Thank you for showing all of us what it’s like to be a true professional in and out of the arena.
When the story first broke, I thought, Nah, it isn’t true. It can’t be. He’s only forty-two. Then I thought about your kids, T-Man, Style and Swayzi. I remembered back in 2013, when we were on a plane from Prescott, Arizona, to St. Paul, Oregon. Me and you were the only two awake. Tuf (Cooper) and Patrick (Smith) were sleeping so hard. It was about 3:30 in the morning, and you told me when your kids were old enough to be in school and play sports you were gonna slow down. Now I know you’re holding true to your word. I get it. But, man, last month in Vegas, I got choked up just thinking that might be our last NFR together. On the way home, those same emotions drove me to write you this letter. So I want to personally thank you for everything you’ve done for me. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to start the Cowboy Journal—to give a guy like me a platform for speaking honestly about a guy like you who made such a difference in my life.
Let me back up to before you even knew I existed. In 2002 I was just a kid, maybe in middle school. Watching you and your horse Tweeter, man, was poetry in motion. You weren’t very big, and I knew I wasn’t gonna be neither. Me and my two cousins Ross and Kyle immediately started emulating your every move, same color strings and everything. Ross even bought rawhide stirrups like the ones you used to ride on your Howard Council on Texaco.
Soon after that, me and Tuf became close. I obviously knew you were married to Tuf’s sister, Shada, so I was hopeful I’d get to meet you. Well, I did. In 2006 I was at Roy’s, staying with them and roping. You had roped at Guymon the night before and got back home at maybe five or six o’clock that morning. Then at eight o’clock, I seen you down the hill practicing. I thought, Wait, he just got home. He prolly hadn’t slept two hours, and he’s already up running them. I thought, Man, either he can’t sleep for shit, or his work ethic is something I need to learn from. It didn’t take me long to figure out it was your work ethic.
A few years later, after I’d been hanging around Decatur, you knew me by name. That’s all I needed. I was too cool for school, man. In 2008, when me and Tuf were both eighteen, Tuf qualified for the NFR and wanted to bring my horse, Reata, for a backup. I jumped at the opportunity. The year before, you had won the Triple Crown—gold buckles in the steer roping, tie-down and all-around. Being around you at that time made me realize that roping is what I wanted to do for a living. The way you went about your business was exactly how I wanted to go about mine. Your attention to detail was unprecedented. It made me pay attention to things I otherwise wouldn’t have.
My first NFR was 2010. I set out to prove to the world I belonged with you. It was a three-man race for the gold buckle in Round Ten. I faltered. You didn’t. But I learned. Then, in May of 2012 you called me. I had jumped in with you a few times, but me and you were not what I would call close. That call made me realize I must be doing something right. I was rodeoing that summer with Cody Ohl, Hunter Herrin and my cousin Ross Beasley. You asked me what my plan was over the Fourth of July—not because you wanted to copy mine but because you respected me enough and knew I knew enough about entering that I could get to as many or more than anyone. That was badass. So every year since 2012, I’d say every May, we’d talk about how many we could get to over Cowboy Christmas.
In 2013, you, Patrick, Tuf and me actually entered together over the Fourth. That was sweet. But I’ll be honest: We were so damn tired after y’all took the plane back to the Greeley short round that after we roped at Molalla Tuf fell asleep resting his head on the hotel counter while we waited to check into our room. I just giggled. We were wore slap out with about four rodeos left, and you were nowhere in sight, headed to the next one, ol’ son. That’s when I started to realize what relentless means. Our last rodeo over the Fourth that year was Livingston, Montana, and your rig was already up in Calgary. So we took my bus and headed that way. You drove all but thirty miles. Me and Tuf slept the whole time. Then you pulled over and said, “This is your rig. We are thirty miles from Calgary. You might as well pull it in.”
In 2015, I hadn’t been in the top fifteen all year. Literally, all year. One week left in the regular season, and you seen the panic on my face. “Come to my house till Kansas City,” you told me, “and let’s rope.”
“I’m there,” I said. It only took you watching me rope three calves to tell me something I will never forget. My catch loop was suffering. You told me I was trying to be too sharp with my rope. You told me I wasn’t leaving myself room for any error. Open your swing up and almost try to rope them deep, you said. Three days later I won Omaha and made the Finals.
Seems like the time has flown by since then. Them memories will never leave me, for sure. Man, I look back now, and I know there’s a good chance we won’t do any of that again. It’s okay, though. I know where your priorities are now. It’s easy to see that. You have nothing left to prove to anybody. You’re the greatest there will ever be. When people ask me about you, I, of course, tell them about your work ethic, that it’s like nothing I’ve seen before. I’d put it next to Kobe’s, Lebron’s, Jeter’s, any of them. But what I tell them the most is you’re really that guy. There’s nothing fake about you. What you have accomplished in the arena is just a mere image of what you’re like outside the arena.
Your retirement party backed that up to a T. Back in 2002, if somebody would’ve told me, Hey, Shane, you’re going to speak at Trevor Brazile’s retirement party, I would’ve laughed. Then again, I guess you showed me it’s all about setting goals and working hard and that anything is possible. So, Trev, thank you. Thank you for showing me what it’s like to be a true professional in and out of the arena. Thank you for teaching me that faith is more important than gold buckles and that family is more than just blood.
I know why I’ve looked up to you so long. You were exactly who I needed to be.