Archive for May, 2012

postheadericon A Stitch in time

The last time I’d visited with Christina Richman was during the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo in Oklahoma City.

Christina Richman

Christina Richman

That was two months ago, and she was caring for her rascally partner, a barrel horse named Stitch. Since then, the pair has done quite well. In fact, as her friend Sandy Gwatney termed it, Richman has been on her “Cali burner.”

In addition to the title in Nacogdoches, Texas, the California cowgirl has won five home-state rodeos: Clovis, Redding, Hayward, Sonora and Stonyford. She placed at Red Bluff (10th) and Bakersfield (third), and the only California rodeo she didn’t collect a check was in Oakdale.

“It was a muddy mess, so I just rode someone else’s heel horse,” said Richman, who has qualified for the NFR each of the past two seasons.

This season, she’s won money at virtually every rodeo she’s entered and is sixth in the barrel racing world standings – she failed to cash a check in Oakdale, obviously, but also Scottsdale, Ariz.; that’s the only rodeo on which she rode Stitch that didn’t pay off.

That’s taking it – pardon the pun – one Stitch at a time.

postheadericon Don’t forget to pass the roll

Bareback rider Matt Bright, left, smiles as saddle bronc rider Jesse James Kirby shows off his riding gear that Bright is wearing during the first performance of the Will Rogers Stampede in Claremore, Okla. Bright, who left his rigging bag in Texas, borrowed equipment to compete in Claremore and finished in a tie for second place, worth $736.

Bareback rider Matt Bright, left, smiles as saddle bronc rider Jesse James Kirby shows off his riding gear that Bright is wearing during the first performance of the Will Rogers Stampede in Claremore, Okla. Bright, who left his rigging bag in Texas, borrowed equipment to compete in Claremore and finished in a tie for second place, worth $736.

Matt Bright got out of his pickup, stretched a bit, then walked back to open the door to his camper.

That’s where he stopped.

With his hand on the door, Bright’s head slumped a bit. He stormed back to the front of the truck, grabbed his phone and headed to the Will Rogers Roundup Club Arena in Claremore, Okla. He was a man on a mission, and a few minutes after witnessing all that, I found out why.

Matt Bright

Matt Bright

You see Bright, a two-time bareback riding qualifier to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, didn’t have his much needed gear back in his truck. The bag – which contains his rigging, vest, boots and spurs, riding jeans, MGM Grand chaps and neck roll – had been left in the trunk of his brother’s vehicle.

Unsure of what to do, the Azle, Texas, cowboy started asking around. He found another right-handed bareback rider, Johnathan Taylor, who allowed Bright to borrow the rigging and specially made bareback riding glove. He located boots, chaps and a vest from saddle bronc rider Jesse James Kirby and borrowed those.

When it came time for competition, Bright matched moves with the Rafter H Rodeo colt Red Head and scored 72 points – that held up to finish in a tie for second place worth $736. Everything worked out OK, except for that last few seconds of riding on the young horse.

“It felt fine until the 6-second mark, and that’s when I really missed my neck roll,” Bright said – bareback riders, whose hands are wedged into a rigging that’s strapped tightly around a horse’s chest, feel the impact of almost every jump and kick a horse makes during that eight-second ride, so the neck roll helps relieve some of the pressure that comes from that.

While he made a nice paycheck in Claremore, I don’t see him riding without that piece of equipment again. Neither does Matt Bright.

postheadericon Sharing my passion for rodeo with others

Mike Collier

Mike Collier

One of the great things I get to do in my job is take a rodeo neophyte and explain my passion for the sport.

That happened last Thursday while announcer Scott Grover and I visited with Mike Collier during the Good Day Tulsa segment on Tulsa’s Channel 8 as we promoted the Will Rogers Stampede PRCA Rodeo.

Collier knows nothing about rodeo, but he seemed to be excited as Grover and I shared our experience and about what fans can experience when they come to ProRodeo. These contestants were the best of the best, from world champions like Rocky Patterson and Dean Gorsuch to Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifiers like Carlee Pierce, Matt Bright and Isaac Diaz.

Collier is a meteorologist at Channel 8, but also he’s one of the three main cast members of Good Day Tulsa. Hopefully next year he can do the weather with a live remote from the Will Rogers Stampede and maybe meet the cast of characters who produce the annual event.

