My middle son, Cyris, is on the rodeo team at the University of Montana, Western in Dillon. He won a rodeo scholarship, and his freshman year, he was at the top of the standings in calf roping. He missed a trip to the CNFR by one spot.
It was disappointing, but he spent his summer practicing and competing at Northern Rodeo Association rodeos. He re-committed himself to getting better. He was determined to come into this fall strong. Unfortunately, the rodeo gods had other plans for him.
Everything that could go wrong this fall has. His horse hasn’t worked like normal. He’s broken out of the box. His calf got up. He got out ran. He practiced harder. Every day, he tied calves and practiced his get off. He went into every rodeo feeling strong and feeling good about his skills. But every rodeo brought another glitch.
To top it off, his team roping partner dumped him after the first rodeo. So last fall, his partner turned one steer for Cy, and that handle was awful. They decided to switch ends this past spring, and Cy started heading. He turned every steer for his partner, and they ended up with some points. I even let his partner use one of my horses because his was hurt. But when he dumped Cy, the mama bear claws came out.
True to form, Cy said he was fine with switching partners, but he wished the guy had done it during the summer. There were a couple of other guys that wanted to rope with Cy, but he told them he was committed to his partner, so he told them no. He did find a partner to finish out the fall rodeos, but not the way he wanted.
The final rodeo of his sophomore season was the Dillon rodeo. When it was his turn for the calf roping, he caught right out of the chute, had a good get off and promptly fell on his face. He bounced up and the calf started circling him. He got tangled up in his own rope. His horse kind of looked around. Eventually, he ran out of time. He made it to the short go in team roping, then missed the heels as the third high call.
My heart dropped for him. I knew how hard he worked. I knew how much he wanted to prove himself. How he needed to earn points and get himself back into the standings.
I also knew he was fighting himself. His problem was psychological. He has the skills to be the top calf roper in the region, probably in the country. But until he exorcizes his demons, he won’t achieve that goal.
As a mom, it’s hard to see your kids struggle and not be able to help them. I can’t solve this problem for Cy. He’s got to figure it out for himself. I wish I could take it on myself. I’d much rather be the one fighting the battle. But it’s his battle and his victory.
All I can do is support him and be there when he needs me. He’s 20. He’s basically on his own. He’s a mature young man. I can take him hay when he’s running short. I can swap horses back and forth. I can buy him groceries from time to time and make his favorite meal when he stays overnight.
What I can’t do is change the past or force the results he wants. This isn’t the first time he’s had a disappointing end to a season. He made the junior high Nationals in eighth grade, and we figured he’d be going every year in high school. He never did make it, despite being one of the top ropers in the state every year. But every year at the State rodeo, he finished just out of qualifying spot due to a bad run or a bad draw.
The best thing we all learned is that there is always another rodeo. Always another chance to reach a goal. The world will continue turning, even if he doesn’t make the big rodeo. In all, we’re pretty lucky to live the life we do: getting to compete in a sport like rodeo, traveling all over the state (and country), spending days riding good horses.
There isn’t a roper who catches 100% of the time. Or who always has a clean catch. It’s imperative that competitors learn not only how to lose gracefully but also how to get past those times when everything just goes wrong. Cy still struggles with this. He beats himself up when he messes up. And I wish I could help him shrug off his mistakes quicker.
It’s just going to take him more time.
He was selected as one of the rodeo team captains this year, which was pretty cool. I found out via Facebook. He’s just that kind of a kid. He doesn’t talk about his accomplishments or things like that. When he was in high school, he was nominated for Prom King, and I found out from someone else.
Right now, this month, there are better ropers than Cyris. But there aren’t any better young men. I’m proud to claim him as my son. He helps his competitors get better. He pushes calves for other kids. Maybe the best compliment I’ve had in a long time is from his girlfriend’s mother. He and Regan have dated for several years, and her mom has told me that Cy is the kind of guy she’d pick for her daughter. He treats her with respect and is the best boyfriend Regan has ever had.
I’ll take that. Above the roping. He’s in a slump right now, and I know his roping skills will return. There are other ropers out there that are absolute, genuine assholes. They help no one but themselves. They dump their partners when they think they have a better one lined up. They show no respect for anyone, especially women. So, I’ll take Cy just the way his is, right now. Because the person he is, is pretty darn great. Even if he’s in a slump.
There is always another rodeo. The most important life lessons he’s already learned.