Nothing Worth Having is Easy (Down the Line, Stran Smith)

Last November, I had a school at my house for tie-down ropers. The school was for advanced ropers from age 13 to 21. I got an email the other day from the mother of one of the boys. Here is part of that email:

“Tears still fill my eyes as I think back on when he got home, he had such a glow to him and confidence I hadn’t seen in a long time. Not only on the outside, but on the inside too. I don’t know the things you said to that group but you said something right to him, you made him feel he could do and be anything he wanted to and no one can tell him different. You showed him that God is in all things you do, believe in him, believe in yourself and nothing is impossible. We all look at the negative when we are in a situation that we don’t like but that even though we may not like it, there are always positives to it, we just have to look and find them.”

These are my goals and objectives when I’m teaching these young men and boys. The first thing I do is take the pressure off and let them have fun. Face it, there’s a tremendous amount of pressure when a kid comes to a school, especially if he’s not advanced. They’ve seen the pros and then they come to my house and it’s very intimidating. I tell them we’re going to have fun. No one cares if you’re six-seconds or if you miss every calf.

As far as teaching calf roping, I’m very strategic and break it down. I don’t want people to leave and say, “Man, that calf roping is easy.” I want them to know there are lots of blood, sweat and tears and it’s not easy. The message is nothing worth having is easy. Every calf roper at the top of this game has broken their body down.

There’s an old saying, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” That’s the next thing. I have an opportunity to make a connection with these boys, to love them, to encourage them, and to build a relationship. I’m trying to share life skills and if they pick up tips about roping, that’s great.

How many of these kids will pursue this path and become world champions? Maybe a few, but not many. But, they will all leave my house and live life. The principles apply whether you’re a calf roper, lawyer, truck driver – it doesn’t really matter. My main goal is for each person to leave this school and realize if they’ll find what their passion is, and work hard at it, and make the right decisions, they will live a happy life and be fulfilled. That’s my goal for the kids at my schools. My hope is they leave and feel they will be the very best they can be at whatever they are called to do.

Recently, I went to Philadelphia for surgery on my cracked pelvis. The doctors discovered my lower abdominal muscles were pulled in two, which was why my pelvis wouldn’t heal.  They repaired the muscles and now twelve days later I’m back in the gym. I feel like I’m ahead of schedule on my rehab and am hoping to rope at Houston. I’m pretty pumped up.

Until next time, God Bless and I’ll see you down the line. If anything you’d like me to write about, please feel free to contact me at


Another NFR (Down the Line, Stran Smith)

Another Wrangler National Finals has come and gone and I want to congratulate my nephew, Tuf Cooper, for winning his first gold buckle.  He’s roped well all year and I’m very proud of him. I’d sure like to give him a run for his money before I’m done.

Tuf came to my hotel room before the last performance to see if I had any advice. I told him he’d already done the hardest thing, which was sleeping the night before. Tuf is not an early riser and I was a little surprised to get a text from him the next morning at 8:00 a.m. It said: “You were wrong. The hardest thing to do is sleep the night after you win your first gold buckle.” I had to agree, because it took me two or three days before I got a good night’s rest.

This year, we saw a whole new bunch of young ropers. I call them the Ninja Turtles. And, some of the guys that are normally there were absent, like Fred and me. We’ll probably see Fred competing again next year and I’m hopeful to be there myself.

Lots of folks have asked whether I’m injured and basically why I didn’t rodeo in 2011. I went to about twelve rodeos but what has had me sidelined is a fractured pelvis. I was trying a ranch horse who decided to buck me off at a dead run. He didn’t get that accomplished, but did have me convinced I’d pulled my groin. I gave myself a few weeks off before entering a rodeo. As I was crossing and tying the calf, I was fairly certain I would pass out from the pain. I didn’t, but realized then there was something more serious going on than a pulled groin. Dr. Tandy confirmed it with x-rays and I just haven’t healed as quickly as I would like. We recently did an MRI that showed two fractures with some ligament damage and he is conferring with some specialists.

Right now, I’m focused on healing and seizing this opportunity to enjoy my time at home. This is probably the most fun I can remember having. We had our little girl this year and it’s been so nice to be home and spoil her and enjoy the boys.

I would also like to take my hat off to Trevor Brazile. I don’t know if people realize that we are watching an athlete that comes along once in a lifetime, maybe. I know how difficult it is to be one of the top competitors in one event. Trevor consistently is a top competitor in three events. He makes it look so easy that we take his talent for granted. It demonstrates his skill set and how hard he works at what he does. He makes history on a daily basis and I congratulate him for his accomplishments.

