Patience – the Virtue of Rodeo Moms Everywhere

Written April 29, 2017

 

I’m sitting in my pickup at the Three Forks rodeo grounds. Just waiting for another rodeo to get started. Like most weekends during the spring and summer, a lot of my time is spent waiting.

Waiting for the rodeo to start. Waiting for my son’s events to start. Waiting for the weather to either warm up or cool down.

Not that I mind waiting.

Being a rodeo mom has taught me patience. It has taught me to always bring my laptop or a good book along. It has taught me that there is always another rodeo next week.

As I sit here, the sky is cerulean blue, with big fluffy clouds poking their way along. Just a slight breeze. But those clouds are fluffy for a reason. They either have rain or snow hiding in them. Or both.

One thing about this sport is that weather rarely determines the schedule. Unless there is lightning popping, the rodeo continues. Just a week ago, in Butte, kids were tying goats in wet snow, with the temperature hanging around 35.

But I love this sport and what it offers. I love living in Montana. I love that I have this opportunity to accompany my son to his rodeos. I get to be a spectator to one of the last vestiges of the Old West.

Most of the junior high rodeos start with either barrel racing or pole bending. And they end with the other. Because I don’t have any girls, we always have to wait for one of the longest events to get done before we’re even close to my son’s events.

And there are only so many barrel or poles run a person can watch when they don’t have a kiddo competing.

There are drawbacks to the sport, like any other. A big one is the amount of time spent waiting for something to happen. Another is the cost.

But the positives far outweigh any negatives. I do get a lot of work done during the down time. I watch my son forge friendships with other kids that he wouldn’t be able to in other sports.

There is time for socializing around his events. He has made lifetime friends by pursuing this sport. He competes against kids from all over the state. Unlike other sports, which compete within districts, and only during post season do kids meet other kids from other parts of the state. But even then, you are divided into class size.

With rodeo, it doesn’t matter if you live in a town of 200 or if you come from the largest city in the state. This sport is the great equalizer. It does not discriminate based on race, color, religion, or geographic location. If you can afford the entry fees, the horses, and everything else it requires, you can compete.

And some will say that the money issue does make this a sport only for those who have money. And there are definitely families who have bought their kids into the sport. But not all of us are like that.

My kids rode the horses that were available to them. They did whatever training was needed to make those horses into rodeo horses. And I think that made them better cowboys. Better horsemen. Better competitors. And training made them patient.

They had to put the time into their horses and wait for the result. Sometimes they had to wait for what seemed like eternity. They know their horses well. Quirks and all. They have had to struggle through rodeos with their ‘lesser’ horses due to injury or circumstances.

And they continued to compete. Not because they had the most expensive horses or the biggest trailer, but because they love the sport.

They have gone through slumps. In fact, my son that competes at UMW Dillon has been struggling for almost a year with his roping. He’ll bounce out of it in time. As long as he’s patient enough with himself.

So, I’ll continue waiting. I’ll work in between events. I’ll read. I’ll nap. And I’ll keep supporting both of my boys that are still competing. That may equate to decades of my life, since rodeo is a sport you can participate in until the end of your life.

I’ve timed senior pro rodeos. The age groups are 40-49; 50-59; 60; even 68 tie down. Some of these folks are well into their 70’s and still roaring down the road to the next arena.

I will be heading to Casper to watch my son compete next month. I may be heading to Tennessee after that to watch my youngest son at his national rodeo. My guess is, I’ll be doing a LOT of waiting during both events. And while I’m honing my patience, I’ll just have to see what Wyoming and Tennessee have to offer us rodeo moms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

CNFR Baby!

Written on May 7, 2017

 

My son Cyris just qualified for his first CNFR.

This entire school year – last fall and this spring – has been a struggle for him. He hasn’t been roping at his best. He has put pressure on himself to get points. And that just made the situation worse.

Three weeks ago, he finally started putting some runs together. He was placing in the rounds and the averages, earning a few points here and there. Going into the last weekend of the spring season, he had gone from no standing to eighth in the Regional standings.

