photo by Matt Cohen / Cowboy Journal

photo by Matt Cohen / Cowboy Journal

This Fourth run was a victory for Paden and me working together as a team. We still have a lot of rodeoing ahead of us.

by Erich Rogers

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Last Saturday, we were getting ready to rope in Window Rock, Arizona—at the Navajo Nation Fourth of July Celebration. Window Rock is my hometown rodeo. It’s on the reservation, and it’s always a big deal. For starters, the rodeo is packed with friends, family and fans. The seats fill up. It becomes standing-room only, and they still show up. I try to enter every year, unless we don’t get the perf or position we wanted. But I’ve never managed to win it!

Paden showed up on Saturday wearing this really flashy, vintage shirt. I laughed and told him he’d better not miss wearing a shirt like that, or he’d really catch grief.

I’m not much of a risk-taker when it comes to competition. It’s fun to mess around and be risky when you’re practicing, but when it comes down to the money, I feel more comfortable with a sure thing. Before we set out for the Fourth, I told Paden, “This is our run. It might not be flashy. It might not always be the fastest, but it’s consistent.” The guy who gets a little ahead of himself is the one that blows a good run. I’m not that guy.

My two girls were in the stands at Window Rock. My eight-year-old was filming our run, something she loves to do. We drew what I consider an average steer and were up in the middle of the pack. I believe we were sixth to go. When the chute opened, I pulled back a bit to make sure I didn’t break the barrier. It would’ve been embarrassing to miss out on a win there because of that. The steer didn’t start the best, and it slowed up when my rope went around its head. We call that a steer that’s “checking off.” Paden came in behind and sealed it with a smooth heel shot. We were 4.6. I was relieved we’d had a clean, fast run. I didn’t feel much pressure watching the rest of the teams. I was just happy I hadn’t messed up in front of everyone! It’s something I would’ve never lived down.

Our 4.6 was good enough to tie for first. Finally, for the first time ever, I won my hometown rodeo.

photo by Matt Cohen

photo by Matt Cohen

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When we won Window Rock, we were still waiting on news from the St. Paul Rodeo in Oregon. St. Paul is infamous for its trees—a dozen or so small, widely spaced evergreens growing in a ring around the outer edge of the arena. Those can be tricky. Sometimes heelers will accidentally rope a tree, or their horse will jump one. During our first run, we went clear around the trees. But on the second run, I swear our steer aimed straight for the first tree. When Paden threw his heel shot, the steer wasn’t more than four feet from the branches.

Despite the trees, we were able to lay down two solid runs with a strong set of steers. We were 5.1 and 5.2—nothing flashy, but it got the job done. When we left, we were sitting first in the average with 10.3 on two head, but there were almost thirty teams in slack still to go.

Back in 2015, I rodeoed with Cory Petska. We’d been having the worst Fourth run ever—truly one of the worst I’d ever had—but we ended up winning St. Paul that year. I wear that buckle every time I run. Call it superstitious, but it’s my lucky buckle. It always reminds me that just when you think it can’t get any worse, it can suddenly get a whole lot better. St. Paul was the only rodeo we won money at during the Fourth run in 2015.

This year, as me and Paden made our way through Arizona, I wondered if the guys back in the St. Paul slack would get some lopers in their set. I was a little scared. All we could do was hope for the best.

We were in Holbrook, Arizona, eating lunch with my dad, when we got the call. Dustin Bird had talked to Brady Minor after the St. Paul slack. Only three or four teams had caught steers. The fastest run that day had been around 10 seconds flat. We’d won it.

There’s something about St. Paul that’s special to me. To share that moment with my dad felt great. And I’m glad Paden gets his own lucky buckle now.

Our Fourth run was what I consider a win-win. Literally, we won twice—St. Paul and Window Rock. St. Paul was the bigger prize of the week, but winning my hometown rodeo was the highlight for me this year. And both wins were a victory for Paden and me working together as a team. We still have a lot of rodeoing ahead of us.

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Photo by Matt Cohen

Photo by Matt Cohen

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