That’d make for a great show, don’t you think?

postheadericon Keylon makes move toward first NFR qualification

CLAREMORE, Okla. – Over his eight-year career, Jared Keylon has reached many of his goals while riding bareback horses.

During Sunday’s final performance in Claremore, Keylon crossed another one on his list. The cowboy from Uniontown, Kan., matched moves with Rafter H Rodeo’s Roany Pony for 75 points to win the 66th edition of the Will Rogers Stampede PRCA Rodeo.

Jared Keylon

Jared Keylon

“I’ve always wanted a chance to win this rodeo, because it’s close to home and close to Fort Scott; it’s right between the best of two worlds for me,” said Keylon, who grew up in the northwestern Arkansas community of Hagarville – Uniontown is in southeastern Kansas, just 15 miles west of Fort Scott, where Keylon attended the community college.

“This is also the first ProRodeo I took my son to, and that just tickled me that he got to watch Dad win.”

Gunner Keylon is just 17 months old, so he won’t remember. But Jared Keylon will, especially if he crosses another goal off his bucket list. He’s No. 13 in the world standings, and he’d like to be in similar position four months from now

“My goal this year is to definitely make the NFR,” he said of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, the sport’s championship event for which only the top 15 contestants in each event qualify when the 2012 season concludes the end of September. “My main goal is to just keep eating at them, winning $1,000 and $2,000 a week right now, then work for the $5,000s over the summer when I have to knock heads with all the best guys.”

Keylon, who won the Prairie Circuit bareback riding championship in 2008 and 2009, is just one of the winners of the 2012 Will Rogers Stampede; other winners were steer wrestler Heath Thompson of Enola, Ark.; tie-down roper Hunter Herrin of Apache, Okla., a five-time NFR qualifier; saddle bronc rider Tol Cawley of Crockett, Texas; team ropers Destry Graham of Sallisaw, Okla., and Jimmy Thomas of Hodgen, Okla.; NFR barrel racer Carlee Pierce of Stephenville, Texas, who won the Claremore title for the second straight year; and bull rider Ty Clearwater of LaCynge, Kan.

“It means a lot to me to win this rodeo,” said Clearwater, who won the Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo this past fall. “I’ve been coming to rodeos and bull ridings down here since I was a kid. I’m from a place in Kansas that’s about three hours from here, and my folks came down to watch me tonight. It was really cool for them to come down and see me win one.”

Clearwater scored 86 points on Rafter H’s Playing Hooky to win the lion’s share of the money, $1,608.

“I think I’ve bucked off just two out of 15 bulls this past month,” he said. “I finally got some soreness worked out, and my confidence is coming back to me.”

Will Rogers Stampede
Claremore, Okla.
Final results
Bareback riding
1. Jared Keylon, 75 points on Rafter H Rodeo’s Roany Pony, $1,178; 2. Matt Bright and Bee Jay Scott, 72, $736; 4. Jake Self and Heath Ford, 71, $147.

Steer wrestling
1. Clay Mindeman and Heath Thompson, 3.7 seconds, $1,593; 3. Shane Henderson, 3.9, $1,260; 4. Walt Sherry, 4.0, $1,037; 5. Sean Mulligan and Crazy Clark, 4.2, $704; 7. Jason Tapley, 4.3, $371; 6. Tommy Cook, 4.5, $148.

Saddle bronc riding
1. Tol Cawley, 79 points on Rafter H Rodeo’s Slim Jim, $1,144; 2. Andrew Counts, 78, $867; 3. Jesse James Kirby, Jacobs Crawley and Justin Hegwer, 77, $428; 6. Travis Sheets and Louie Brunson, 76, $87.

Tie down roping
1. Hunter Herrin, 7.7 seconds, $1,880; 2. Will Howell, 8.6, $1,556; 3. Caddo Lewallen, 8.9, $1,232; 4. Travis Rogers, 9.3, $908; 5. Chris Neal, 9.8, $584; 6. Trell Etbauer, Blake Deckard and Ross Beasley, 10.0, $108.

Team roping
1. Destry Graham/Jimmy Thomas, 5.2 seconds, $1,732; 2. Hunter Munsell/Derrick Jantzen, 5.4, $1,506; 3. Trey Harmon/Braden Harmon, 5.5, $1,280; 4. Brett Christensen/J.D. Holland, 5.8, $1,054; 5. Jesse Stipes/Casey Stipes, Cale Markham/Stitches Stanley and Wes Kent/Justin Johnson, 5.9, $602; 8. Tyler Johnson/Mitch Murray, 6.1, $151.