He had no hopes of making the CNFR team. He went into the Great Falls rodeo with no expectations. He roped in slack, toward the end, and had one of his fastest times yet: an 8.8. He ended up winning the long go, and led the event going into the short go. He was the last man to rope his calf.

He’s been in this situation before. He hates being the top man back. He puts too much pressure on himself. He forgets to just enjoy the run. He has been the leader before and, in his words, he choked.

This time was different. He waited for his second calf. He watched other men miss. He watched them have bad runs. And his opportunity started to show.

When he backed his horse into the box, he looked calm. Confident. He nodded. He and Fritz went to work. Cy caught just outside the barrier, about the same place as the day before. He had a good dismount and ran down his rope. He had to pick up the calf, but he did it easily. Then he went on automatic. He flanked the calf, strung his string, and tied. One wrap, two, half hitch, and done.

He walked back to Fritz and calmly got back on. He walked his horse forward and waited six seconds. Then the crowd erupted as the announcer said, “9.3”

Cy won the long go, the short go, and the average. And he made it look like just another day at the office.

I was sitting next to his girlfriend during the run. I couldn’t help myself. I was screaming for joy for my son. I hugged Regan.

Then I started looking at points. I mentioned to Regan that he had a shot to slip into the top three. We had to sit and wait through the first round of bulls. They announced that Cy had won the rodeo for the weekend. No surprise.

Then they announced the three men headed to CNFR. The announcer made it clear to the audience just what Cy accomplished that weekend. Because he won every round, he earned enough points to slingshot himself from eighth to third in the standings. He was thrilled for his chance to go.

I’ve known for four years that he had the talent to step up to the next level. But every year, at the qualifying rodeo, things fell apart. Either through bad luck or his own demons. His junior and senior years of high school, he led the tie down standings all year, made it to state, and ended up in the crying hole both years.

Last year, he hung out at the top of the Big Sky Region tie down standings and had a legitimate shot to make CNFR. Then he had a bad last rodeo. And ended up fourth for the year. (They take three.)

This year had gotten so discouraging for him that he admitted he was thinking of quitting. I convinced him to hang in there. Just hold out a little longer. I knew that things would turn around for him.

So much of rodeo is a mental game. Ropers have to be strong enough to shrug off a bad run. Sometimes Cy lets those runs take over his thoughts. He obsesses over his mistakes until they become like a poison in his head.

My hope for him is that this past weekend was a big confidence boost for him. He earned his spot. And now I want him to go to Casper in a few weeks and have another couple of great runs. That could carry him into the summer rodeos and start him toward a breakout junior season next fall.

We’re Casper bound. CNFR Baby!

 

Parking Peeves

We go to a lot of rodeos during the year. When I’m hauling horses, I try to get to the arena early enough to find an easy place to park. I hate backing up trailers, but I really hate doing it when I have an audience. It always amazes me how other people pull in and think of only themselves.

I just watched a person pull in to the rodeo grounds, late of course, and park right in front of the one walk-through gate that everyone uses to get from the trailers to the arena. I kept waiting for them to move their trailer ahead or back up so they weren’t blocking everyone’s access. Instead, they unloaded their horses and tied them up.

Because of that one trailer, everyone had to walk around those horses and trailer to get back and forth all day. Didn’t bother them a bit.

And I have to say, that’s one generalization about rodeo people that I have found is fairly consistent: they are rude. Not all rodeo contestants, of course. But a majority of parents and adult competitors seem to think that they are the only ones who matter at any given rodeo.

Last year, I pulled to a rodeo the night before it was going to start and parked in the spot we wanted. We set up our horse pen, got our little spot ready, and figured there was plenty of room for everyone else to park around us.

One trailer backed in perpendicular to us close to dark. But they left enough room so that we didn’t feel stifled.

Then about midnight, another trailer pulled in and backed in right in front of my pickup. I had unhooked the trailer and pulled ahead about four feet, in case we needed to run into town.

This guy decided that parking his trailer perpendicular to mine, leaving about two feet of space between their trailer and my pickup, was acceptable behavior. When I asked him if he could park somewhere else, he told me to go to hell. You see, they wanted to park near their friends.

