Me and Paden

photo by Matt Cohen / Cowboy Journal

photo by Matt Cohen / Cowboy Journal

The kid’s got a great attitude.

by Erich Rogers

Back in March, I asked heeler Paden Bray to be my team-roping partner. For at least ten years, I’ve been spending the winter months with Paden’s family near Stephenville, Texas. When he was little, Paden tagged along with me everywhere. I remember him being a little kid and wanting to rope and go to the rodeos. He got bigger and stronger and way better with his rope.

This past winter, we went to a bunch of jackpots together, and things just clicked. So, I sat down with his parents to ask if I could rodeo with him. I said I hoped to help him win the Rookie of the Year title and maybe a National Finals qualification.

That was six months ago, and the season just ended. Paden didn’t make the NFR—he finished on the bubble in seventeenth place—but he helped me make it. And he dang sure earned that Rookie of the Year buckle.

Traveling together, there were times when I felt like the old veteran set in his ways. But Paden’s rookie enthusiasm was contagious. He was always laughing and cracking jokes. It was fun having him around.

After Cowboy Christmas, me and Paden both moved up in the standings. I broke into the top fifteen at the end of July. There was one week when we were both in the top fifteen, but Paden didn’t stay there.

Paden did great, inside the arena and out. He roped well and handled himself really good all summer, even through some high-pressure situations.

At Pendleton, we had a chance to make a big, big move. We were high callback. A win there would have made our chances of making the NFR outstanding.

We drew a good steer. He stepped left and lowered his head, and I split the horns. I was pretty mad at myself.

Paden being Paden, he didn’t worry about it. He was ready to move on.

“We still gotta go to Albuquerque and the rest of the rodeos,” he said.

“But we were high callback, and I messed up,” I said.

“Don’t worry about it,” he said. “We’ll come back to Pendleton next year and win it.”

The kid’s got a great attitude.

Even though Paden didn’t qualify for the NFR, he accomplished so much. I appreciate him being there by my side all year long to get me where I want to go.

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