Broc Cresta

The Leg­end Lives On

Spin to Win Rodeo - - The X Factor - By Ken­dra San­tos

It’s im­pos­si­ble to be­lieve that we’ve been miss­ing Broc Cresta for five years al­ready. It still seems un­real that after rop­ing one with boy­hood buddy Spencer Mitchell at the Daddy of ’em All in Cheyenne, Wyo., then en­joy­ing a Hank Wil­liams Jr. con­cert with his friends, Broc didn’t wake up the next morn­ing. A lot of hearts stopped when Broc’s did on July 28, 2012.

Be­cause Broc was worth know­ing—and future gen­er­a­tions of cow­boy kids won’t get the chance to do that for them­selves, like we did—it’s the peo­ple clos­est to Broc who will tell his story now. Lov­ing Broc changed a lot of lives. Los­ing Broc ship­wrecked them. Broc will live in their hearts al­ways and for­ever—un­til they meet again.

Fourth-gen­er­a­tion Cal­i­for­nia cow­boy Broc, who was the Re­sis­tol Rookie Heeler of the Year in 2007, won his share of rodeos and more, in­clud­ing the Daddy it­self in 2008 with Lo­gan Olson. Broc roped at his first Wran­gler Na­tional Fi­nals Rodeo in 2010 with Tur­tle Pow­ell, then fol­lowed that up with a se­cond NFR with Spencer the De­cem­ber be­fore he died. Fit­tingly, Spencer and his fi­ancé, Whit­ney Lynn, wel­comed baby boy Broc Alan Mitchell on Memo­rial Day, May 29.

“I didn’t think there was any other name to con­sider,” Spencer said. “As soon as we knew it was a lit­tle boy, it was pretty much set in stone. No­body re­ally needed to ask what it was go­ing to be. It’s like Tuff Hede­man nam­ing his boy Lane— some­body you grew up with and looked up to and re­spected—that’s what you want for your kid, to be re­spected.”

Yes, half a life be­fore we lost Broc, I was there at the Daddy with my cow­boy con­tem­po­raries when all the air left that arena and we lost Lane Frost at 25. As I sat with Broc’s cow­boy peers at his pub­lic memo­rial ser­vice, and was hon­ored to be asked to say a few words, I looked at that sea of sad, young faces and knew how they felt. It’s a pain and empti­ness that’s re­ally not pos­si­ble to put

into words. But—some­how, some way— we all must learn to live on.

“It seems like an eter­nity that we’ve been with­out him,” Spencer said five years later. “Other times it seems like it was yes­ter­day. There are places I still ex­pect to see Broc—like when I’m up in Cot­ton­wood (at the Davis Ranch). Ran­dom mem­o­ries come to mind all the time. It’s still hard to grasp that he’s gone. We just have to cher­ish the mo­ments and the mem­o­ries we have.

“Broc wasn’t quite as out­go­ing as Justin (Davis) and I. But once you got to know him, and be­came friends with him, you were al­ways friends with him. And he was al­ways there if you needed some­thing. We pushed each other to be what we were. Broc was all about com­pe­ti­tion, try­ing to get bet­ter all the time and never set­tling for what you had. There was al­ways room to im­prove, in Broc’s eyes.”

Broc, Spencer, Justin and Rus­sell Car­doza were a four-man buddy group with a broth­erly bond.

“We were all home schooled, so in the win­ter­time we’d stay at Cresta’s be­cause they had an in­door arena and 400 Mex­i­can rop­ing steers,” Justin re­mem­bers. “They say you’re only as good as the peo­ple you rope against and prac­tice with. It was our job to rope those steers, and we all four had the same dream in mind.”

Broc lived his last seven years with the Davises, and “when he started liv­ing there we shared a bed for three years,” Justin grins. “Kyle (Davis, Justin’s cousin) slept in the other bed in the same room. Broc’s Cheyenne sad­dle sits out­side that bed­room. I rarely go up those stairs any­more, be­cause I still get teary when I go to­ward that room.”

Davis re­mem­bers Broc as, “straight­for­ward. He took rop­ing very se­ri­ously. Broc was amaz­ing with a horse and a rope. Once peo­ple got to know Broc, they loved him. He had a lit­tle bit of a strut, and al­ways walked off with that lit­tle smile and smirk.

“I still think about Broc ev­ery day. We talked on the phone ev­ery sin­gle

day when we weren’t to­gether, and when you’re used to that your whole life it’s a big change. To this day, when I’m strug­gling with some­thing my gut in­stinct is to ask Broc. I lost that per­son I al­ways called. Now I have to fig­ure it out on my own.”

