I don't honestly know what Im going to do in 2009. My son Bo is a senior in high school, and I can say Im going to spend as much time as I can with him and Tuff (Jake and Tonis youngest son) this year. Bo is a student athlete who's shooting for a college basketball scholarship, and I want to see as many of his practices and games as I can. Roping is how I make my living, and I have serious sponsor considerations. I would like to say that Im done roping on a full-time, daily basis. But Im not independently wealthy, so Im at a crossroads in my life. Im not going to be standing in the soup line, but this economy is tough and I still have to make a living. All things considered as I sit down to write this at the end of 2008, theres a good chance I'll be back at it in 2009.
At some point in your career, everybody faces this decision-to go or not to go. You have to prepare for this time in your life all along the way, and plan for life after rodeo. The end of the line comes for everyone sooner or later. That's just life.
I'm doing some soul searching right now. I would love to be able to walk away. If I had a way to make a secure living and be home and be a recreational roper, that's what I'd do. But that's not my reality. The hardest part for everybody is the NFR (Wrangler National Finals Rodeo). You spend your whole year trying to get there. It's a great financial opportunity, and it attracts sponsorships. Your sponsors expect you to be there, and so do you. Qualifying for that event is a huge incentive. There's pressure there
You have to have a top partner and top horses to attract the top sponsors. It's too competitive to be in it halfway. You have to have the enthusiasm of a young kid who's willing to go to 70 rodeos and can't wait to get to the next one. That's not really in my heart anymore. I don't like being away from my family. There are times we don't see our families for 30 days at a time. That starts to weigh on you.
I don't think there's a great way to balance full-time rodeo roping with a family life. To be a professional roper and a family man is extremely tough. Unless your family beats to the exact same drum, and that's all they really care about, something's going to suffer along the line. That's what I struggle with now. My son's 18 years old and he's going to graduate, and I didn't spend enough time with him. I've provided a good living for him. But I haven't been there. This lifestyle is not for the faint of heart. I'm not crying about it. That's just the facts.
One of the things I suggest to the younger guys is not to be tunnel visioned. Think about another business along the way. You have to prepare for it, because the end will come. It's come for all the greats of the past and it will come for you. I don't know that you could ever win enough to retire from roping by itself, even if you're one of the top guys for a long time.
This is my last chapter. I just hope I can go out with a bang. It's going to be really hard for me to walk away from it, whenever that time comes. I think that's true for any successful athlete or businessmen. You have to be "all in" to be that good at anything. And if you feel that way, it's hard to let it go. I'm competitive. So kicking back and relaxing isn't really in my genetic make-up