Congratulations to all the 2011 World Champions! I’m going to get well and then I’ll see you all somewhere down the line. God Bless.


The Science of Cool

If you are a roper, did you know you can have an influence on what tomorrow’s ropes will look like? Designers must anticipate trends, so that a new rope with the latest features will hit stores just when you need it. That’s the science of cool.

Take Cactus Ropes, for example. The Pleasanton, Texas, manufacturer has stayed competitive by keeping ahead of the curve. Production Manager Barry Berg offered a quick glimpse into the process of discovering and creating the next big thing.

Blueprint for Greatness

Rope-making has changed considerably since Cactus Ropes opened its doors more than twenty years ago. According to Berg, it is still evolving, and his team is always on the hunt for fresh ideas.

Cactus Ropes:  The Official Rope of the PRCA | Team Ropes

Cactus Ropes: The Official Rope of the PRCA | Team Ropes

“At Cactus Ropes, we say that great performances begin with great ropes,” he said. “We rely on the talents of experienced rope makers and input from ropers of all levels.”

One of those is the PRCA’s only $4 million cowboy, Trevor Brazile, who helped design this year’s Freedom rope. The Freedom is the first three-strand in Brazile’s Relentless™ collection, which is made by Cactus Ropes.

“After field-testing many products through the years, I realized the best way to get products to meet my needs was to collaborate in their design,” said Brazile, who is involved in developing the prototype for every Relentless product.

In addition, Berg said that sometimes the best inspirations come from average ropers.

“At the end of the day, our goal is to increase the catching percentage of any roper,” he said. “We want to create the perfect rope for every style, at any level.”

Regardless of how an idea reaches Cactus Ropes, the ones that make it to stores go through the same process.

Cactus Ropes:  The Official Rope of the PRCA | Team Ropes | Shock-N-Awe

Cactus Ropes: The Official Rope of the PRCA | Team Ropes | Shock-N-Awe

The first step is to take an idea and design a rope that meets the need. Then, the team builds the first prototype, experimenting and adjusting the formula until it meets precise specifications. Afterwards, staff test ropers put the rope through its paces at their arenas. Passing that, samples are shipped to endorsees for real-world trials.

“When we have a rope style that we think is ready, we have certain professional ropers on call that we’ll send samples to,” said Berg. “We also give them specific instructions on how to break those ropes in. We tell them to catch five steers per rope the first day. Then, we have them let the ropes rest until the next day, and then see how they feel. After that, they can run as many head as they want. But, that first 24 hours is very important.”

While in the test phase, if a rope line doesn’t meet standards, it will be reevaluated. The design may be tweaked and retested, or completely scrapped.

The final assessment, actual sales, is the most important one. It doesn’t matter how well it tested if it no one is using it. That’s the unseen factor manufacturers are searching to find.

Got a great idea?

Help Cactus Ropes find the next cool rope design. Send them your suggestions at or


Cactus Saddlery, Cactus Ropes, Pro Equine Products and Heel-O-Matic introduce new PRCA Branded Collection

Deerfield, Ill.—November 1, 2011—Cactus Saddlery, Cactus Ropes, Pro Equine Products and Heel-O-Matic Training Systems recently announced the debut of their PRCA Branded Collection. The line was developed in conjunction with the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) and will feature select products that carry the famed organization’s logo.

The companies, which are subsidiaries of the Pro Equine Group, are the designated makers of the Official Saddle, Rope, Equine Sports Product and Roping Training Device of the PRCA.

“We are fully committed to our partnership with PRCA and are proud to incorporate their logo into a select group of products, including equine apparel, practice devices, rope accessories and tack,” states Rebecca Thomas, Senior Marketing Director of the Pro Equine Group. “This line provides a unique opportunity for authorized retailers to share the partnership and gives rodeo enthusiasts another way to connect to this iconic association.”

The PRCA Branded Collection will be available for purchase at select retailers in early 2012.

More about Cactus Ropes, Cactus Saddlery and Pro Equine Products

Cactus Ropes of Pleasanton, Texas, has been crafting ropes and products for competitive roping and ranch work for more than 20 years.  Visit to view products, locate a retailer or learn more about the world champion athletes who swing a Cactus Rope.

Cactus Saddlery is a premier manufacturer of Western saddles, strap goods and saddle pads. Each quality leather good is hand-crafted by skilled artisans at their Greenville, Texas, location, guided with the expertise of professional rodeo athletes. Visit to preview its entire lineup of merchandise, design a custom saddle or locate a retailer.