So, I took pictures of how close they were to my pickup, I took pictures of their horses’ butts leaned up against the hood of my pickup. And I did it where they would know I was taking pictures of them.

When the mom confronted me about it, I told her that if any damage was done to my pickup by their horses or them, I had proof of how close they had parked to me.  At one point, they moved their horses to the other side of the trailer, but for the most part, they were obnoxious and entitled all weekend.

When I was trying to get my pickup hooked up on Sunday, the dad and son watched me struggle for fifteen minutes. I had no room to maneuver my pickup because of how close they had parked. Neither offered to help guide me. At most rodeos, the teenage boys will jump right up and help me get hooked up. Help me carry things to and from the pickup. Help with anything that I need. Those boys are friends with my sons and are a great bunch of kids to be around. But the people parked next to me couldn’t have cared less if they had made my task harder. The sad part is that that boy is going to be exactly like his dad when he grows up: selfish and arrogant.

These same people did the same thing to me a couple of years ago. At that rodeo, they had a huge field to park in but chose to park right on top of us. My sons had a roping dummy set out to practice on, and these people actually moved the dummy to right beside our trailer. I moved it back to the original place we had put it out.

They did that three times.

I finally told them to leave our property alone. If they wanted more room, they could move. After all, there were several acres of available space.

You see, I don’t really care where people park as long as they leave me, and my things, alone. When I go early to a rodeo and park with plenty of space around me, I expect to have that space respected. No one else has the right to move my things or my horses or park so close that we can’t tie our horses up to our own trailer. (Yep, I’ve had that happen, too.)

A few years ago, I finally started putting out lawn chairs, so that no one could park that close to my rig. I don’t take up an exhorbinent amount of room, but at the same time, I don’t think I should have to put up with people encroaching on my personal space.

When our boys first started competing, we actually had someone’s horse back into our suburban and put a big dent in it. At first, they agreed to pay for repair. But when I called his insurance agent on Monday, the guy had changed his story.

They claimed our dog made his horse back into our vehicle because our dog bit the horse. The horse was actually resting its butt on our suburban.

The agent asked if I had gotten any pictures. Of course, I hadn’t. He asked if we moved our suburban. I told him we had parked there first. He asked if we asked the other people to move. I told him that we had. We asked them to move over and we asked them to move their horses. Only after they caused damage to our vehicle did they move.

And of course, they got their entire family to lie for them, so we couldn’t recoup any damages from them. It was after that incident that I started taking pictures anytime I felt someone was parked too close. And I’ve gotten brave enough to ask people to move, either their horses or their vehicle, if they are parked close enough to cause damage.

This is just a pet peeve of mine. It’s something that should be common sense and respect for others. But it rarely turns out that way.

Rodeo folk, for the most part, pull into a competition, and just shut down. They don’t think about anyone else coming in behind them. They don’t think about what they might be blocking.

One night at a barrel race, a woman roared into the parking lot and shut her pickup off, parking perpendicular to about six other rigs. She didn’t check to see if anyone would be leaving. She didn’t worry about blocking anyone’s view of anything. She just unloaded her horses and went about her business, like she was entitled to anything she wanted. Damn anyone else’s needs.

Similarly, I’ve been at horse functions and have been sitting in a good spot, only to have people come and stand in front of me. They think that standing at the fence is the priority to those of us sitting in bleachers. I’ve had to ask people to sit down at a college rodeo – indoors – because my son was about to compete and they were standing right in front of us instead of sitting in their seats. And they had the nerve to flip me off and call me names! Loudly enough for security to hear. Alcohol played a factor in that interaction. When security stepped in, those folks decided to leave the rodeo.

For those of you out there who try to park with others in mind: thank you. For those who don’t: maybe put yourself in someone else’s shoes once in a while. We’re all there to compete. We’re all there to have a good weekend. Don’t infringe on someone else’s space or park on top of others. Have some respect for fellow competitors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goat Gripes

A few weeks ago, Garris was through practicing his goat tying. So, I was leading the goat back to her pen. All was well until we were four feet from her gate. She ran around my legs, got the rope wrapped twice around my right leg, and then she ran full tilt at the gate opening.

