New Experiences

photo by Matt Cohen / Cowboy Journal

photo by Matt Cohen / Cowboy Journal

I finished my first Cowboy Christmas with my first Pro-Rodeo buckle. And for the first time, I’m in the PRCA top 50.

by Paden Bray

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Until this Fourth of July run, I had never won a Pro-Rodeo buckle. But that changed over the course of last week. This trip was full of new experiences.

For starters, the caliber of roping I saw was incredible. At Red Lodge, Montana, me and Erich were 4.9 and only placed tenth for a $53 check. In Cody, Wyoming, we were 5.3, and they told us thanks for coming, but we didn’t even place. Eugene had the fastest slack I’ve seen. We were 5 seconds flat there and didn’t even place in the top ten.

A few times along the way, I was star-struck. For instance, I would go, and then Jade Corkill would be up after me. I mean, Jade is arguably the best there is. I’m always going to watch Jade. I’ve got mad respect for him, because he sets the bar. He’s been beating my butt since I was seventeen. But I’m starting to feel less star-struck and more competitive. I’m getting to the point where I know I’m capable of roping alongside guys like Jade.

photo by Matt Cohen

photo by Matt Cohen

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My dad, Ken, was on the road with us for a few days. He hauled our rig from Reno to Greeley, Colorado. I was so excited to have him along. Not only did it mean real meals rather than McDonald’s Big Macs, but it meant him getting to be a part of the journey. I feel like I’ve been given the opportunity to live his dream. My dad grew up team roping, but he has a big-time job and doesn’t get to rope as much as he used to. He’s given me an opportunity he never had.

Dad loves to see me rope. I couldn’t have done it without him. And I know he secretly loved that sixteen-hour haul to Greeley.

On Friday, me and Erich roped in Prescott, Arizona. I’d never been to Prescott, but at that rodeo the header and heeler both leave from the heeler side of the box. That was definitely new to me.

The next day, we were up at the Navajo Nation Fourth of July Celebration rodeo in Window Rock, Arizona. We were loping around to warm up, and Erich told me, “Don’t miss this one.” He chuckled when he said it, like it was a joke, but I got the feeling that it wasn’t.

You see, Window Rock is Erich’s hometown rodeo. He’s part of the opening ceremony. They only charges $5 admission, and the place was standing-room only before the rodeo even started. The crowd went wild for him. Suddenly, I really felt the pressure!

We had a good, clean run—4.6 seconds—which was good enough to tie for first. The crowd came to their feet cheering for Erich. I was just happy I hadn’t let him down!

Before Arizona, we had been in Oregon. We left there winning first in the average at the St. Paul Rodeo with 10.3 on two head. Erich has a St. Paul buckle and always wears it. He calls it his “lucky buckle.” I started dreaming about having my own St. Paul buckle. One minute I’d feel confident about winning it, the next I’d remember there were thirty more teams to go.

We were sitting down to eat lunch on Sunday. The final teams were up at St. Paul that morning. Someone called Dustin Bird and told him no one was faster than 10.3. We’d won!

I couldn’t wait to tell my family. I have a huge group text on my phone with my parents, grandmothers and friends—at least a dozen people. That was the best group text to send!

I finished my first Cowboy Christmas with my first Pro-Rodeo buckle. And for the first time, I’m in the PRCA top 50. I started at 45th and then jumped to 24th. I’m going to do my best to make sure that number keeps getting smaller, and I know Erich is going to do his best to help.

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Photo by Matt Cohen

Photo by Matt Cohen

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