Archive for August, 2012

postheadericon It wasn’t as bad as it seemed

The frustrations are minor; they really are.

But today was one of those days. I intended to focus on interviews today since I had the freedom to do so. I made some calls, but none of them were returned. That happens a lot in the storytelling business; it happens a lot less now that cell phones are so prevalent, but it’s part of the game.

And since I needed to replace the printer, I worked on that. From getting all the settings right to purchasing a new router so that we could handle printing needs wireless, the task became time-consuming. All. Day. Long. Finally I called upon my wife, the technical genius of the family. Still, it took her an hour or so to finally get everything wrapped together in a nice little bow.

But there were a lot of positives in the day. I was able to get a few things completed and even conducted a conference call, of sorts, with a rodeo committee in Texas. I think it went well, and I hope the people who gathered around the speakerphone to hear me today got a feeling for the passion I hold for this sport.

Moreover, I hope each individual in that room could taste why I enjoy telling stories. They are about real people, real events and the circumstances that come with them, good and bad.

I’ll let you know what I find out.

postheadericon REVIEW: Whittall & Shon Navajo cowgirl hat

By Lynette Harbin

I don’t normally wear cowgirl hats. I leave cowboy hats to my husband.

But I enjoy wearing decorative headpieces, as long as they’re cute and look good on me. That’s why I was willing to try a Whittall & Shon Navajo cowgirl hat. From the selection I saw on the company’s website (seen HERE), I thought it would be the best fit for my style and my wardrobe.

When it arrived, I was excited to see it. The black straw hat was laced with rhinestones, and the headpiece in the middle was beautifully strewn in turquoise and beads that shine. The front center is decorated with a beautiful star that shines brightly in the light.

When I tried it on, I loved the way it looked on me. But the one-size-fits all feature in the headband came with a bit of a problem – it’s a draw-string tie in the back; to tighten or loosen the hat, you must pinch the tab and slide it up or down the elastic string.

In order to then wear the hat, you must either attempt to bunch the string inside or let it hang down in the back. If it’s bunched up inside the hat, the tab presses on the back of your head and provides great discomfort. If you let it hang down in the back then it just looks silly.

If I can figure out a way to make the fat hit my head correctly without the tab, then it definitely is worth wearing. If not, then I’ll find alternatives.

postheadericon Answering tough questions

One of the most intriguing questions I have for contestants that have won multiple world titles is if there is one gold buckle that stands out more than the others.

Bobby Mote

Bobby Mote

Yeah, it’s a tough question. What I’ve learned over time is that there are wonderful things about each, and it’s hard for the cowboys and cowgirls to pick one over any of the others. What the question reveals often is a wonderful tale of what had happened leading up to each season’s finale, the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

Such is the case with Bobby Mote, a four-time world champion bareback rider from Culver, Ore., who won gold buckles in 2002, 2007, 2009 and 2010.

“They were all different,” Mote told me today. “The first one was about me making right from the year before. I had it won the year before, and I failed in the 10th round. It was about knowing that I could do it even when the chips were down.”

The second one came after a dry spell and learning to refocus. In fact, he dominated the season and had a big enough lead heading to the NFR that he held onto the No. 1 spot after the 10 days ended.

“In 2009, I was determined I was going to win,” Mote said. “Then 2010 was special, because I had tried to repeat before, but I gained a real appreciation for what it takes to win the world title.”

Both were special in another way – Mote overcame some serious ailments to collect gold at the end of those two seasons. The 2009 title came even though he spent four months competing with a serious neck injury; a year later, he began the season with neck surgery, then overcame a sports hernia to finish atop the standings.

Over the course of his career, Mote has proven he’s one of the greatest to have ever played the game. He’s also proven he’s one of the toughest.

postheadericon Writing here at Imagination Station

Channing, my 3-year-old daughter who carries on a legacy of strong imaginations, serves as a bullfighter on a coin-operated bucking bull. The 75 cents it cost to make the "animal" buck was well worth it.

Channing, my 3-year-old daughter who carries on a legacy of strong imaginations, serves as a bullfighter on a coin-operated bucking bull. The 75 cents it cost to make the “animal” buck was well worth it.