My ankle went quickly from side to side, and I heard and felt a visible ‘pop’. I screamed.

I wanted to kick her, but I honestly thought my ankle was broken. I couldn’t put any weight on it. Then the tears started. I held back the pee, but it was close.

It took my son about five minutes to cool his horse down and get to where I was. Naturally, he was oblivious. He tied his horse up then put the goat away.

My ankle was messed up. I still couldn’t put it on the ground. I felt the joint was loose and feared the worst.

I made it over to my pickup, got my book and sock off, and swore when I saw how swollen my ankle and foot already were. It looked like I had a softball at my ankle. And the bruising was already starting. I put the foot up, and put some ice on it. Did I mention we were at his dad’s house?

My son still needed to rope calves, so when he had his horse warmed up, I hobbled over to the chute, so I could run it. I still couldn’t put much weight on it, but we got through the night. Can’t say I’ve ever run a chute balancing on one leg before. By the time I got back to the pickup, my toes were swelling.

I did get us home, but the drive was a little slower than normal. My ankle was worse the next day. It took me about fifteen minutes before I could walk on it at all.

And of course, that night was the first night of the first spring college rodeo for my older son. I taped my ankle, put a brace on it, and put the only thing I could fit over my foot: a hiking boot. I drove 60 miles to Bozeman, carefully hobbled into the arena, and watched rodeo for three hours. Then I drove home and unwrapped a very fat and throbbing ankle.

For all the rodeo moms out there, you know exactly what I was going through. We help our kids practice. We run chutes. We set up barrels. We tape their practices. We tape their competitions. We drive them. We help them get horses ready. Sometimes we even warm those horses up. Seems like the list is never-ending.

My boys all started roping and competing when they were pee wees. I figured it was a good way to keep them horseback in a family activity. Little did I know all these years later, they would still be competing and still loving their horse activities.

I’ve always had a rule that my boys don’t ride any horses unless one of us was there to watch them. Even the most kid-friendly, bomb-proof horse can have a bad day. They can buck, run off, spook, just like the greenest horse on the place.

That means I’ve racked up thousands of hours of practice time, right along with my kids.

Unlike other sports, rodeo requires each competitor to get to a rodeo on their own. No busses. No community trailer. So, I’ve logged a lot of miles driving my kids all over the state to rodeos. (And sometimes across the country.)

As the years have unfolded, I’ve been bitten, kicked, stepped on, and run over. I’ve sprained my ankle more than once. I’ve gotten hand burns. I’ve smacked my head on the trailer hooking it up.

I’ve had my feet roped. My body roped. And have gotten the knot-end of the rope more than once. I’ve pulled dummies behind four-wheelers. I’ve untied calves and goats. I’ve reset barrels and poles.

I get asked all the time why I don’t ride much anymore. And why I haven’t competed in years. Really? Because I’ve chosen to focus my attention on my kids. I had my chance. Now is the time for my boys to learn and to shine. I wouldn’t change a thing about the last several years. I’ve been with my kids most weekends. I’ve seen them blossom, both in their rodeo skills and social ones. They’ve made some great friends within this community of competitors. They’ve learned how to win – and lose – with grace and sportsmanship.

So, I’ll accept some bumps and bruises along the way if it helps my boys in their quest for rodeo greatness. But I will be glad when we don’t have to bother with the goats any longer. Garris is going into high school next year, so he’s about done with those critters.

I’ve never tried goat meat. After this latest sprain, I’m thinking of barbecue! But I’m not sure I’d want to eat that miserable old doe. She’d probably have the last laugh by making me deathly sick.

I’m finally back to normal walking. And after three weeks, I was able to start working out again. But since that night, my son has refused to let me take the goats back to the pen. Smart kid.

 

Real Life Rodeo Moms of Montana

Some of the women reading this will recognize themselves. Those of us who are rodeo moms know the agony of watching our kids enter the arena and have a bad run. We know the joy of watching their hard work pay off with a great run. We are a unique mix of cheerleader, coach, driver, and gopher.

