There are reams of photos, hours of video, a beautiful trophy saddle and the ever-elusive gold buckle to remind Stran Smith of his long-sought-after dream of a world title he realized last year.
But in addition to all that, Smith saved a keepsake to remind him of the win for years to come: every heifer calf he roped at the 2008 Wrangler National Finals during his improbable run to a world title at 38-years-old.
“When I thought about doing that, I thought, ‘That would be cool because they’re all heifers. I had just bought some other cows and heifers and from now on, I’ll keep their heifer calves as replacements heifers. I bought an iron that has NFR on it, and I’ll brand their calves with the NFR and I’ll keep the generations going.’ I didn’t let anyone else brand them. I left their tags in and then I tagged them “NFR 1″ for the one I ran in the first round and so on.”
John W. Jones bought the 10th round steer he won the 1984 steer wrestling title on and Cody Ohl bought the calf he tied in 6.5 at the 2003 NFR. Smith also bought the calf his nephew, Tuf Cooper, tied in 6.7 seconds last year at the NFR as a Christmas present.
“The feeling I get every time I see them, it kind of brings back that feeling,” Smith said. “It lets you relive it a little bit. But none of these will ever see a rope around their necks again. They’ve been roped for the last time.”
Although he never won a round, he placed in five, including the 10th round in which he tied his calf in 7.2 seconds to keep a hard-charging Hunter Herrin from catching him. Had Herrin placed ahead of Smith in the round, the title would have been his.
“That 10th round calf is going to make the best cow,” Smith said. “She’s not gentle, but sometimes I’ll be out in them and she’ll end up being the one closest to me and I wonder, ‘Does she know?'”