One of the realities of my 3-year-old daughter’s Monday-Wednesday-Friday preschool schedule is that she’s home with me two days a week.

I can look at my busy days and see this as a hindrance – and I sometimes do – but today I choose to look at it as a beautiful opportunity as I work. She’ll be 4 on Dec. 1, and I know that very soon she will be involved in so many of her other activities that I won’t have this to view.

It helps, too, that she’s been playing by herself awfully well today, so I’m able to be quite productive while caring for her. It’s a good day at Daddy Daycare.

With that, I get the chance to listen to her “conversations” and hear her disgust as I walk across the “soccer field” to get me a drink from the kitchen. I get to listen to her explore her own personality and her own imagination, and I’m thrilled.

Channing just asked me to hurriedly take off her medical knee pads – otherwise known as her sister’s old soccer shinguards – because her imaginary playmate just fell and hurt her knee. “She needs them more than I do, so can you help me?”

As I did, I couldn’t help but think of that time 40-some years ago when my mother walked into our back yard to ask me what I was doing. She’d been watching me play football for some time from the kitchen window, so she was enthralled as to why, all of the sudden, her 6-year-old son was on his knees not playing football with all those imaginary players anymore.

“Because, Mom, I tackled this guy so hard that I hurt him, and I have to do surgery if he’s going to live,” I told her as I sliced and stitched and repaired my opponent’s ailments right there on the 50-yard line.

That’s why it’s fairly easy for me to stop writing this piece about the American Royal and help Channing as hurries to help her imaginary playmate. After all, we can’t keep playing if we have no one to play with us, can we?

postheadericon The Bright-side of a dogfight

I’m still awaiting official word on the PRCA standings – which will be released later today – but it looks like the dogfighting has begun for those hoping to secure their spots in the field for the 2012 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

Matt Bright

Matt Bright

Take bareback riding, for example. Matt Bright, 29, of Azle, Texas, won two rodeo titles last week – he claimed the outright title in Kennewick, Wash., and shared the championship in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., with three-time world champion Will Lowe – and finished third in Lynden, Wash. At those three rodeos alone, Bright earned $11,382.

That moved his season earnings to $51,105 and up to about the 12th spot in the standings – only the top 15 in each event at the conclusion of the regular season advance to the year-end finale in Las Vegas.

Now Bright hopes that hot streak continues over the next month of the regular season so he can return for his third straight trip to the NFR. Once the standings are released, though, they will reveal he is among about 10 cowboys with similar earnings at this point in the 2012 campaign.

Let the dogfight begin.

postheadericon It’s a tale of the Tate

The first time I told Tate Stratton’s story was nearly a decade ago when he was an up-and-coming bull rider in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.

Tate Stratton

Tate Stratton

He’d just won the Lawton (Okla.) Rangers Rodeo, and he was hoping to make a name for himself riding bulls for a living. Fast-forward to 2012, where Stratton is having another magnificent season.

He sits seventh in the bull riding world standings, having earned more than $66,000. He has all but secured his third Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualification in four years. Much has changed over the last few years, but one thing has remained in the young New Mexican’s life; he’s got a strong will to succeed.

Sometimes that’s just the thing it takes to push an athlete over the edge, and I believe that’s the focus for Stratton as he closes out the remainder of his 2012 season. Already he’s less than $15,000 shy of surpassing his earnings from 2011.

This past Tuesday, he got a nice boost by winning the Xtreme Bulls Tour event in Kennewick, Wash. He also won the first round and the average titles in Caldwell, Idaho, which concluded a week ago – in the last week and a half, Stratton has pocketed $9,204; that’s how he moved from 10th to seventh in the world standings in short order.

It took Stratton a little longer than he had hoped to qualify for the NFR, ProRodeo’s grand finale. Now he’s a fixture in Las Vegas and has earned his place among the greatest that have ever played the game.

postheadericon Timms takes Silverton title

It didn’t take long for S.O. PerksAmericanRose to make a statement in ProRodeo.

In just her third rodeo, the 5-year-old sorrel mare guided Tara Timms to the title at the 2012 Silverton (Texas) Buck Wild Days Rodeo.