Pro Equine Products, also of Pleasanton, Texas, is a top manufacturer of protective horse boots and apparel, all of which are designed and tested by champions in a variety of disciplines. Visit to learn more about the company’s line, watch informational videos, meet the Pro Team members or sign up for promotions and newsletters.

In 2012, Cactus Ropes, Cactus Saddlery and Pro Equine Products will merge to form Cactus Group. Part of the Pro Equine Group family of brands, Cactus Group promises to continue to deliver top-quality products that promote the Western lifestyle.

More about Heel-O-Matic

Heel-O-Matic of Longmont, Colo., is the leading manufacturer of team roping training aids. Heel-O-Matic products are designed to provide perfect practice for every level of team roping competitor and horse trainer, from youth to professional. Not only will a Heel-O-Matic machine help improve a roper’s abilities, but targeted drills on the most life-like machine on the market will also help a roper’s horse.   Heel-O-Matic is the only roping machine with the “Heel-O-Matic Hop,” a patented hopping motion that replicates the actual movements of live cattle in tow.  These machines reproduce unlimited run patterns in any location, providing targeted practice to fit any schedule. For more information, visit


A Fred Whitfield Story (Down the Line, Stran Smith)

Not long ago my dad and I built a water gap out on the ranch. Afterwards my dad said, “Well that’s probably the nicest water gap no one will ever see.” As I took a picture with my phone, I said, “Dad, you don’t realize how many people will see this on Facebook.” We worked hard and in a day’s time built something that will last for years to come.

A few days later I was in Omaha, Nebraska, for a speaking engagement during the tour finale. Afterwards I was talking to a couple of businessmen who were not rodeo people, but both had pretty amazing stories.

The first guy happened to be at a rodeo with his small daughter who wanted to enter the Mutton Busting. Neither was dressed in cowboy clothing and were a little out of place. With no prior experience, the dad didn’t have much advice for his daughter. The Tie Down roping immediately followed the Mutton Busting and there was a calf roper who noticed the little girl looking nervous so he struck up a conversation with her. They visited for ten minutes or so and he assured her that he got nervous too. Ironically, she won the Mutton Busting and her dad was surprised to see that calf roper come congratulate her. He stuck around to watch the Tie Down roping. As the announcer introduced their new friend, he was surprised to find that Fred Whitfield was an eight-time world champion.

The other businessman in our little group exclaimed, “I have a Fred Whitfield story too!” A friend of his was roping in Salinas, California, and had made it to the short round. Unfortunately the horse he had been riding was sent to another rodeo before hand.  He was looking for a mount. There aren’t many places as hard on a calf horse as Salinas and repeatedly he was turned down. He then asked Fred Whitfield who replied, “You bet, get on.”

The three biggest athletic professions are football, baseball and basketball. These professional athletes usually have agents and marketing people that seize any opportunity to promote them. If they make an appearance at a hospital or charity, you can bet there are photographers on hand. In both of these stories there was no photo op or agent watching Fred. He was acting on his own, from his heart.

Fred’s competitive drive has been the force behind his more than 3 million dollars in career earnings to make him one of only 3 people to ever accomplish this.  What I want people to realize is that there are many more stories like this , not only about Fred, but most all full time rodeo guys. Many of which never become public knowledge.

Fred Whitfield made quite an impression and created some great memories for those people.  And much like the water gap we built out on the ranch, not many people get to hear about it – but a good job was done just the same.

We still have some spots available at my Tie Down school on November 19th & 20th at my house in Childress. If you are interested, call me at 806-570-8611 or email me at

Till next time, God Bless and I’ll see you down the line…


A New Era (Down the Line, Stran Smith)

Stran Smith, World Champion Calf Roper | Endorsee of Cactus Ropes: Official Rope of the PRCA

Stran Smith, World Champion Calf Roper | Endorsee of Cactus Ropes: Official Rope of the PRCA

Today was the beginning of a new era for our family. Jennifer has homeschooled our boys and they both started public school today. Stone started the second grade and Scout started kindergarten. Things are going to be very different for us. In the past, if I needed to be gone for two weeks, we all loaded up and off we went. I’ve had the luxury of always having them with me. Now, it’s a different ball game and we’ll have to see where it leads us.

Last week, some dear friends of ours, Cody and Stacy Custer, lost their son Aaron in an accident on his first day at college. We went and stayed with them and then returned for the funeral. It was truly a celebration of Aaron’s life.

Three boys were together in the accident and one survived. That boy was on my mind during the service and afterwards I sought him out. When I found him, I wrapped my arms around him and told him that God loved him and had plans for him. I told him this was no accident and that it was all in God’s plans. There would be life to live and things for him to do. I told him not to blame himself for surviving.