The overwhelming truth is that we are responsible for molding our kids into successful cowboys (even if they’re girls), and also maintaining the ethical and moral fabric of their forming psyches. We make them practice – rain or shine, summer and winter. We emphasize good sportsmanship and good horsemanship. We build them up on the days they fall. And we take them down a few pegs when they get a little too cocky.

Some people will argue that ‘soccer moms’ or ‘football moms’ or ‘ballet moms’ are the same. I know we all share certain traits. We want our kids to do well and will support them in those efforts. But rodeo is a creature in itself.

It is one of the most expensive sports. Here in Montana, it is not sanctioned by schools. So that means every expense is on the family: the horses, the truck and trailer, the travel, the practice, the feed, etc. Whether your kid is a roughie or a roper, a goat tyer or a barrel racer, you add another piece to the equation: a four-legged partner in crime. Those other fill-in-the-blank moms don’t have to contend with a living, breathing, half-ton animal who is necessary for their child’s success. And who is not always rational. Not always focused. Not always prepared. Kind of like our children!

One of my favorite memes is that rodeo is the sport where you spend a fortune to live like a carnival worker.  And that’s pretty true. I am selling my living quarters trailer, which I’ve loved having the past couple of years. But it’s just too big and bulky for what I need right now.  I’m down to one kid at home, and I just don’t need a big four horse living quarters trailer. My plan is to get a small bumper pull and find a camper for my pickup. That would be a little more affordable and practical.

I’ve been divorced for about two and a half years, and that has thrown a different dimension into the equation for me: co-parenting a rising rodeo athlete between two homes. Before that, I didn’t go to a lot of the rodeos when my ex was planning on spending the night. Reason being, we didn’t have a comfortable way for five people to sleep in a four foot tack room. It was easier for my youngest son and me to stay at home.

Now, I do some of the driving. It just depends on which horses my youngest is using. When he uses my horses, I haul them. When he doesn’t, his dad does. Long story. Until last fall, Garris used a mare that belonged to my parents. He had competed on her in almost every event over the past ten years. After our divorce, when he needed her, I insisted on hauling her. Last fall, we decided to retire Peppy, due to her age and the fact that her front end was starting to hurt. It was time to start using the younger horses. Making those hard decisions are tough on us moms.

We rodeo moms always have a full calendar. We’re always juggling rodeos and schedules. And if we have more than one kid competing, the effort multiplies by the number of kids. At one point, when all three of my boys were still at home, we sometimes had three kids going three different directions.  Talk about keeping all the balls in the air at the same time! We had to borrow trucks and trailers. We had to find other families willing to haul our kids.

A person could be at a rodeo or a roping every weekend, if they really wanted to travel that much. My youngest son is doing junior high rodeo about five months out of the year. If he makes it to Nationals, that adds another couple of weeks, when you factor in travel time.

My middle son competes at the collegiate level, he goes to NRA rodeos during the summer, and goes to various jackpot ropings throughout the year. Just a couple of weeks ago, we traded pickups because he was traveling across the state, and my truck was more reliable than his. I don’t make it to many of the college rodeos, because of the travel. But he reports in and lets me know after each run how they went.

It’s hard to sit still and watch the rodeos I do attend. I get nervous. I’ve told my kids to let me get nervous and then they don’t have to. I try to busy my hands by recording times and scores. But I rarely sit in the bleachers during an entire rodeo. I’ll sit during my son’s events, watch some of the other kids we’re close to. But then I have to walk around. You’d think after 18 years of doing this, I’d be past the jitters. I’m not.

The life of rodeo moms isn’t often glamorous. Most of the times, we deal with extremes in weather and always have clothes for every season in the pickup. We are usually covered with arena dirt and/or manure. But I’d rather smell like horse sweat than strong perfume anyhow.

