranch. The ranch is a place where members can go for the day or for a short camp to get to participate in operational working cattle ranch life, including branding and team roping practice. It’s the only facility like it in the state of Arizona.
Randy, now part of the Reeves family, is dedicated—so dedicated—to the success of the Reeves boys and the day-to-day operation of the ranch, and, in time, has become a critical part of the Reeves’ in-arena success. That success includes Quincy winning the big Junior NFR #10 qualifier with Jace Thorstenson in Cheyenne, Wyoming, this summer, and Everett sitting second in the Junior NFR #10 standings heading into Las Vegas’ final event. Quincy will also rope calves at the Junior NFR in Vegas.
Michelle and Kenny Reeves didn’t know exactly how people like Randy would affect their lives when they began the Reeves Foundation 14 years ago. Kenny was (and still is) primarily a rancher, and Michelle was a nurse consultant for the state of New Mexico, helping support individuals with developmental disabilities.
“I remember feeling super blessed by being in these individuals’ presence,” Michelle remembers from her early interactions with these wonderful folks. “They have an effect that I never really knew before. This population has something special about them, and when you choose to get to know them, you’re feeling super blessed to be in their presence. I’ve never been the same.”
Michelle fell into a similar roll with the state of Arizona when the family moved there, and continued to see opportunities to further support and advocated for individuals with developmental disabilities.
“We started out really small. And eventually we grew from serving one county in Arizona and spread into different areas and are supporting quite a few geographical locations.
“The biggest vision I had was for this population to realize their goals and aspirations to the degree that they are capable, and to recognize that they have dreams like anybody else. They are just as normal as we are. Often, due to feeling they are not capable or in an effort to protect, people discount the abilities of the folks we support, not realizing that it is we, as a society, who are facilitating some of the largest of the mental handicaps and hindering the process of personal satisfaction and achievement, which gives necessary meaning and purpose to life itself.
“One of the biggest successes and rewards of the Reeves Foundation is when we have the privilege to gain the trust of and to connect with a member, helping them tap into their deepest desires and giving them the tools and encouragement they need to light fire to their personal dreams.”
Now 14 years later, Michelle is running the program from two iPhones, two iPads, and multiple laptops, often answering calls and running reports while holed up in the living quarters trailer at junior rodeos and team ropings, and sometimes from abroad, while on medical missions to the developing world.
Meanwhile, Kenny spends much of his time with Randy by his side. He ensures the day-to-day operations of the ranch and provides oversight, ensuring that the folk’s day is structured through stable routine, filled with various community integration opportunities that are meaningful to them.
“They become members of the family,” Kenny said. “We can bring these guys from alternative settings, group homes, and their family homes to the ranch, and we make it a privilege—a learning opportunity and an experience for them that they look forward to. They all want to ride a horse. (Except Randy, who prefers to stay on his squad only.) There are so many different learning opportunities available in a ranch setting, from working with animals, to mechanic and maintenance jobs, building fence, fixing water gaps, to carpentry and, of course, the fun stuff, like the solitude, fishing, swimming, hiking, riding, and experiencing the ranching lifestyle. All of these opportunities provide experiences for the folks to explore individual interests and different levels of independence. Some of the folks come to us with some behavioral challenges and social struggles, and we find that different ranch tasks provide connection to work with their hands and provide physical activity, decreasing or alleviating some of the boredom associated with the lack of self-control. It also boosts confidence through accomplishment and mastery of a task previously not attainable. My kids learn how to help these individuals, and they become awesome examples. The group will see Quincy driving the lawn mower and realize what they have to do to be like Quincy.”
The team roping steers are still wrapped from the morning practice session, so Randy, with the help of Alex and Luke, load them first.
“I like the cattle,” said Randy, who is always outfitted in his trademark sweatpants, suspenders, long-sleeve shirt, and well-shaped straw cowboy hat. “The big ones are ornery, and sometimes they get stuck, but I keep them moving.”
Charlotte, another member served by the Reeves Foundation who comes to the ranch from time to time, likes to help the boys warm up their horses or retrieve a new rope out of the boys’ bags. The Reeves have helped her compete in barrel racing events, including Special Olympics barrel races. She is often charged with taking care of the family’s basset hound, Shad, when she goes to rodeos with them.
Alex, who’s legs were severely injured in an accident when he was younger, takes charge helping push steers up the alley, and he likes to ride, too. He’s a swimmer, and loves to wrestle with the boys when they’re off their horses.
