I was born and raised in Midland, Texas, and, until I was 13 years old, I lived in a little townhouse. My dad worked for a heating and air conditioning business that he and his brother and my grandfather all owned. It was just a mom-and-pop shop and they all worked their tails off every year. My mom was a teacher at a private Christian school for $0. Things were really slim growing up, but my mom and dad were and are the best parents in the world.
We lived week-to-week. I’m not going to paint a sob story because we had a good life. I just was raised in town, and I had never been around horses. My school was too small for sports. My cousins and everybody around me rode motorcycles, so that’s what I did, too.
And then, like every kid, I always wanted to ride a horse. Stan and Lorilee McNerlin moved from California, and he was the son of the pastor of the church we went to. They team roped and their kids started going to school with me, and Lorilee put a flyer up saying that they were going to give riding lessons. If I’m not mistaken, it was $10 or $15 for a two-hour riding lesson, something crazy back then.
I loved the horses. I loved being around it, but I knew absolutely nothing about it. I worked out a deal and I started going out every day after school. I would help them with riding lessons, and they would help me for free. This may sound hard to believe, but I truly did not know what team roping was. I didn’t know what the NFR was. I didn’t know anything about any of those things. When I saw them roping the dummy, it was crazy to me. It was a bale of hay with this steer head in it. And they started showing me, and then they were roping one day and said, “You’ll have to come out when we rope.” And I had no idea what an addiction I was fixing to take on.
When I started learning to ride, they would not let me learn to rope other than on the ground. I would take a riding lesson and, then, I would go rope the dummy. Stan had a folding chair outside, and he’d sit in the folding chair out in front of the dummy and tell me how dumb I looked and what I was doing wrong. And he was pretty hard about it, but he knew exactly what he was talking about. I owe so much to both of them for what they did, kicking me off in the right direction and learning the correct way to do everything with a horse and swing a rope. That’s how I got my start. And then, from there, I fell in love with it.
Throughout high school, I learned to rope. I worked for my brother, too, at a cable company, until I got fired because I went to break in steers after lunch and didn’t come back to work. That is a true story.
In 2001, I was 21 years old. I had met Bobby Boyd, who’s a veterinarian out there in Midland. He’s a super great guy. I actually got hired by him to kind of take care of his horses at his place and help with his work schedule, saddling horses and keeping pens clean, then heeling steers when he got off work. I made a couple hundred bucks a week and got to rope six or seven days a week. About that time, Bobby introduced me to Allen Bach, who eventually introduced me to Tee Woolman, who I roped with my rookie year, and the rest is history.
To hear the rest of Patrick Smith’s story, listen to his interview on “The Score” podcast.