Barrel racing
1. Carlee Pierce, 17.36 seconds, $1,768; 2. Kyra Stierwalt, 17.44, $1,515; 3. Mary Walker, 17.47, $1,263; 4. Megan Rinehart, 17.49, $1,094; 5. Jeanne Anderson, 17.50, $842; 6. Robyn Herring, 17.51, $673; 7. Shada Brazile, 17.53, $505; 8. Kara Fox, 17.56, $337; 9. Kara McKim, 17.62, $253; 10. Kaley Bass, 17.67, $168.

Bull riding
1. Ty Clearwater, 86 points on Rafter H Rodeo’s Playing Hooky, $1,608; 2. Jesse Pohlman and Tyler Bingham, 76, $1,048; 4. Beau Schroeder, 72, $585; 5. Buck Moon, 70, $341; 6. Bayle Worden, 68, $244.

Steer roping
First round
1. J.P. Wickett, 10.5 seconds, $946; 2. Chet Herren, 11.1, $783; 3. Brad Prather, 11.8, $620; 4. Shane Suggs, 12.4, $457; 5. Kim Ziegelgruber and Cody Scheck, 12.7, $228.
Second round
1. Rocky Patterson, 10.1 seconds, $946; 2. Shandon Stalls, 10.4, $783; 3. Jess Tierney, 11.3, $620; 4. Walter Priestley, 11.8, $457; 5. Bryce Davis, 11.9, $294; 6. Mike Chase, 12.3, $163.
Average
1. Bryce Davis, 25.2 seconds, $946; 2. Brad Prather, 25.7, $783; 3. Cody Scheck, 27.8, $620; 4. Shane Suggs, 28.0, $457; 5. Shorty Garten, 28.9, $294; 6. J. Tom Fisher, 31.9, $163.

postheadericon Youthful Howell proving to be quite the veteran

CLAREMORE, Okla. – Tie-down roper Will Howell is young, but he’s got the confidence of a crafty veteran.

That was quite an advantage Saturday night during the second performance of the Will Rogers Stampede PRCA Rodeo, where Howell posted an 8.6-second run to move in to second place in the four-day rodeo. He’s the closest cowboy to leader Hunter Herrin, a five-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier who posted a 7.7 on Thursday night to kick start the competition.

“I really like competing on this level, and I feel like I’m good enough,” said Howell, 19, of Stillwater, Okla. “I feel like I’m going to make a long-term career out of it.”

Maybe he should.

Howell won the National High School Finals Rodeo’s tie-down roping title in 2008 and is competing as a freshman on a rodeo scholarship at nearby Northwestern Oklahoma State University. He has qualified for the College National Finals Rodeo, which will take place in two weeks in Casper, Wyo. But he’s got great aspirations, especially since this is his rookie season in ProRodeo.

“I got my permit in June last year, and I filled it at one rodeo,” he said.

In order to compete in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, cowboys must go through a try-out phase and must raise enough money to qualify for the opportunity to become card-carrying contestants in the organization. Now that he’s a member, Howell is shooting for the stars. He’d like to be among the top 12 in the region and qualify for the Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo, set for October in Duncan, Okla.

Of course, he’s sitting in good position to cash a nice check in Claremore – in rodeo, dollars are championship points, and the top money-winner in each event at the end of the season is crowned champion. This weekend has worked pretty well so far for Howell, who won the Poteau (Okla.) Frontier Rodeo.

What does it mean to do well at two regional rodeos in the same weekend?

“It should put me in the standings right there where I need to be to make the circuit finals this year,” Howell said. “I’m trying to win the rookie title, too, so it all helps.”

When a cowboy’s goals are set high, there’s a chance dreams can be crushed. But most often, it means one’s confidence is great. That’s the case with Howell.

“I’m 100 percent confident,” he said.

He’s also got the same gold-buckle dreams of any contestant who has ever played the game. When he sleeps, he envisions golden chutes and riding for the biggest money in the game at the NFR.

“I plan to try to do that in the next two years,” Howell said.

That’s what winners do.

Will Rogers Stampede
Claremore, Okla.
Second performance

Bareback riding leaders
1. Matt Bright on Rafter H Rodeo’s Read Head and Bee Jay Scott on Rafter H’s Flaxy, 72 points; 3. Jake Self, 71; 4. Jake Brown, 68; 5. Tyler Waltz, 64; 6. Johnathan Taylor, 6.

