My Heroes (Down the Line, Stran Smith)

This month, I was struggling with writer’s block and asked for ideas on my Facebook page. The response was overwhelming and one of the suggestions was to write about my heroes.

One of my biggest heroes growing up was my grandfather. Most of us love John Wayne, the cowboy. Well, my grandfather was that cowboy in real life. When I was young and out of school during the summers, I got to spend a lot of time with him on the ranch. I would ask him to tell me stories and he would tell me about some wild bull roping or doctoring a yearling with screwworms. He always had a story about a wild wreck they got into. That was great entertainment for me because the stories were true and my grandfather was larger than life.

Poppa died two days before I qualified for my first NFR in 1995. That was very hard for me, but even harder for my dad. My dad had been in the pasture with him since he was a little boy. They were best friends and so in tune with each other they would finish each other’s sentences. They were like an extension of each other.

I was looking at photo of my grandfather yesterday and it brought back to me what a great man he was. He didn’t try to be cool, he didn’t have to try, he just was. He was soft spoken, but there was never any doubt he could put any situation right, if necessary. All his dealings were done by handshake.

My grandfather and our life on the ranch, inspired my latest venture. Jennifer and I have partnered with Carroll Original Wear and designed a line of jackets, vests, chaps and other functional clothing for ranch work. STS Ranch Wear will be available in retail stores by September 1st and we’re finding that major farm and western stores are excited to carry it.

The biggest life lesson I learned from my grandfather is to be real and true to yourself. Be who you are and proud of that. That’s what I want to teach my children. You don’t have to be a cowboy in my family, but whatever they choose to do, I want them to have those traits. That’s what was passed down to me.

Until next time, God Bless, and I’ll see you down the line. If there’s something you would like me to write about, drop me an email at strant@aol.com.

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Are You All In? (Down the Line, Stran Smith)

The other day, I had to go to Amarillo to the vet, get my horse shod, and do some other errands. My mom happened to have a doctor appointment at the same time so we arranged our schedules to go together. That gave us two hours, each way, to visit and spend some time together.

I won’t say I’m a favorite, but I am the last of five and the baby of the babies. So there’s not much I can do wrong in my mother’s eyes. When we get a chance to spend time one-on-one, it usually doesn’t take long for the conversation to get deep. However, I was more than surprised by what she had to say:

“When you were about 17 and decided you wanted to rope, I’ve never seen anyone, in my lifetime, who was as committed and determined once you knew what you wanted. You weren’t going to accept anything but the best from yourself. You were working towards a world championship and weren’t like a kid anymore. Once you had that goal, you went at it like nothing I’ve ever seen before.

“Since winning the world in ’08, I know you’ve had surgeries and health problems, but you just haven’t roped the same. You’ve got the ranch, the cattle business, your bull business and all your other businesses. If you’re going to rope, you better make it your top priority and quit splitting time with all these other things.”

Now I’m usually the one who’s always pumping everyone up and here my mom’s telling me if I’m going to do it, I better be all in. You can’t split a career in half and see how it works. It got me to thinking how I’ve been cheating myself. When you’re not healthy, it’s easy to spend time doing other things.

The fact is I’ve never had a “Plan B.” I’ve been asked over and over what my plans were if roping didn’t work out. I’ve never given myself an out—I just don’t have a Plan B. One thing I can’t deal with, is not performing to the best of my ability. That’s just not acceptable to me.

My mom then said, “You’ve always been someone who had something to prove, more to yourself than anyone. Now, you do have something to prove because everyone thinks you’re too old, too broke down, you work out too much. Now, you have something to prove.”

I’ve always been a student of the game and a fan of any success story. I like to hear how the athletic brain works and how to deal with pressure. I wrote down a quote one day that said, “Some people go to seminars, read books, or listen to tapes on how to be successful and how to win. Other people simply win.”  Not to say you can’t learn something, but the way I win is the way I win. What works for a pro basketball player may not work for me.

This conversation with my mother means a lot, especially if you know our relationship. She was not calling me out, she was revving me up. She knows me and how I work. There’s no greater love for us than God, but a mother’s love is a close second. I’m sorrowful for people who don’t have that relationship with their mother. I do and I’ve been blessed with a wife that has that special love and bond with our children.

My dad’s advice is infrequent and important. He’s like E.F. Hutton—when he speaks, I’m listening. But for my mom to call me out, so to speak, was so unusual it caught me by surprise. The timing was perfect and exactly what I needed to hear. She more or less asked me, “Are you all in?”

“Yes, Mom; yes, I am.”

If there’s anything you would like me to write about, please send me an email at strant@aol.com. Until next month, God Bless, and I’ll see you down the line.

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Cactus Ropes Introduces the Nitro

PLEASANTON, Texas—April 2, 2012— Cactus Ropes has launched a new rope in conjunction with endorsee Cesar de la Cruz.  The neon green Nitro is available as both a head rope and a heel rope.