Rodeo mom. I accept the moniker proudly. I’ll be his cheerleader. I’ll be his driver. His coach. And his gopher. Every moment I’ve spent in the pickup or in the bleachers have been moments well spent. He may never turn pro. But the lessons and skills he’s learning today will stay with him for life. And maybe someday, he’ll have kids of his own who will need a rodeo mom themselves. (or maybe grand-mom)

Tennessee Or Bust

Tennessee Or Bust

 

Last June, my youngest son and I spent a week in Lebanon, TN at the Junior High National Finals Rodeo. He competed in four events.  We made the 1800-mile trip from Montana, and it was a scary undertaking for me to drive alone.

I had been divorced for about a year and a half, and this was the biggest trip I’d attempted by myself.  Garris rode with me, which helped.  But he was only thirteen, and self-absorbed, as are most kids his age.

We pulled into the James E Ward Agricultural Center on Thursday, the 16th, so that his 17-year old mare had plenty of time to get used to the different climate.  We were one of the first people from our state, so we got parked in a good spot and set up our camp site.  We saved the spot beside us for his dad, who was flying in the following Sunday.

I am naturally quiet; I always have been. I’m a shy person, until I get to know someone. It’s not easy for me to approach strangers, especially in a group setting.

As trailers continued to pull in over the next couple of days, Montana’s assigned spots filled up. It became apparent that there were cliques within the parents, much like high school.  On our left, trailers were arranged in a horseshoe, with a large open area for people to sit, eat, and kids to goof around.

On our right, three trailers also clustered together, and one actually tried to back his trailer perpendicular to mine, blocking both my camp site and my ex’s. I told them that I was going to park my pickup at my trailer, and that when Garris’ dad showed up he needed to have access to his spot as well.

Very early in the weekend, it became apparent that I was the loner. The outcast. The ‘weird’ one that didn’t click. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to socialize. But no one invited me over to the large gathering. Plans had been made prior to leaving Montana to split up the meal preparation and menus. I was not included in that, so I assumed it was a closed group.

I’m not comfortable walking into a group of people. I know who most of the parents are, but I haven’t met all of them. My son asked me why I didn’t just go over there and eat. When I explained that I was invited and didn’t know everyone, he got a funny look on his face. He had never taken the time to introduce me to all the parents.

I battle depression. And anxiety at times. Some of my stressful moments are in groups of people, especially strangers.  I explained this to my son and tried to make him understand how difficult it is for me to be in that situation.

 I’m not antisocial. I crave to be with friends and go out and enjoy company.  But I prefer to limit my interactions to one on one. I absolutely hate being the center of attention and will avoid situations if I have to be in front of a lot of people I don’t know.

One of the moms did come to my trailer and invite me over to eat – an hour after dinner had been prepared and everyone was already done eating.  I politely declined, but I wanted to say: if I was honestly invited into the group, then I would have been included in the planning of meals, the shopping, etc. This group had made their plans well ahead of leaving home.

And that’s fine. There was nothing intentional or malicious done to exclude me. None of the other moms live near me, so we don’t see each other except at rodeos. But a list of parents’ phone numbers and emails had been given to each family just after the state rodeo. A group email or text would have allowed everyone the option of participating, if that was the intention of the group meals.

I know there are other parents who feel the same way. My youngest son is very social.  He craves people, and their attention. He’s gregarious. He’s popular. And I’m happy for him. Maybe a little envious that it’s so easy for him to be comfortable around anyone.

But I’m simply not. He’s finally understanding that it’s something I can’t control. I have no choice when a panic attack hits or when I’m going to feel anxious about a large gathering of people. It’s simply in my makeup, the same way his personality is in his.

 But he can control how he treats me. That week was overwhelming at times for me, because my son wasn’t the kindest person toward me. He was thirteen, which means at times he was rude for no reason; his tone and attitude were very snarky; and he was disrespectful. He spent every spare moment away from me. I couldn’t get him to talk to me for five minutes or walk through the trade show with me. I couldn’t even get him to drive into Nashville with me and do some touristy things. If could have gotten hooked up and moved out of my spot, I would have left Tennessee. That’s the extent to which he hurt me.

I wish that I could be different. I wish it was easy for me to join in and sit down with strangers for a quick conversation. But I can’t. Instead of feeling uncomfortable and miserable about the things I can’t change about myself, I’ve decided to simply accept them.

