Things Are Different Now

Photo by matt cohen / cowboy journal

Photo by matt cohen / cowboy journal

I rodeo less, and my kids are my toughest judges. Jake Larson breaks it down.



This picture above was taken at the Reno Rodeo in 2012. I was twenty-eight, and our first born, Tate, wasn’t even a year old. My life as a saddle bronc rider was changing, from going down the road a lot to staying home more to take care of the farm.

My dad died in 2009 from lymphoma. It happened fast. We knew he hadn’t been feeling well, but we didn’t expect it to turn out like it did. In hindsight I think he knew something was wrong, but he was never going to complain or ask for pity. He tagged the first calf of the season on January 28 and was gone a month later. After that, I took over his duties at the farm. We run a small operation in East Garland, Utah, mostly alfalfa, wheat and cows. It’s a homestead. My great-grandfather built this place over a hundred years ago. It’s more than enough to keep me busy.

That’s when the pressure to stay home really started. If I’m not there to water cows, they’re not getting watered.

I bought my first saddle-bronc saddle when I was twelve or thirteen. I started getting on whatever I could, and my hunger for saddle-bronc riding grew.

In high school I couldn’t get on enough horses. After I graduated, I went on a mission trip to the Caribbean for two years. I think my parents sent me as far away from rodeo as they could. I guess they thought I wouldn’t think about it, but I still did. I came home and bought a new bronc saddle my first week home.

I was home for three or four months, got married to Susan, my high school sweetheart, and we hit every rodeo we could after that. I feel like we’ve been together our whole lives. It only seemed natural to have her with me.

To be honest, it’s harder to remember then as opposed to now. So much has changed in six years.

photo by matt cohen

photo by matt cohen


I still get to maybe thirty-five or forty rodeos a year now. The family comes with me. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Susan’s happy to wrangle them on the road. She withstands the long night drives with me. She is the one who makes all that work.

It’s kind of crazy to think that my boys are getting to the age where they’re interested in my gear, and they want to go and watch me ride. Tate is six now. Tag is four. And my little girl, Ruby, is two. It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was little and wanting to be a cowboy and a farmer. Now they’re reaching that age! 

The biggest change is having to stay home more. Water isn’t getting changed and cows aren’t getting moved unless I’m home. If we can’t make it back by morning to bale hay or feed cows, then I don’t go. I try to stay within an eight-hour radius from home. As long as I can drive back through the night, then we’re good. 

Whether we’re farming or ranching, we talk about my dad all the time. I feel like he made it possible for us to keep doing what we do. We’re doing this for him, and my grandfather and my great-grandfather.

Tate never met my dad. He was born a few years after Dad passed, but he knows who he is. He’ll talk about how Grandpa used to do stuff or how he talks to Grandpa in his dreams. He talks like he knows him. That’s always a bittersweet thing for me—I wish Dad was here, but I love that my kids know and recognize who he was.

When we came home from a rodeo the other night, my mom and grandmother asked me how things had gone, and my boys had no problem letting them know I’d gotten my butt handed to me. There were no excuses. They don’t let me slide on anything. There’s no sugar coating from them!

It’s funny to hear my boys talk about how they want to ride broncs, and they’re not shy about giving me feedback on my rides. They’re super honest. That’s a great thing about little kids: They’ll make you want to be your best.

I’ve always been a cowboy. That has always come freely to me.

Yeah, things are different now. But in some ways, nothing has changed.

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