Be­fore Broc died, Jade Corkill was ob­sessed with win­ning a gold buckle. When Broc died, he looked out­side that tun­nel he’d been liv­ing in and turned out the week of Dodge City (Kan.; he was rop­ing with Kaleb Drig­gers at the time). The world as Jade knew it stopped turn­ing. Jade jumped in and rode with us from Broc’s church ser­vice to the ceme­tery for the pri­vate burial. I’ll never for­get a mo­ment—Jade star­ing down into that hole at Broc’s cas­ket, which was cov­ered in flow­ers, rop­ing gloves from his pall­bearer friends and a heel rope—that I knew at the time changed Jade for­ever. I put that pic­ture away for five years, and when I fi­nally showed it to Jade it took him right back to that af­ter­noon in Broc’s now eter­nal home­town of Santa Rosa, Calif.

“I re­mem­ber ex­actly what I was think­ing right then,” Jade said. “That was the hard­est thing. I was think­ing, ‘we can’t throw dirt on him. This is not a dead bird or our dog or a gold­fish. Broc’s in that box. How’s he go­ing to breathe? We’re count­ing on his spirit go­ing to Heaven, but he’s in this box in his cow­boy clothes, with his rope and we’re all just go­ing to walk away? We can’t leave him here. We can’t se­ri­ously say goodbye and leave him here.’ There were no words to make it make sense.

“I didn’t care about a gold buckle after that hap­pened. And I haven’t been the same per­son since. I hate think­ing that Broc dy­ing was what made my life bet­ter and gave me the per­spec­tive I have now, but it re­ally did change me. The lit­tle things that used to stress me out don’t mat­ter any­more, and I no longer care what other peo­ple think or say about me. As long as I’m do­ing what I need to do and should do, the rest of it doesn’t mat­ter. It’s made me con­tent with who I am. Broc was just him­self—the per­son it turned me into after he died.”

Jade went on to win his first of three straight gold buck­les that De­cem­ber. His buckle of choice is still the same one he wore to Broc’s ser­vice—the 2010 Sali­nas buckle he won at the 100th an­nual Cal­i­for­nia Rodeo that year with Chad Mas­ters. Jade won the first an­nual Broc Cresta Memo­rial Rop­ing with Clay Tryan in the spring of 2013. He only oc­ca­sion­ally wears one of his gold buck­les for for­mal oc­ca­sions. Jade, Chad, Spencer and Broc all won match­ing 10th go-round buck­les at Broc’s last NFR, by the way, when both teams were 3.6.

Jade stays in touch with Broc’s brother, Brent Cresta, and mom, Kelly Balistreri. “We lost a fam­ily mem­ber to­gether,” Jade said. “My brother talked about Jade all the time, and in a lot of ways idol­ized him,” Brent said. “Jade stay­ing in touch with our fam­ily means more than he’ll ever know.”

Brent was three years older than Broc, and the best big brother. You won’t see Brent with­out his BC necklace, and a BC shirt or ball­cap.

“With Broc pass­ing so early, it left me with a lot of life to live and a lot of mile­stones with­out him,” Brent said. “I wish he could see my kids (Brent and Jenny’s Makenna will be 4 next month, and twins Maci and Madi­son just turned 2). I en­joy telling peo­ple about Broc, and I don’t let any­body for­get about him. But I wish I didn’t have that job. I take it day by day, and try to be as happy as I pos­si­bly can and look at what I do have in­stead of what I don’t.”

Like Broc, Brent tells it like it is. “I tell ev­ery­body what hap­pened,” he said. “My brother died from mix­ing Coors Light and Vi­codin. He went to sleep and never woke up. I’m not go­ing to sug­ar­coat it. Broc made a mis­take. But that didn’t make him any less of a per­son.”

Broc had the pain pills from when he broke some ribs prac­tic­ing bull­dog­ging be­fore that year’s Timed Event Cham­pi­onship. Iron­i­cally, “If Broc would have had a few beers and a pain pill all the time, he’d still be here,” Brent said. “He’d have built up a tol­er­ance, like so many peo­ple do. This was a ter­ri­ble ac­ci­dent.”

It’s true. I spoke with the coroner in Wyoming after the fi­nal ver­dict was reached on Broc’s au­topsy. He con­firmed that mil­lions of Amer­i­cans mix al­co­hol and pain meds all the time and live to think noth­ing of it, but that a va­ri­ety of fac­tors in­clud­ing the al­ti­tude in Cheyenne cre­ated “the per­fect storm” for Broc.

The dis­trac­tion of his young fam­ily is Brent’s sal­va­tion. There’s a card­board standup of Un­cle Broc in Makenna’s room, and she swears he “keeps the bears away.” When they re­cently told her they had to put down the fam­ily dog, they told her, “Sam’s go­ing to Heaven and he’s not go­ing to be here any­more.” Makenna’s first words upon hear­ing the news: “He’ll be there with Un­cle Broc!”

