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Even gold buckles get the blues

Nobody bats a thousand. And if you think the kings of the cowboy sport never stub a toe or need to navigate a few potholes along rodeo’s road, think again. They’re human, too. On the bright side, some of the most bitter disappointments and humiliating embarrassments make the victories—and gold buckles—that much sweeter. Here, the reigning champs of the world answer one question:

What’s been the most memorable mistake of your career?

World Champion All-Around Cowboy

“I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my career. I put a wrap and a hooey on a calf at Denver about 10 years ago and he got up to be three seconds in the lead. I’ve lost a world title by a few hundred dollars. I missed the books on the steer roping at San Antonio last year. But I don’t just say you have to forget about the bad stuff in order to make it out here, because if you dwell on those things you might think of them and wonder if that’ll happen again when the pressure’s on. That stuff really never enters my mind. I don’t just preach that you have to forget the bad stuff, because I think it does more damage than good. I really do that. I’ve had lots of bad moments in my career, but I can’t even pull most of that stuff out of my memory bank if I try. My mom was in the hospital and almost died when I was in eighth grade. She was in intensive care for a while. I’d go see her, but I don’t remember anything specific about that time. So I don’t know if I was born blocking out bad stuff or if I’ve trained myself to do it on the rodeo side. But when it’s done it’s done.”

World Champion Header

“There are two things that bug me about my whole career. One was not making the NFR in 2008. The other was missing my 10th steer to win the world championship in 2010. Those have been the most disappointing moments I’ve had. I don’t really have any regrets, because that’s roping and that’s life. But out of my roping career, I’d say not making the NFR was the most disappointing thing. And missing that last steer (shown here) was the biggest deal as far as roping goes.”

World Champion Bareback Rider

“I had Grated Coconut in the short round at a big rodeo a few years ago, and was counting my money before I got on him. I told Will Lowe before the rodeo started that I was going to use the money I won to buy a pool table with a picture in the felt of my winning ride on him. I slapped him the first jump out of the chute (shown here). Will ended up winning the rodeo, and during his winning interview on the loud speakers told the crowd he was going to buy a pool table with a picture of me slapping Grated Coconut on it. Then he publicly thanked me.”

World Champion Steer Wrestler

“I missed a steer in Round 6 at the 2009 NFR (Wrangler National Finals Rodeo) and chased him around the Thomas & Mack Center Arena by the tail and took him into the box before I eventually got him thrown down. It was relatively embarrassing chasing one around the arena by the tail (shown here) on national television. It even made the front page of the Las Vegas Review-Journal (newspaper) the next day.”

World Champion Saddle Bronc Rider

“After my ride in the third round at the 2008 NFR, I got off on the pickup man. I thought it was over, but that bronc ran around the arena, lined me out, ran me over and stomped my arm (shown here). The biggest mistake I made was taking off two rounds before I switched hands after I broke my arm. I wish I’d just switched hands and got back on the next day, because sitting out cost me some money. There’s a lot of money in Vegas, so you gotta do what you gotta do.”

World Champion Heeler

“Brandon Beers and I were high call at Pendleton in 2008 (shown here). We’d won the first round and placed good in the second round. We had 9 to win it and we had the very best steer of the whole rodeo. Brandon turned him to win the short round and I just completely missed him. My loop went in there. I knew I had him caught. And it was like someone threw it right back out. I rebuilt and we still placed in the average, but that was one of the first big rodeos I had a chance to win. It was devastation. I was so bummed out. I was so upset that I couldn’t even be mad. It was such a heartbreaking feeling that it took the air out of me.”

World Champion Tie-down Roper

“The only thing I can look back on and say I really messed up on was deciding to home school the last two years of high school and not walking with my class. Tuf (Cooper) and I decided to home school at the same time. We thought that’s what we needed to do to get where we wanted to go to. In one way it’s hard to say it didn’t work out, because we’ve won the last three gold buckles. But school is part of life, and I missed out. We both finished high school and got a diploma. But walking with your class is something people take pride in and we didn’t get to do that. My trainer graduated in my class. So did the guy who’s working on my house right now. They got to walk across that stage, and I didn’t. It’s something I look back on and wish I’d done differently.”

World Champion Bull Rider

“The most memorable mistake of my career was turning out of the Pendleton short round in 2012. I was out in the first perf and drove back to Abilene. I think I was 83 on my first bull (at Pendleton) and was coming back at the bottom of the pack, maybe 10th or 11th. I’d gone to Abilene and looked at flights to get back to Pendleton. It was like $1,500 for a one-day flight. So I turned out. I ended up losing the world by $2,000 ($1,056, to be exact) that year. If I’d shown back up I may not have won Pendleton. But second or third would have made the difference that might have won the world. At the time that expensive ticket didn’t seem like a good idea. In hindsight, it was probably a big mistake on my part. I thought I’d stay home an extra week with my family. But looking back it was not a good decision. I don’t turn out in short rounds anymore, no matter where I’m coming back.”
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