Nitro | Cesar de la Cruz | Cactus Ropes: The Official Rope of the PRCA

Nitro | Cesar de la Cruz | Cactus Ropes: The Official Rope of the PRCA

“If I were to sum up this rope, I would say it offers heavy-bodied performance in a small, fast package,” states Barry Berg of Cactus Ropes.  Featuring four blended strands, the Nitro offers increased tip weight for swing and timing, as well as maximum body for accuracy.

Cesar de la Cruz states, “It’s fast and balanced with the action of a rope that’s smaller in diameter, but it has enough body to hold its shape and give me great tip control when I place my loop.”  Regarding the rope’s neon green color, de la Cruz explains, “I’m a big visual guy.  I like to see the steer jump into my loop.  The Nitro practically glows in the dark, so it’s great in all lighting conditions.”

When he joined the Cactus team earlier in 2012, de la Cruz wanted a specific rope to meet his needs.  He began work with Barry Berg to develop and test ropes that matched his vision.  “One of the things I wanted was durability.  I like a rope that will last an entire roping, and more,” states de la Cruz. “Nitro is tough.  It can take more runs because it holds the horn so well.”

Nitro’s performance is already being seen in the team roping arena.  Jake Long was swinging its distinctive green loop when he recently won the YMBL Championship Rodeo in Beaumont, Texas.  The Nitro is now available at your favorite roping retailer.  Additional information can also be found at www.cactus.com/nitro.

More about Cactus Ropes

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

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Ride a Solid Horse (Down the Line, Stran Smith)

Recently, I was asked why some people progress faster than others when learning to rope. There can be number of reasons, but usually the most obvious is the horse they’re riding. It’s pretty common to see a youngster or novice show up at a school riding a young horse that doesn’t know any more than they do. This is the worst possible scenario for learning and a recipe for disaster. Neither will enjoy it and it’s impossible to learn and teach a horse when you don’t know what you’re doing.

Sometimes, novice ropers show up to a school with high-powered $20,000 horses. Riding an open caliber, expensive horse will not make you learn any faster. In fact, the horse will more than likely be ruined and the kid will get discouraged. I wouldn’t let my boys learn on Destiny. First, she would run out from under them, and if they happened to stay on, she would probably throw them over her head when she stopped. You wouldn’t dream of teaching your kid to drive in a Ferrari.

Recently, at one of my schools, there was a young man riding one of the best little horses I’ve ever seen. He didn’t stand out as a kid who had grown up with a rope in his hand. But, by the second day, he hadn’t missed a calf and it was obvious to me that a lot of it was due to his horse. This horse couldn’t necessarily run like the wind, but he just did everything right for him. In fact, he reminded me a lot of the horse I rode at the finals. This horse scored like a post and when he dropped his hand, the horse took off. He was just a great solid little horse and this is exactly what you’re looking for as a parent or novice.

You need an older horse to learn on that will go do the same thing every time. When riding a solid horse, you will have more fun, and the more fun you have, the better you will get. I’ve bought more than one horse in my career that was over 21 and paid pretty big money for them. If you take good care of them, they’ll last as good as a young horse, sometimes better.

Find someone you trust in this business to help you find this kind of horse. People think they can’t afford this kind of horse when in reality there are horses getting older every day that need a good home.

Until next time, God Bless, and I’ll see you down the line. If there’s anything you would like me to write about, drop me an email at strant@aol.com.

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Cesar de la Cruz Joins Cactus Ropes

PLEASANTON, Texas—Feb. 22, 2012— Cesar de la Cruz has joined the roster of professional cowboys representing Cactus Ropes, stating “I’m honored to be part of this group, and I’m looking forward to working with the Cactus team on some exciting projects this year.”

Highlights from de la Cruz’s 2011 professional season include wins at the Justin Boots Championships, Pendleton Round-Up, Omak Stampede, Rodeo Austin, Laughlin River Stampede and the Missoula Stampede.  He topped off the competitive season with his sixth qualification at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

“Cesar is an awesome addition to our team,” states Barry Berg of Cactus Ropes.  “He’s a great roper and an innovative thinker.   It’s been very refreshing to share ideas with him about ropes that will help our customers perform at higher levels.”

A heeler from Marana, Arizona, de la Cruz is a third generation NFR qualifier, following in the footsteps of his team roping grandfather, Vic Aros.  Cesar is married to Arena de la Cruz, who was the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association Women’s All-Around Champion in 2008.  Their son Camilo is two years old.

Cesar de la Cruz, Cactus Ropes: The Official Ropes of the PRCA

Cesar de la Cruz, Cactus Ropes: The Official Ropes of the PRCA: Photo Credit: Lone Wolf Photos

More about Cactus Ropes

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

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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 strant@aol.com.

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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.

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