The coronavirus pandemic has our country and much of the world—including roping and rodeo—on lockdown right now. Trying to navigate the new normal feels a little like the aftermath of 9/11, and the really scary part about this virus is that we know so little about it. People talk about how we should never take our freedom for granted, and these are tough reminders. In the blink of an eye, everything can change. I’ve always been a believer in hard work and handling your roping like a business, because I know that gives you the best possible outcome. But sometimes we face challenges that are beyond our control.

Ropings and rodeos have been canceled like crazy. One of my first thoughts when that started happening was that it would affect who makes the NFR (Wrangler National Finals Rodeo) this year. Then it hit me that we don’t even know yet if there’ll be an NFR this year. We’re all hoping this coronavirus scare will somehow get contained and we’ll get past it. Of course we’re all hopeful we will. But right now the most important thing is to do all we can to keep our families safe, by staying home and taking every possible precaution.

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I have felt so blessed to make my living as a team roper, and I’ve been so happy for the young guys with all the opportunities in front of them today. My injuries—losing my thumb at the NFR, getting hurt practicing right before the NFR, and having to stop and get my knee replaced—have all been personal reminders that sometimes things just happen.

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We take for granted that there’s always another day, but there wasn’t another day for Mike Boothe after he wrecked at Pendleton in 1995. There wasn’t another day for Lane Frost after that bull hit him at Cheyenne in 1989. There wasn’t another day for Kobe Bryant after that helicopter hit that mountainside in January. Real life happens, and sometimes it’s hard. We always want to tell ourselves “life goes on,” but it didn’t for them.

Trying times give us more perspective on life. When the United States of America is under attack—like it was on 9/11 and is now with his virus—we all stop what we’re doing and step back. Some of us were at or on our way to a rodeo when the twin towers fell, and an event like that will stop you in your tracks. Times like that—and like this country and the world faces now with the coronavirus—impact our lives way beyond our careers.

Change is part of life, and as Americans it seems like we always find a way to adapt to changes and make it work. The coronavirus is a global crisis. It’s scary, and we should take it seriously and follow the suggestions of the scientists who are trying to crack this code. We can’t just crawl into a hole and live in fear, but we can choose to focus on what’s most important in our lives.

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Now is a good time for people to stick together and quit bickering about all the little things that really don’t matter. Our country being divided is no good for any of us. This is a great time to look at the big picture of life, and be the best people we can be. The older we get, the more perspective we have naturally. And young people can be jolted into having more perspective, too. Paul Eaves’ horse fell with him at the 2020 Horkdog roping earlier this month, and it was an ugly wreck that could have ended it all for him in a heartbeat. By the grace of God, he walked away with a concussion and nothing worse.

I’m really proud to say that I’m an American, and am so grateful to live in the greatest country there is, where we have the freedom to live our lives like we want to. Let’s never take that for granted. There are doctors and lawyers who admire our lifestyle and wish they could be cowboys, too. As Americans, we need to unite and hunker down to ride out every storm life and this world throws at us.

This is not a time to panic. We’re cowboys, which means we’re survivors. We’re used to gambling and putting our last dollar down. Team ropers and cowboys have survived world scares and recessions before. We can get through this, too. Let’s focus on the most important things, live within our means, and practice, when we get the chance. That way, when the smoke clears, we’ll be ready. 

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