No Better Partner

Photo by matt cohen / cowboy journal

Photo by matt cohen / cowboy journal

Why Father’s Day matters to us.

by Trey and JD Yates

Trey: Going Home to Rope

To this day, my Dad, JD Yates, tells me it was one of the top three best runs he ever made in his rodeo career. I’m talking about Round One at the 2015 Central Wyoming Fair and Rodeo in Casper.

Dad had this really good brown head horse he called Robbie. I was heeling on my horse, Dude. This was only Dude’s second pro rodeo. The steers were really fresh, and the barrier was long. I was nervous on such a green horse. I knew I needed to trust in my horse and rely on my abilities. It helped that I had full faith in my partner.

Dad just nailed the barrier and stuck it on the steer. Dude got around the end of him, and I had a lot of speed on my rope. I heeled him, and we were 5.6 halfway down the arena. Dad still talks about it. If I’ve ever made a perfect run, that’s one of them.

We came back and won second in the short round and second in the average.

I tell you what: Those are the best times I’ve ever had rodeoing up to this point in my career—just roping with my dad. We had success, but we had a lot of fun, too, which was better than anything.

My dad’s been a huge part of my career and my life. He’s helped me do everything I want to do and supported me no matter what it was. Even if it had nothing to do with rodeo, he would have supported me 110 percent. But I chose rodeo. I fell into the family tradition.

Dad’s different from a lot of rodeo parents, primarily because he’s lived it. He knows about winning and losing, and he never got after me if I didn’t win. He could have easily pressured me and made me hate rodeoing. Instead, he tried to implant in me the mind of a winner, the idea that you have to take the bad with the good. That guy tries harder than anybody I’ve ever roped with. He tried so hard for me.

Dad’s made a living with his rope and in the horse-show industry since he was twenty-two years old. He’s very savvy. He can read people fast. That comes from my grandpa, Dick Yates. My grandpa can read horses and people faster than anybody I’ve ever met.

I recently lost my grandma, Jan, and my grandpa said one of the only things he’s living for anymore is to watch me and Dad rope. I’m flying home to Colorado to rope with Dad in a circuit rodeo in Grover on Father’s Day. That will be pretty cool. For one, he’s a great partner. Two, he’s my dad. And three, he’s my best friend. It’s a really special bond that we have.

JD: Lucky Man

My dad, Dick Yates, was a brand inspector. I went with him from the time I was three years old. Starting when I was around five, I would help him sort cattle, roping and dragging calves. I spent a lot of time with him doing ranch stuff, being a cowboy. That’s where it all started for me.

Photo by Matt Cohen

Photo by Matt Cohen

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Dad’s laid-back, real to-the-point. He doesn’t say much, but when he does speak, you need to listen. My dad never wanted to force rodeo or force being successful on me at all. He was always like, If this is what you want to do, you be as good as you can be at it. He was that way in everything he did. Before I came along, he rode bareback and roped calves, and he won a lot doing both. Then he started team roping.

In 1973, when I was thirteen, Dad and Mom took me to Oklahoma City to watch one performance of the National Finals Rodeo, before the NFR moved to Las Vegas. That’s when I decided what I wanted to do in life—compete in the team roping at that level. Fortunately, I got to achieve that goal with my dad. As team-roping partners, he and I qualified for thirteen National Finals.

The first time we went to the NFR was in 1975, when I was just fifteen. During those early years, I was in school. Dad was big on school. I set goals for myself, but Dad still had roots, and we still had guidelines, and the guidelines were that we were going to finish school and go to college. That’s what we did, and I’m glad we did it that way.

After my son, Trey, got his PRCA card, he and I spent a few years rodeoing together. It was just as enjoyable as it was when I rodeoed with my dad. We did it for business, but there was no arguing or fussing. We had a good time. We talked about where we were going, and we went where we wanted to go.

Trey’s right about Round One of the 2015 Casper rodeo. The steers were fresh and running hard. Casper’s a big arena, and we ran that one a long ways, but we were still 5.6 to win the round. It was one of those runs that you always want to make, the kind that stick in your mind. I made some of them with my dad, but that was the first one I ever made with my son.

I knew Trey’s goal was to go rodoeing. I told him he needed to finish school and finish college. I said, You’ll learn a lot about life and roping and people in college, and then you’ll be fit and ready to go. He finished college last year and went right on to win the College National Finals Rodeo. After that, he went straight to the Reno Rodeo and won that. He made the 2018 NFR and finished first in the average and third in the world.

I don’t get to rope as much with Trey any more now that he’s competing at the top. He deserves a good partner now. But we’re roping together at Grover on Father’s Day. I always look forward to the next one with Trey. It makes it that much more special.

I guess I’m one of the lucky people in the world. My two best team-roping partners have been my dad and my son.


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