Meanwhile, Luke brushes the horses and ropes the dummy before joining Alex and Randy by the boxes.
The practice runs smoothly—like a well-oiled machine—and he boys get in the kind of practice they need for a career as future NFR ropers.
Everett and Quincy were very young when their family began operating the Reeves Foundation, so life integrated with individuals with developmental disabilities is all they’ve ever known.
“My dad and I say if they don’t like Randy, we won’t like them,” Quincy, who spends the day working on the ranch after his morning roping practice and school work, said in all seriousness. “He teaches people a lot of character.”
Quincy and Everett are dedicated to their roping—spending one week every month at Texas Tech University, practicing with coach Jerrad Hoffstetter, the three-time NFR tie-down roper. Both boys have short-term goals of winning the Junior NFR in Las Vegas this year and long-term goals of gold buckles in two events. But they have bigger dreams than just rodeo.
“I want to be a part of this business,” Everett said. “Me and Quincy are going to try to work at it; keep the business going and continue to rodeo. That’s the big goal, to do both.”
“I will have to make time for everything,” Quincy added. “I love these folks just as much as my parents do. My mom was the person who created this business. My mom has a passion for these people. I have a passion for helping people. I’m very passionate about this community.”
Already, the boys help in providing inspiration and encouragement to the members they serve, guiding each one in finding his or her purpose for the day, whether they’re on the ranch or in a group home. With Randy, Quincy and Everett know what it takes to keep him out from in front of his beloved DVD player. They keep Randy stretched and enthusiastic about accomplishing goals that are challenging for him and drive him out of his comfort zone into new levels of personal achievement.
Without ever meaning to, Randy, who before meeting the Reeves didn’t like to leave his bedroom, has also become an ambassador for his community. Randy goes everywhere the boys go—including all of the ropings and junior rodeos—and is known far and wide for his enthusiasm for the boys and Kenny.
“He has desensitized the people at the ropings, and everyone loves Randy,” Kenny said. “Them being aware of him has desensitized them to not fear him. He’s just Randy, and everyone has learned to love him and roll with him, and he loves it. He’s been an awesome introduction for the cowboys.”
Three-time WNFR header and five-time National Finals of Steer Roping qualifier Chance Kelton’s son, Ketch, ropes with Everett quite a bit, giving the Keltons first-hand knowledge of the way the Reeves family operates.
“It takes a special person to do what they do,” Chance said. “They’re the right people for the job, the way they treat their members like they’re family. Randy just kind of brings a smile to everybody’s face. You try to give him a hard time and he gives it to you right back. He savvies pretty good.”
Tony Ybarra, Kenny’s regular partner with whom he won the #8 at the USTRC National Finals qualifier in Clovis, New Mexico, this August, agrees.
“Randy’s a legend in the rodeo circle,” Tony said. “If he’s not there, we always ask where he is. And we aren’t alone.”
While Randy can be heard hollering at his “dad,” Kenny, from the stands when Kenny wins a USTRC or World Series roping, Randy’s got just as much passion when Everett and Quincy don’t have as much success as they’re used to.
“They become the biggest fans of the kids,” Kenny explained. “If we’re going to a truck roping, there is not a doubt in any of their minds that we’re going to be rolling back in with that new pickup. They don’t factor in that there are 1,800 teams. They just know that we practiced all week and the boys roped good, and they’re going to bring that truck home. We didn’t win a trailer a few weeks ago—and Randy was ripped. He was making a list of what we need to do. He knew we had to rope the sled, he was MAD we didn’t win that trailer. He was ready to pull the sled all day Monday if he had to.”
As the sun sets on the second practice session of the day for the Reeves boys, now it’s Everett’s turn to get after Randy. With waning daylight, Everett must nudge Randy to keep opening the suit. Randy prefers that the boys don’t practice in the dark, and sometimes will shut down completely at dusk. But the boys (“They’re like my brothers,” as Randy puts it.) know how to keep him moving with some egging on, and Randy loads a few more steers.
The family’s day will start again at 6 a.m., when Randy starts his chores as the boys saddle their three horses a piece. Michelle and Kenny will work well past dark, planning, writing emails, and handling staff needs. The family’s dedication to the special needs community is just like ranching, in that there are no office hours, no days off. And for that workload, there is no family more equipped than the Reeves. TRJ