“She’s come on for me really nicely,” said Timms, 21, of Sudan, Texas. “I sold my rodeo horses, so now I’m training more horses. I haven’t gotten to go near as much this year and I would’ve liked, but it’s helped me get my young ones going.”

To read more, go to the WPRA website.

postheadericon Picking up where we left off

Tara Timms

Tara Timms

Sometimes it’s nice just to play catch-up with someone.

It’s been a few years since I first visited with Tara Timms, a young cowgirl who won the WPRA Junior Championship in 2008. I did a story about her winning that title for Women’s Pro Rodeo News, the WPRA’s official publication.

I visited with her earlier this week for another story, a snippet about her win in Silverton, Texas, last week for the association’s website, wpra.com.

What I appreciated most was that we were almost able to pick up where we left off a few years ago. Since then, she’s moved away from her family’s place in Leedey, Okla., and is pursuing her dreams on barrel horses while living in the Texas Panhandle community of Sudan.

But she’s genuine and well-spoken. She truly adores working with horses, and she’s awfully proud of her young mare, Stach, which helped Timms collect checks at two of the first three rodeos in which the 5-year-old sorrel has ever run.

I’d be awfully proud, too.

postheadericon Parade is a way to say thanks to military

American Royal Parade will take place in downtown Kansas City on Sept. 29

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Midwesterners will have an outstanding opportunity to say thank you to all who have served in the United States Military during the 2012 American Royal Parade.

The annual downtown Kansas City spectacle will be highlighted and kicked off by a 10 a.m. flyover of two United States Air Force A-10s on Saturday, Sept. 29, heading north on Grand Boulevard from Pershing Road to 13th Street; it will feature entries from active and retired military as well as marching bands, drill teams, 500 Boy Scouts, 4H and FFA and many other youth-oriented activities.

The Midwest is traditionally patriotic and supportive of the military, and the American Royal wants to say thank you to those who have served, regardless of their branch of the service and including all time periods.

The theme, “The American Royal, Kansas City and American Agriculture Pay Tribute to the American Military,” is a way to tie in many things that are associated with the annual American Royal fall season, which runs Sept. 6-Nov. 17 in the West Bottoms.

“Since 1899, the American Royal’s mission has been to support youth and education because that is the future of our nation,” said Bob Petersen, American Royal president and CEO. “The military has provided us the freedom to do this for many generations … freedom that also allowed our nation’s farmers to provide a bounty of food that fed our population. Without our military, none of this would have been possible. It is time we focused on saying thank you.”

From world wars more than a half century ago to the battles in locales like Afghanistan and Iraq, much has been sacrificed by members of the military and their families.

“The American Royal has been doing a parade for 87 years, and our focus has always been on youth, education and agriculture,” said Bryden Becker, American Royal’s director of Festival Events & Promotions. “We were very fortunate that our mayor, Sly James, who is a Marine, was willing to send out an invitation on our behalf to every commander and post within 250 miles, asking if they would do the city the honor of being in this parade. The mayor’s personal invitation has helped to establish this parade as a must-attend event.”

The parade is a mile and a half route that will be celebrating many of the things that many Midwesterners value. The United States military has kept our lives free; American agriculture has produced a bounty that is the envy of the world; and youth leadership delivers a successful future.

The title sponsor for this year’s parade is Cerner Corp.

“We are very pleased with the support Cerner has given the American Royal this year and in the past,” Petersen said. They are a great Kansas City institution and have a significant interest in recruiting former military members for future employment.”

The Parade embodies the spirit of the American Royal, a charitable organization designed to support youth, education and Heartland values. This reflects the primary mission of the American Royal for more than 110 years, day in and day out. It’s the foundation for the fall season of events; whether it’s the barbecue, the rodeo, the livestock and the equine competitions, it’s all captured in a parade that celebrates the best the Midwest has to offer.

The parade will feature Grand Marshal Ike Skelton, the former U.S. Representative for Missouri’s 4th Congressional District. While in Congress, Skelton served as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

“This is all about providing the biggest thank you the greater Kansas City area can possibly give to the American military,” Becker said.