In 1996, I was in an accident and lost my best friend, Shawn McMullin. Being strong in faith helped me battle the guilt that tried to take hold. Because I did survive, I have tried to live a life that mattered. I have tried to make a difference, where and when I could, and I’d like to think Shawn would be proud of that.

Now, fifteen years later, here I am with three kids and watching my boys go off to school. I’m beyond grateful for what God has given me. I have a wonderful wife and a beautiful family. I’ve had success doing something that I absolutely love. Don’t think for one minute I take any second of any day for granted. God has a purpose for every one of us and I pray that I’m fulfilling his for me.

Till next time, God Bless and I’ll see you down the line. If there’s something you’d like me to write about, please send me an email at


Letting Kids be Kids (Down the Line, Stran Smith)

Father’s Day has me reflecting and reinforces my belief that being a good father is the greatest responsibility of my life. The most important job I will ever have is to instill good values in my children that will help them be happy and caring adults.

Baseball season just wound down last week for my boys. I’m a coach for Stone’s team, along with a friend of mine. These are eight-year-olds playing machine pitch baseball. I wasn’t there, but heard about the play-offs where mothers on opposing teams came up with different scores. The dads got involved and it almost came to a brawl, completely out of hand and unnecessary. This wasn’t even for the championship, just to see who would play our team. Ultimately, the champions would each get a trophy that cost no more than $3.50.  As ludicrous as this sounds, Junior Rodeo is underway and I can only imagine the potential for problems with buckles and saddles at stake.

These kids are seven- and eight-years-old and should be having a good time. I don’t think I’m raising a professional machine pitch baseball player. As coaches, we try and keep it fun for the kids and it’s disheartening to see parents act like this. It really makes you feel sorry for the kids because they have to be under pressure to win and that’s just inappropriate at that age. There will be plenty of time later for them to experience pressure in life.

We have to do the best we can with our kids. My job is to make it fun and let them enjoy themselves and play to the level they are. If they’re seven, let them be seven.  I see a lot of parents push their kids like it’s life or death. This is a kid that’s not even 10-years-old and they are putting the pressure of a 40-year-old on them. It hurts my heart to see kids go through this, playing a game.

At five- and seven-years-old, my boys really aren’t that interested in roping and that’s okay. I can’t put my desire to win in my boys but can let them see my work ethic, without imposing it on them. My philosophy is that some is taught, but most is caught.

When you start expecting too much from your kids, most of the time you’re asking your kid to do something you couldn’t do yourself. When you put undue pressure on a kid to perform like a professional athlete, do you think it’s a reflection of something you may have been lacking in? Oftentimes, the parents who push their kids hard are those who underachieved or under accomplished.

Most people who have accomplished their goals are pretty content with letting their kid be a kid. Those are the kids who are usually the most successful, though not always at an early age. When you push a kid too young and they’re doing it for you, they’ll be burned out and resentful of you and the sport. I’ve never seen a positive outcome from pushing your kids to compete like professional athletes.

Let your kids know you love them. Don’t rob them of confidence by expecting too much of them. Childhood should be happy and not a challenge.

Till next time, God Bless and I’ll see you down the line.


First $4 Million Cowboy Adds New Rope to Arsenal

PLEASANTON, TEXAS—Trevor Brazile, the only $4 million athlete in Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) history, and Barry Berg, of Cactus Ropes, have developed a new team rope together—the Freedom 3-strand. The Freedom will be officially launched on July 4.

“The first time I used it, I placed at the Mike Cervi Memorial Roping during Tucson,” said Brazile.

Freedom is a three-strand, nylon poly blend with a small diameter, making it suitable for every level of team roper. It is available in both a head rope (small diameter) and heel rope (medium diameter) and each is offered in Cactus Ropes’ four standard lays.

Freedom is the first three-strand rope in Brazile’s Relentless™ collection. It follows the Xplosion and C4 team ropes, Weapon calf rope and Li’l Pistol youth rope.

“I really wanted my line to have a three-strand rope,” states Brazile. “The pure swing and feel is popular with world-champion-caliber ropers, but at the same time, it’s adaptable enough to be a perfect rope for all levels of ropers.”

In addition to ropes, Brazile’s Relentless collection includes products manufactured by Cactus Ropes’ affiliates: saddles, strap goods and pads from Cactus Saddlery and protective leg gear and blankets from Pro Equine Products.

Join the excitement on Facebook as Cactus Ropes gives away two Freedom ropes each week during June. A unique Trevor Brazile Grand Prize will be awarded on July 4th. Watch the Cactus Ropes Facebook page and for more details.

