Spin to Win Rodeo - - Departments - By Jake Barnes with Ken­dra San­tos

We all talk about how tough a life rodeo is, and how you have to be part truck driver, gypsy, and gam­bler to try to rope for a liv­ing. It all looks re­ally glam­orous at the Na­tional Fi­nals Rodeo, but get­ting there is a grind. As I fin­ish up my 38th year as a pro­fes­sional team roper, I do have to say that I wouldn’t trade my ca­reer for the world. Rop­ing has taught me a lot of great life lessons.

I hear it all the time from busi­ness peo­ple in other pro­fes­sions—there are tough as­pects to ev­ery job. That’s just life, and no line of work is easy all the time. There are a lot of things about what we do for a liv­ing that look pretty good to oth­ers. So many peo­ple get out of school, get a job, and never leave their state. They have the se­cu­rity of a steady pay­check. But we get to see the whole coun­try, and be our own boss.

When think­ing of all the things I like about this cow­boy life, there are a cou­ple quotes that come to mind from fa­mous cowboys. Don­nie Gay used to like to say, “I rodeo be­cause I’m too lazy to work and too scared to steal.” He was just jok­ing, of course, be­cause mak­ing ends meet rodeo­ing is a tall or­der. Be­sides the all-night drives and pound­ing your head against the wall when you aren’t win­ning, in the case of a team roper it also means stay­ing in con­stant search of that next great horse.

I also al­ways liked Ty Mur­ray’s quote, “You ei­ther win some­thing or you learn some­thing ev­ery time.” That was Ty’s way of say­ing that even when you lose you should take some­thing away from that run that’ll help you not keep re­peat­ing the same mis­take. Learn­ing from our fail­ures is some­thing that makes us all bet­ter at what we do.

An­other life les­son rop­ing teaches us is that we all need to learn to lose. The fact is—I don’t care who you are—you’re go­ing to lose more than you win. So you have to fig­ure out a way to deal with that. I’m a sore loser. I try not to show it on the out­side, but los­ing burns me up. I’ve lost my tem­per be­fore, and I’m far from per­fect. But I’ve tried to cor­ral that over time, be­cause I’m a role model and some­body’s al­ways watch­ing.

Clay’s (Cooper) prob­a­bly the best at con­tain­ing his emo­tions. If he hap­pens to miss one, he coils up his rope, and rides out of the arena. You never see him jerk­ing on his horse. And when he does win, you don’t see any show­boat­ing out there. If you can stay com­posed like that, it’s a plus. Be­cause the highs are short-lived, and the lows can drag you down.

Bobby Hur­ley was re­ally good at that, too. He had a rule that he had an hour af­ter he messed up to show it. Then he was back to his happy-go-lucky self. There are a lot of eas­ier jobs and hob­bies. We all rope be­cause we love it. At the high­est level, it’s a knife fight ev­ery day to make your house and truck pay­ments. At all lev­els, there are so many things that are frus­trat­ing, and so many vari­ables that are out of our con­trol. But if we didn’t love it, we wouldn’t do it. So why not make the best of it, and en­joy it?

Rop­ing and rodeo teach you to be a sur­vivor, and in that way cowboys are kind of like coy­otes. It doesn’t mat­ter if a coy­ote is in the frozen Alaskan wilder­ness or the bru­tal heat of the Ari­zona desert, he’s al­ways hunt­ing, and he can go with­out food, if he has to. He never knows where his next meal is com­ing from, but he keeps hunt­ing and never quits.

There’s no telling how many times in my ca­reer I wanted to throw in the towel. I’ve learned that it’s al­ways a good idea to sleep on it. It’s a whole new world the next day, and you’ll be glad you didn’t give up and throw your sucker in the dirt.

“Rop­ing and rodeo teach you to be a sur­vivor, and in that way cowboys are kind of like coy­otes.”



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