From the large number of Boy Scouts to the A-10s out of Whiteman Air Force Base, there is a large contingency that will be a major player in the overall appearance of the parade, which includes the 9th Marine Corps with more than 100 troops and vehicles; Gold Star families and the Patriot Guard riders; Veterans Administration; VFW; farm equipment; 4H and FFA participants; Fort Riley soldiers; international officers from Fort Leavenworth; marching bands and drill teams from high schools and military academies; the Kansas National Guard 35th Infantry Division Band; and Junior ROTC units from all over.

“We are working hard to make this the kind of thank you that Kansas City and the Heartland want to give,” Becker said.

postheadericon WPRA Qualifying Tour off to a great start

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story appears in the August issue of Women’s Pro Rodeo News, the official publication of the WPRA. Be sure to get yourself a copy.

Whether they’re a two-time world champion like Brittany Pozzi or a newcomer like Nikki Steffes or somewhere in between like Kenna Squires and Jean Winters, the WPRA Qualifying Tour is a big hit already.

Just a few weeks into the system, plenty of cowgirls have found the tour to their liking, and it goes well beyond the opportunities that might be in place for them in 2013. No, they’re getting the most bang for their buck right now.

“The qualifying tour is a big deal for us, because we’re able to make some decisions about rodeos because they’re part of it,” said Steffes of Vale, S.D., who won the Mandan (N.D.) Rodeo Days and placed second at the Airdrie (Alberta) Pro Rodeo, both of which are part of the newly established tour. “It’ll be interesting. Calgary being approved will be a game-changer for sure.

“Houston has a lot of money available, so you want to be part of that field. Calgary has a lot of money, too, and only 20 girls get to run at it. You really want to be one of those 20 girls.”

That’s why the qualifying tour works. Only the elite cowgirls in the final tour standings will earn the right to compete in the 2013 Calgary (Alberta) Stampede, one of the most prestigious events in the sport.

Pozzi won the average title at the Central Wyoming Fair and Rodeo in Casper, reeling in $7,187. She won the first round and finished runner-up in the finale for a two-run total of 33.11 seconds, nearly three-tenths of a second faster than No. 2 cowgirl Kaley Bass.

Calgary also a nice bonus for the cowgirls who are chasing the big bucks at these established rodeos.

“It means a lot to most of us that are from Texas especially,” said Squires, of Fredonia, Texas, who won the West of the Pecos Rodeo after posting 17.31-second run, worth $3,253. “They do a great job with a great big pen making the ground right. It was worth driving all the way back from Reno (Nev.) to get to Pecos.

“It was 109 degrees when we got there, but it worked out alright.”

Yes, it did. Winters knows the feeling after posting a 16.90-second run to win the Rodeo of the Ozarks in Springdale, Ark., to close out the Fourth of July run. She was the only cowgirl in the three-day rodeo to run a time in less than 17 seconds.

“It was really cool, because when I found out that I won Springdale, I was sitting at the computer with my husband,” said Winter of Texline, Texas. “It meant a lot to me because it was one of the qualifying tour rodeos. My hauling partner, Kylee Schumacher, won money, too, so that was good for both of us.”

The tour is already a big hit among competitors, and there are a number of top-level events to go to help each contender move into that sweet 20 position.

West Texas Gem

Kenna Squires has been around barrel racing most of her lifetime. She lives for it, and she realizes just how special it is to raise a great horse. Take Rambling For Fame, a 9-year-old brown gelding by Rambling For Gold out of YR Sadie, a Dash Ta Fame mare.

“I bought Rambler when he was a long yearling at a sale in Oklahoma,” Squires said. “He’s out of California and was raised on the Western 37 Ranch. He’s never been ridden by anybody but me.

“I won the Speed Horse on him when that was a big deal. He had a pretty good futurity year with me.”

He’s having a pretty good year in 2012, too. Squires and Rambler blazed around the cloverleaf pattern quickly, bettering Stacey Grimes, who posted a 17.45. That was a nice pull for Squires, who not only earned tour points but also padded her place in the Texas Circuit standings.