Stay­ing busy helps. “But when I lay down at night and everything gets quiet, I think of Broc,” Brent said. “It’s not the same with­out him. And it never will be.”

Brent re­ceived a text from Broc dur­ing that last NFR in Las Ve­gas. Broc told his

brother he loved him and that he knew he was his big­gest fan. Brent hurts. But he trea­sures those words. “I’d trade my life in a heart­beat if it’d get Broc back, but he’d just kick me for do­ing it,” Brent said with a Broc smirk. “So there’s no win­ning there.”

Brent was born three months pre­ma­ture, and with hy­dro­cephalus, which is wa­ter on the brain. He had one op­er­a­tion as a baby, and seven more brain surg­eries from 2008-2010. “The only time my brother was ever in the hos­pi­tal was to come see me,” Brent said.

“After eight brain surg­eries we fi­nally got Brent healed up, and a year later we lose Broc,” Mom Kelly said. “No­body thought it would be Broc. Nei­ther did I. I lost my baby. My beau­ti­ful, healthy baby boy. It feels like yes­ter­day, and 10 years from now I’m still go­ing to feel like I do to­day. You learn a lot about death when you lose a child. It changed me. I’m more car­ing and un­der­stand­ing now.”

Gath­er­ing for the Broc Cresta Memo­rial Rop­ing each spring is ther­a­peu­tic for Kelly, as is giv­ing out the Broc Cresta Schol­ar­ships.

“The friends who’ve pulled us all to­gether mean the world to me,” Kelly said. “We can’t get Broc back, but we can honor him by mak­ing life bet­ter for other peo­ple. That’s why this rop­ing is so damn im­por­tant to me. I get to con­nect with Broc’s friends. We cel­e­brate Broc by get­ting to­gether in his name and giv­ing back to kids. It helps keep me go­ing. I have to think about be­ing thank­ful for the time we had with Broc. I had a good kid who touched a lot of peo­ple and is still touch­ing them. I don’t un­der­stand why God chose him, but that’s the way it is.”

In our most re­cent con­ver­sa­tion— be­tween Mother’s Day and Memo­rial Day—Kelly told me about her hawk, and that “hawks are from Heaven.”

“He first showed up when I was sit­ting in my house call­ing the kids that won Broc’s first schol­ar­ships,” Kelly said. Goosebumps. My baby boy, Tay­lor, was one of those lucky kids. “A bird­fight broke out right out­side my win­dow, and there was this big hawk sit­ting on my grand­kids’ swingset. He’s been around ever since. When I’m sad, I’ll see him perched in my tree. I go to my girl­friend’s house and we’re can­ning, and my hawk sits on her fence. Ev­ery­body knows I have a hawk. He fol­lows me. And I talk to him a lot.”

We all mar­vel at all Broc packed into his 25 years, which as Kelly says, “was more than a lot of us will do in a life­time.

He saw a lot of states and made a lot of good friends. He loved to rope. He rode mo­tor­cy­cles, and ran a kick­off back for a 99yard touch­down play­ing Pop Warner foot­ball.”

Like Lane Frost, Broc was a tal­ented, hand­some, pop­u­lar young cow­boy when he headed to Heaven. So his leg­end will be for­ever 25. What would his mom like peo­ple to re­mem­ber about Broc?

“That he was great,” she said. “Broc left this world early, but he left with a lot of friends and love and re­spect. Adults liked him. Kids liked him. His fam­ily and friends loved him. God must have wanted a good one is all I can tell you. Peo­ple say time heals. Not re­ally.

“But we don’t bury peo­ple and for­get about them. I have grand­ba­bies who are never go­ing to meet Broc, but they’ll know him. Broc was won­der­ful. We all miss him so much, and al­ways will. But we’re never—ever—go­ing to stop telling ev­ery­body about him.”

KEN­DRA SAN­TOS PHOTO

Rus­sell Car­doza, Justin

Davis and Spencer Mitchell shared a broth­erly bond with Broc Cresta.

JAMES PHIFER PHOTO

July 27, 2012: Broc Cresta rides Snoop in to rope the last steer of his life—at the Daddy of ’em All—with his boy­hood buddy Spencer Mitchell.

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF KELLY BALISTRERI

KEN­DRA SAN­TOS PHOTO

Jade Corkill’s per­spec­tive on rop­ing and life was for­ever changed when Broc died.

KEN­DRA SAN­TOS PHOTO

Broc’s brother, Brent, now trea­sures the buckle Broc and Spencer won in Round 10 at Broc’s last NFR in 2011.

KEN­DRA SAN­TOS PHOTO

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