Learning on the Fly

photo by Matt Cohen / Cowboy Journal

photo by Matt Cohen / Cowboy Journal

I don’t think I’ll get burned out anytime soon. My eyes are still wide and bright. I’m still craving it.

by Paden Bray

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Ponoka has to be the coolest rodeo I’ve ever been to! It’s what guys call an “old school” setup. They run your steer out so that by the time you get down the alley, you’re flying. It feels like the fastest run ever. At Ponoka, me and Erich were third in the first round with a 6.3, won the second round with a 5.2, and we’re sitting first in the average. We’ve won about $4,000 at Ponoka, with the opportunity to win about $6,000 more today in the short round. For me, as a rookie, that’s an amazing experience.

Roping with Erich is so smooth. It’s the same go every time. Whether we mount out or ride our own horses, every steer is the same. I’ve never roped with a header who’s that consistent. That’s sure given me a lot of confidence.

photo by Matt Cohen

photo by Matt Cohen

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The only bad luck we’ve had was at the Greeley Stampede. The first round, Erich broke the barrier, and I lost the steer. In the second round, we had a running sucker, and we didn’t have a chance on him.

When they said the Fourth of July run was fast, I didn’t know they meant this fast! We’ve been driving and flying all over the place, and we still have nine or ten more rodeos. More opportunities still to come!

You don’t get much sleep besides cars and planes, and I get the top bunk because I’m the rookie. Erich and the other guys can sleep on a plane, but I sure can’t. It’s all new to me—hopping planes, going through the pre-check, hoping you don’t get delayed—but I’m learning as I go. I didn’t know there were so many apps for cheap hotels.

I’m young and dumb, so I can handle just a few hours of sleep. Food is probably my biggest struggle. Canada might have some amazing rodeos, but their food isn’t for me! Poutine? I mean, what is that stuff? I’m not used to eating on the road. I’m trying to learn to like Big Macs. But I’m getting by.

I don’t think I’ll get burned out anytime soon. My eyes are still wide and bright. I’m still craving it. I’m just not craving Canadian food.

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