We humans are quick to judge before knowing all the facts. I’m thought of as uppity and weird, possibly even bitchy, among some of the other rodeo parents. But I love my family and friends and would do anything for them. I’m nurturing and have a dry sense of humor. I’m content with who I am. I can’t pretend to be outgoing. I can introduce myself to one person, but I’m not going to plop down in the middle of a group of parents I don’t know. (Especially when my ex has wedged himself into the middle of the group.)

My son has a good chance of making it to Nationals in five events this year. I’ve made reservations at a hotel for that week, but I still haven’t decided if I’m going. I don’t want to drive that far by myself. And plane tickets, plus a rental car, are out of my budget.

 That decision will likely be reached by how my son treats me over the next few weeks. He has matured this past year, but he still takes his mother for granted. I’m not going to spend another week in Tennessee, being ignored by my son and feeling like I’m on the fringe of the social circle. I’d rather stay home and watch his runs on the streaming video service.

 

Goat Boy

My youngest son, Garris, is in eighth grade and competes in junior high rodeos. Right now, he is leading the boys all around, calf roping, goat tying, and chute dogging. He’s high in the standings for team roping and ribbon roping as well.

This past June, he qualified for the National junior high rodeo in four events, everything except team roping. I drove him to Lebanon, Tennessee, about 30 miles outside of Nashville.

To give a little background, he has been the boy to beat in the goat tying for the past year and a half. He consistently ties under eleven seconds, and this fall has even had a couple of nine second ties. When we got to TN, he was ready for the goats. His first run, nerves got him. He tripped, bobbled his tie, and his goat got up, resulting in a no time. Needless to say, he was disappointed. His second run was his fastest at that time. It was under ten seconds, and for about two rounds, he led the nation in the boys goat tying. Ultimately, he ended up seventh in the round. Had his first goat stayed down, he would have made the short go.

When we left, he told me he was going back next year to win the event. And I think he can. He has as good a get off as anyone. And the fastest hands of any boy his age. If he can stay focused for three good runs, I believe he can win the nation.

And brings me to a rodeo a few weeks ago. We were in Bozeman, for the second day of the two day rodeo. Enough people have watched him tie goats that when it’s his turn to go, there is usually a line at the fence. And sure enough, that day was no exception

My folks were there to watch, so my mom taped it.

Garris came flying into the arena on Jack, his heading horse. He had a great get off and ran toward the goat, but he caught his toe on the stake and tripped. That sent him flying head first into the goat. Literally. He flew into the goat. Then he bounced up, flanked the goat, and tied it,, as if nothing had happened. We could hear all his buddies outside the arena screaming.

The announcer said, “He did all that in 10.6 seconds.

Now, that is a good goat time for a boy without tripping and ramming your head into the goat. The fact that he had that fast of a time after a fall means that he was smoking fast.

When he got up, he started spitting out sand and shook his hair out. And yes, he did win the event and he won the average for the weekend.

Garris won the average in every event that weekend, plus the all around. By the time we got the goats it was almost a joke. When he fell, I was sure he wasn’t going to get the average. But it turned out t be his weekend. That night, when he took his hat off, there was a line where the sand had plastered his face.

He doesn’t like me to call him Goat Boy, but I can’t resist. This is his last year tying goats, and his brother has got him roping and tying calves already, so he can step right into the event next year in high school. But I will miss watching him dominate this event. He’s just so good at it.

And I do hope he can translate his skills into a title, both at state and at nationals. If he can avoid the stake, he might even make some eight second runs. Wouldn’t that be cool?

The Next Rodeo

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Howdy!

 

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My name is Jodi Icenoggle. I’ve in the beautiful Big Sky state of Montana all my life.

I am a single again mom. After over twenty years of marriage, I am newly divorced. I am learning how to recapture my life while juggling the demands of a teenaged son in junior high, two college sons, rodeo life, and self-employment.

I’ll offer a bit of humor, some homespun old-fashioned wisdom, and a few life lessons thrown in.

Join me on my journey!