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Today's word on journalism

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

"Paranoia means having all the facts."

--William S. Burroughs, Beat Generation writer (1914-1997)

Rodeo team member takes his turn in the arena for a shot at the big-time

By Brooke Barker

September 29, 2006 | Every rider hopes to make it to the short-go-round on the big night, but only those who have proven themselves among the top 10 have a chance to compete for the prize.

It's a night for belt buckles, bulls, broncos and bareback riding. Those who choose this fate and way of life are bound to experience a few bruises and perhaps a broken bone, but sometimes it takes guts to gain glory.

"I want to fix the mistakes from the week before and improve on that. I also try to win," said Cole Smith.

Smith is a member of the Utah State University Rodeo Team and no stranger to cowboy pride. The 23-year-old from Georgetown, Idaho, grew up on a ranch and began competing in rodeos at a time when most boys his age were learning to ride a bike without training wheels.

"My dad knew a guy who was really into roping, so he came up and started teaching them (his brothers and sister). I was about six and got into it and have been doing it ever since," he said. "I started with goat-tying and calf-riding and went up from there."

ROPIN' AND RASSLIN': Lynette Smith, above, practices her roping skills Wednesday night before the USU rodeo Saturday. She and her husband, Cole, are on the team, and the competition has been a family tradition. Below, John Reese, a member of the rodeo team, gets on the ground quickly while practicing Wednesday night. / Photos by Brooke Barker

While at USU, Smith has competed in events such as calf-roping, team-roping and steer-wrestling. He attended the Idaho State Rodeo Finals in Pocatello, Idaho, four years in a row and, in 2005, had the opportunity to head to the National College Rodeo Finals in Casper, Wyo., after earning second place in the Rocky Mountain Region for calf-roping.

"I had a lot of fun, but I didn't do very well out there (Casper, Wyo.)," he said. "I had bad luck with my horse and calf. You never always do good. Sometimes you do, sometimes you don't."

Smith manages to fit in some time every week with his horses despite a busy schedule. He works full-time, takes online classes and recently married his sweetheart Lynette, a fellow rodeo competitor. The two can often be seen practicing their roping on Wednesday nights with other team members and competing together at events on the weekends. Smith also competes professionally during the summer but wishes he could do it more often.

"I guess you could say I'm a weekend warrior," he said. "That's someone who works and goes to school during the week and rodeos on the weekend."

Smith often travels with the team during the school year, but occasionally travels with his wife and younger sister to different competitions.

"It's a family thing," he says. "While you mostly travel with your family, when you get to the rodeo everyone is there for every one else, no matter if they're a relative or not."

This relationship between the competitors nearly eliminates the need to impress or show up their friends.

"Competing with your friend is the best part about it," Smith said. He remembered a good friend from high school who also competed in rodeos. "When one of us would do good, the other would be excited, and then when the other went out to compete, you'd tell him good luck. If he ended up doing better, it meant a lot."

This same friend and another traveled with competing rodeos across the country in 2004 after Smith returned from serving a two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Between the three friends, they traveled nearly 20,000 miles and earned more than $25,000 altogether.

"The difference between rodeos and sports like basketball and football is that if you go to a rodeo and someone's horse gets hurt the night before, and they ask to use your horse, of course you say yes," Smith said. "Most people do it because you get 25 percent of the winnings if they win on your horse, and it makes you feel good to think that you have a horse other people want to ride. If they win it proves that."

After Smith graduates, he hopes to return to Georgetown, take over his father's ranch and continue competing in rodeos as much as he can.

"I hope to keep rodeoing until I can't walk any more," Smith said.

Smith is just one of 19 members on the USU Rodeo Team. The team travels as far as Boise and Cedar City competing in 10 events throughout the year. This Friday and Saturday will be the home competition for the team at the Logan Fairgrounds.

Jeffery Hall, the team's adviser, said this is the team's main fund-raising event to cover expenses throughout the year. Each member of the team is responsible for selling a certain number of tickets and working on getting sponsors for the different shoots.

Hall said he's sent at least one member of the team to nationals, and sometimes as many as four members, since he became the adviser in 2002.

"I think we have a pretty good team this year for USU," said Smith. "Legitimately, I think 7 or 8 could qualify for different events at nationals."

The long-go round starts Friday night at 7 p.m. and continues Saturday at 1 p.m. The final rodeo, or short-go round will be Saturday at 7 p.m.

"It's all about the luck of the draw," Smith said of calf-roping. "It doesn't matter if you draw a bad calf and someone else draws a good one. Even if you're a better roper and rider, they have the better chance of winning because they have a better calf."

Come out and see if Smith and other team members get lucky this weekend as they try to beat the clock and compete with their friends. Perhaps a little bit of that cowboy pride will shine through, because no guts means no glory.


Copyright 1997-2005 Utah State University Department of Journalism & Communication, Logan UT 84322, (435) 797-1000
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