Steer wrestling leaders
1. Clay Mindeman, 3.7 seconds; 2. Shane Henderson, 3.9; 3. Walt Sherry, 4.0; 4. Sean Mulligan and Crazy Clark, 4.2; 5. Jason Tapley, 4.3; 6. Tommy Cook, 4.5.

Saddle bronc riding leaders
1. Jesse James Kirby on Rafter H Rodeo’s Stuart Little, Jacobs Crawley on Rafter H’s Festus and Justin Hegwer on Rafter H’s Black Bart, 77 points; 4. Travis Sheets and Louie Brunson, 76; 6. Isaac Diaz, Tyrel Larsen and Jeremy Melancon, 74.

Tie down roping leaders
1. Hunter Herrin, 7.7 seconds; 2. Will Howell, 8.6; 3. Caddo Lewallen, 8.9; 4. Travis Rogers, 9.3; 5. Chris Neal, 9.8; 6. Trell Etbauer, 10.0.

Team roping leaders
1. Destry Graham/Jimmy Thomas, 5.2 seconds; 2. Hunter Munsell/Derrick Jantzen, 5.4; 3. Eric Flurry/Billie Saebens and Trey Harmon/Braden Harmon, 5.5; 5. Ryan VonAhn/Nick Rowland, 5.6; 6. Jesse Stipes/Casey Stipes, 5.7.

Barrel racing leaders
1. Carlee Pierce, 17.36 seconds; 2. Mary Walker, 17.47; 3. Megan Rinehart, 17.49; 4. Jeanne Anderson, 17.50; 5. Robyn Herring, 17.51; 6. Shada Brazile, 17.53; 7. Kara Fox, 17.56; 8. Karri McKim, 17.62; 9. Kaley Bassm, 17.67; 10. Christy Honsberger, 17.71.

Bull riding leaders
1. Jesse Pohlman, 76 points on Rafter H Rodeo’s Alligator Chomp; 2. Buck Moon, 70; 3. Cole Echols, 68; no other qualified rides.

Steer roping
First round
1. J.P. Wickett, 10.5 seconds, $946; 2. Chet Herren, 11.1, $783; 3. Brad Prather, 11.8, $620; 4. Shane Suggs, 12.4, $457; 5. Kim Ziegelgruber and Cody Scheck, 12.7, $228.
Second round
1. Rocky Patterson, 10.1 seconds, $946; 2. Shandon Stalls, 10.4, $783; 3. Jess Tierney, 11.3, $620; 4. Walter Priestley, 11.8, $457; 5. Bryce Davis, 11.9, $294; 6. Mike Chase, 12.3, $163.
Average
1. Bryce Davis, 25.2 seconds, $946; 2. Brad Prather, 25.7, $783; 3. Cody Scheck, 27.8, $620; 4. Shane Suggs, 28.0, $457; 5. Shorty Garten, 28.9, $294; 6. J. Tom Fisher, 31.9, $163.

postheadericon Bronc riders make move for the Claremore title

CLAREMORE, Okla. – Jesse James Kirby wants to feel the bright lights of Las Vegas as a first-time saddle bronc rider at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. Jacobs Crawley wants to return to ProRodeo’s championship event.

Jesse James Kirby

Jesse James Kirby

They both made positive moves on Friday during opening night of the Will Rogers Stampede PRCA Rodeo, posting identical 77-point rides to take the early lead in saddle bronc riding.

“This is a great town to come to, a big rodeo town,” said Kirby, of Dodge City, Kan., who rodeo Rafter H Rodeo’s Stuart Little. “That horse is just solid every time. He’s the one everybody wants to have in their back yard and practice on. Tonight everything felt good, and he’s the same way every trip.”

With half the score coming from the horse, it’s important for bronc riders to have good horses in order to help themselves make a living. In rodeo, contestants not only pay an entry fee in order to compete, but they must finish better than most to earn money. Crawley experienced that first hand a year ago when he won the Will Rogers Stampede.

Jacobs Crawley

Jacobs Crawley

“I love Claremore,” said Crawley, of College Station, Texas, who rodeo Rafter H’s Festus. “I’m from Texas, so Oklahoma’s not a far drive, and it’s dang sure cowboy country up here. And they sure appreciate bronc riders.

“Anytime you can get around here where some of those old ranchers can come out and watch you at the rodeo, they get excited about rodeo, and we get excited about that.”