“At Pecos, they work the ground every five, so it really doesn’t matter where you get up,” she said. “But, I’ll admit, I drew really good on the ground.”

Whatever works at this stage of the game. It’s also a nice break from the trouble she had in 2011.

“My horses got crippled on me last year,” she said, “It was the year from hell. It was definitely the summer from hell. This year, I decided I’m not trying good enough.”

Squires has faith in Rambler, a standout she’s using while the iron is – and temperatures are – hot.

“He’s easy going, and he doesn’t take an extra step if he doesn’t have to,” Squires said. “After 320 saddles on him, he was pretty much the same as he is today. He’s easy and fun. He’s pretty. He’s got some great characteristics. You can spot Rambler way off. He’s been good to me.

“The other horses are good to me in the winter. In the summertime, there’s not a horse in the world that’s more fun to ride. I’ve got lots of horses, but I’ve never ridden one like him.”

Twice As Nice

Nikki Steffes realizes she’s got something special in Dash Ta Vanila, a 7-year-old palomino mare by Dash Ta Fame out of SX Frenchmans Vanila.

“Nilla was really awesome over the whole Fourth of July,” said Steffes, who won College National Finals Rodeo all-around titles in 2007 and 2009 while attending the University of Wyoming-Laramie. “She ran hard. She handled the ground. She handled the atmosphere.”

That’s a lot of maturity out of a fairly young horse, but Steffes knows the palomino has something great.

“I love that rodeo in Mandan,” she said. “It’s always been one of my favorites. It’s one of the best in our circuit.

“It’s a very high pressure situation, and she thrives on it. She stayed really focused, and she ran her heart out.”

Having a great partner was a big key for Steffes, who traveled the rodeo trail by herself. That meant she needed to enter events in a way that worked well for her schedule.

“I got to go home for a couple of days, so my horse was well rested, and I was well rested,” Steffes said.

And she worked Airdrie, which paid quite well, too. Steffes won Mandan in 15.36, worth $3,585, but her 14.890-second run north of the border was worth $3,204.

“Airdrie was kind of narrow, and it wasn’t a set up that I looked and thought my horse would do awesome,” she said. “But she surprised me and did awesome. It’s like her running in that big pattern at Pendleton … nothing really faces. It makes my job a lot easier as far as entering.”

Faith And Barrels

Barrel racing is more than a livelihood for Jean Winters.

“When I was little, God put the desire to turn barrels in my heart,” Winters said. “I met a man who kept that fire alive.”

That faith has helped in many ways, including the way she works with Crickets Peppy Zan, a 10-year-old sorrel gelding she calls Zan.

“He’s just 14.1 hands tall,” she said. “He looks more like a calf horse or a bulldogging horse, but he’s 110 percent heart.

“He’s all about himself. He’s not going to let himself get hurt, so in that way, he’s not going to let me get hurt. But I don’t pretend to think he loves me. It’s all because he loves himself. My boys call him the king. He throws his head. He has a long forelock and a lot of mane, and the louder the crowd is, the better he runs.”

That worked quite well in Springdale, where announcer Boyd Polhamus urged a great crowd into a frenzy.

“I don’t know what Boyd was saying but whatever it was, the crowd got a little louder, and Zan thought they were just cheering for him all the way,” said Winters, who posted a 16.90-second run worth $3,875. “That’s just the way he is. If you walk into his pen and his belly itches, he’ll walk right in front of you and make you scratch his belly.

“He’s definitely a prima donna.”

And, she said, he’s a gift from God.

“I haven’t found a setup my horse doesn’t like,” she said. “When I’ve been asked, ‘Who trained your horse?’ honestly I can say God trained him, because I had no clue as to what I was doing.

“When I saw this horse, he started to come along really well. God really did train him, because I know how to make a horse ride, but that’s about it. I can’t train a horse to do the things he can do.”

Whether it’s divine intervention or just faith, Winters knows where her priorities are.

“I would like to make it to the NFR, and I feel like I have a horse that’s quality enough to go,” Winters said. “I’ve had others tell me that, but my belief is that when God says it’s the right time, I’m going to go.”

Amen.