More about Cactus Ropes
Cactus Ropes of Pleasanton, Texas, produces top-quality ropes used by amateur and professional ropers around the world, whether in rodeo competition, in roping arenas, with practice dummies or on the ranch. These ropes are endorsed by the top PRCA athletes participating in national rodeo events and enjoyed by all who use them, young and old alike.

The Cactus Ropes brand signifies quality roping products that combine traditional rope-making artistry with exclusive innovations that deliver consistency, feel and swingability. All of their products are chosen and scrutinized for quality to provide consumers with only the best ropes, clothing, tack and accessories. With a full line of ropes, including team ropes, calf ropes, ranch ropes and kid ropes, Cactus Ropes has something to offer anyone who enjoys throwing a loop.


Cactus Ropes Launches the Freedom

Pleasanton, TX  (May 13, 2011)—Freedom rings on July 4, 2011 when Cactus Ropes launches another great team rope in the Relentless® line.  Freedom is a three-strand nylon poly blend with a small diameter making it a perfect choice for every level of roper.  Freedom is the first three-strand in Trevor Brazile’s Relentless rope collection.  It is available in both a head rope (medium diameter) and heel rope (true diameter) and each is offered in Cactus Rope’s four standard lays.

Trevor Brazile worked relentlessly with rope creator, Barry Berg, to develop the Freedom.  “I really wanted my line to have a three-strand rope,” states Brazile.  “The pure swing and feel is popular with world-champion caliber ropers, but at the same time, it’s adaptable enough to be a perfect rope for all levels of ropers.  Freedom is the ultimate three-strand.  The first time I used it, I placed at the Mike Cervi Memorial Roping in Tuscon.”

Freedom is the fifth rope in the Relentless rope line.  It follows the Xplosion and C4 team ropes, the Weapon calf rope, and the Li’l Pistol youth rope.

Cactus Ropes will give away two Freedom ropes each week during June along with awarding a contest grand prize.  Watch the Cactus Ropes Facebook page for details on the contest or check the website at

Cactus Ropes of Pleasanton, Texas produces top-quality ropes used by amateur and professional ropers around the world, whether in rodeo competition, in roping arenas, with practice dummies, or on the ranch. These ropes are endorsed by the top PRCA athletes participating in national rodeo events, and enjoyed by all who use them, young and old alike. The Cactus Ropes brand signifies quality roping products that combine traditional rope making artistry with exclusive innovations that deliver consistency, feel, and swingability. All of their products are chosen and scrutinized for quality to provide you with only the best ropes, clothing, tack, and accessories. With a full line of ropes, including team ropes, calf ropes, ranch ropes, and kid ropes, Cactus Ropes has something to offer anyone who enjoys throwing a loop.


Live Life to the Fullest (Down the Line, Stran Smith)

This is the sixth year I’ve been writing this Down the Line article. Each month this job rolls around faster than you can imagine and I sometimes scramble for something to write about.

So when faced with this task, I remind myself that people actually want to hear what I have to say. Enough so, that they read my article. That’s very humbling to me – to think that people are actually interested in what I have to say. I believe, as it says in the Bible, when much is given, much is required. And though I’ve been blessed and given so much, I’m still honored and take this very seriously.

At the same time, I ask myself, “Who am I to give advice on life?” Usually when I’m writing about life or my philosophy on how to live, I’m speaking as much to myself as anyone. I do try very hard to give good and honest advice or thoughts straight from my heart.

Ultimately what I want for everyone who reads this article is to live life to the fullest. Expect a lot of yourself and revel in your triumphs and embrace life’s challenges. Because on the other side of the hard times are the good times. The best times of your life cannot be fully appreciated without knowing the joy of surviving and triumphing challenges.

Leading up to my recent shoulder surgery I was in constant pain. I had decided that if the surgery did not remedy this, I would seriously look at winding down my calf roping career. During the recuperation I still had some pain here and there and was hesitant to call the surgery a success. Today I roped twenty-five calves and my shoulder hasn’t felt this good in years. I had forgotten what it was like to rope without pain in my shoulder. I could tell by the smile on my dad’s face what a difference it made in my roping.

Though I had dreaded the surgery and what it might mean, I can now celebrate the outcome. Life is a journey that is sometimes rocky and out of our control, but I plan to soak up each moment and experience and thank God for it.

An experience that has been profound for me recently is having a little girl. I love all my children exactly the same amount, but there’s something a little different, more protective, about having a girl. My daughter is two months old now and it still blows me away. She is so dependent, innocent and pure. It’s given me a new perspective.

If you have any questions or anything you would like me to write about, please email me at Till next, God Bless, and I’ll see you down the line.