Both cowboys are stars in ProRodeo. A year ago, both finished in the top 30 in the final world standings; Kirby was 29, and Crawley was ninth. Both have won the average championships at their respective circuit finales – Crawley in the Texas Circuit in 2010, and Kirby in the Prairie Circuit in 2009.

“It helps when you draw good horses like that one,” Kirby said of Stuart Little. “If I want to win the circuit and make it to the NFR, it’s just trying to place consistently and riding consistently throughout the year.”

It’s also important to win and collect checks. In rodeo, dollars equal points, so the contestants in each event with the most money won at season’s end are crowned champions.

“My year’s started out great,” Crawley said. “Here the past few weeks, we’ve been nickel-and-diming, but nickels and dimes make quarters. So we’re just going to stick at it, and hopefully when the summer comes around here in a couple weeks, we’ll have some good match-ups at big-money rodeos and hopefully make it to Vegas again.”

Money made in Claremore can go a long ways to making it happen for both Crawley and Kirby.

Will Rogers Stampede
Claremore
, Okla.
First performance
Bareback riding leaders

1. Matt Bright, 72 points on Rafter H Rodeo’s Read Head; 2. Jake Self, 71; 3. Tyler Waltz, 64; Johnathan Taylor, 62; no other qualified rides.

Steer wrestling leaders
1. Clay Mindeman, 3.7 seconds; 2. Shane Henderson, 3.9; 3. Sean Mulligan and Crazy Clark, 4.2; 5. Tommy Cook, 4.5; 6. Tooter Silver and Jeff Miller, 4.6.

Saddle bronc riding leaders
1. Jesse James Kirby on Rafter H Rodeo’s Stuart Little and Jacobs Crawley on Rafter H’s Festus, 77 points; 3. Jeremy Melancon, 74; 4. Dalton Davis, 73; 5. Shank Stephens and Sterling Crawley, 72.

Tie-down roping leaders
1. Hunter Herrin, 7.7 seconds; 2. Caddo Lewallen, 8.9; 3. Travis Rogers, 9.3; 4. Jeff Miller and Chris Neal, 9.8; 6. Clay Smith and Justin Weichel, 10.3.

Team roping leaders
1. Destry Graham/Jimmy Thomas, 5.2 seconds; 2. Hunter Munsell/Derrick Jantzen, 5.4; 3. Eric Flurry/Billie Saebens and Trey Harmon/Braden Harmon, 5.5; 5. Ryan VonAhn/Nick Rowland, 5.6; 6. Jesse Stipes/Casey Stipes, 5.7.

Barrel racing leaders
1. Carlee Pierce, 17.36 seconds; 2. Mary Walker, 17.47; 3. Robyn Herring, 17.51; 4. Shada Brazile, 17.53; 5. Karri McKim, 17.62; 6. Kaley Bassm, 17.67; 7. Christy Honsberger, 17.71; 8. Kim Schulze, 17.73; 9. Sherry Cannon, 17.75; 10. Natalie Foutch, 17.76.

Bull riding leaders
1. Jesse Pohlman, 76 points on Rafter H Rodeo’s Alligator Chomp; 2. Buck Moon, 70; 3. Cole Echols, 68; no other qualified rides.

Steer roping
First round

1. J.P. Wickett, 10.5 seconds, $946; 2. Chet Herren, 11.1, $783; 3. Brad Prather, 11.8, $620; 4. Shane Suggs, 12.4, $457; 5. Kim Ziegelgruber and Cody Scheck, 12.7, $228.
Second round
1. Rocky Patterson, 10.1 seconds, $946; 2. Shandon Stalls, 10.4, $783; 3. Jess Tierney, 11.3, $620; 4. Walter Priestley, 11.8, $457; 5. Bryce Davis, 11.9, $294; 6. Mike Chase, 12.3, $163.
Average
1. Bryce Davis, 25.2 seconds, $946; 2. Brad Prather, 25.7, $783; 3. Cody Scheck, 27.8, $620; 4. Shane Suggs, 28.0, $457; 5. Shorty Garten, 28.9, $294; 6. J. Tom Fisher, 31.9, $163.

postheadericon We’re rolling toward that summer run

The summer season is coming soon. Rodeos in the Prairie Circuit are in full swing. Congrats to Jeanne Anderson, who won last week in Abbyville. Next week is chocked full of rodeos in our region: Fort Smith (Ark.), Hugo, Ada, Bennington, Strong City, Licking (Mo.) and Conway (Ark). There will be lots of opportunities for contestants. Both my horses seem to be feeling good; we just need to fine-tune a little.

We have entered Reno (Nev.) already; that starts the summer run, so it is coming soon. As a director of the Women’s Pro Rodeo Association, I have been logging many hours on the behalf of the barrel racers. We are making decisions that will affect the future of our sport. They are hard decisions. Sometimes, new paths are scary. We have a great bunch of ladies who are looking at many options, and hopefully, we will come up with the best solution based on the information we have at the time.

postheadericon The competition has begun

The 66th edition of the Will Rogers Stampede began Thursday morning with a full day of slack. I haven’t received any results yet, but here is a quick photo so you know it’s coming.

Steer wrestler Riley Duvall of Checotah, Okla., grapples his steer to the ground Thursday during competition at the Will Rogers Stampede PRCA Rodeo in Claremore. (TED HARBIN PHOTO)

Steer wrestler Riley Duvall of Checotah, Okla., grapples his steer to the ground Thursday during competition at the Will Rogers Stampede PRCA Rodeo in Claremore. (TED HARBIN PHOTO)

postheadericon Loving care

Outa Sight, a 7-year-old paint mare, nurses her first foal on the Carr Pro Rodeo ranch near Athens, Texas. (LYNETTE HARBIN PHOTO)

Outa Sight, a 7-year-old paint mare, nurses her first foal on the Carr Pro Rodeo ranch near Athens, Texas. (LYNETTE HARBIN PHOTO)

Spending this past weekend on the Carr Pro Rodeo ranch gave me a new perspective of just what it takes to care for the amazing animal athletes that are part of our sport.

Much of the heavy lifting belongs to the man in charge of the day-to-day operations; at Carr Pro Rodeo, that is Jeff Collins, the 2000 bareback riding world champion. As the ranch manager, he handles almost every task, from feeding to doctoring to haying to whatever else. It’s quite impressive seeing all that goes on.

These athletes love what they do, and to be among the best, they need as much coddling as possible. From what I saw, they get it.

postheadericon Dreaming like cowboys dream

Ted Harbin rides Carr Pro Rodeo's Ronnie in the ranch's arena. (LYNETTE HARBIN PHOTO)

Ted Harbin rides Carr Pro Rodeo's Ronnie in the ranch's arena. (LYNETTE HARBIN PHOTO)

My 10-year-old, Laney, takes a break from riding Scoot. (LYNETTE HARBIN PHOTO)

My 10-year-old, Laney, takes a break from riding Scoot. (LYNETTE HARBIN PHOTO)

Scoot is a beautiful palomino who performs really well. Jeff Collins says you can head and heel on him, and he’s easy to work with.

Ted is nearly 45 years old and hasn’t been horseback since he was 16. But I stepped up on Scoot like I meant business, even if I damn near overshot the saddle and ended up on the ground anyway.

We went to the arena on the Carr Pro Rodeo ranch, me riding Scoot and Jeff leading Ronnie, the other palomino that we were going to lead around for my 3-year-old daughter. I rode for a little bit, then handed to reins over to my 10-year-old.

Carr Pro Rodeo ranch manager Jeff Collins feeds the animals every morning. (LANEY GRAHAM PHOTO)

Carr Pro Rodeo ranch manager Jeff Collins feeds the animals every morning. (LANEY GRAHAM PHOTO)

On the ground, I realized just how long it had been since I’d done that – yeah, basic math tells you I haven’t been in a saddle in nearly 29 years. More importantly than that is the fact that I was about 190 pounds back then, frail compared to my 250, which is there only after losing about 40 pounds over the last couple of years.

You see, I’ve always wanted to be a cowboy, but I’ve never been. I consider myself blessed to be able to tell their stories, but my dreams are of riding and roping and branding. My hands tell you a story of delicate work like typing, but they get to shake calloused palms of men who have felt the rope burns and the splinters.

Jeff Collins is one of those men, a cowboy who has been horseback most of his life and who takes to his tasks on the Carr ranch as if every acre, every fence line and every animal on the place is his. He’s also a winner in the arena, the 2000 bareback riding world champion.

On Friday afternoon, he took a cowboy-wannabe and two little girls itching to ride horses on a great adventure. It was one of many my family and I shared during our few days in east Texas this past week. It’s one we’ll remember for years to come, and we have the photos to help.