A Race for the Finals (Down the Line, Stran Smith)

For the last two years, during the NFR, I was winning the world until the last calf was roped. This year I’m sitting fifteenth and flying to rodeos across the United States, back and forth, trying to qualify.

My main priority right now is to stay focused and not get in my own way. In the last two weeks I’ve been to California, Florida, Georgia, Texas, back to California and Texas. Right now I’m headed to Montana and afterwards will go to Kansas City, Missouri, then South Dakota, back to Missouri, then to California again. In a month’s time I’ve been 10,000 miles, the same amount of traveling I normally do over the fourth of July – but to rodeos that don’t pay nearly as well.

The cool part is that I don’t know how it will turn out. If you listen to a sports commentator after he’s watched a game, he sounds like the smartest guy in the world. On the other hand, I don’t know how this will turn out. I have confidence in the outcome, just like I did with my heart surgery – but I don’t know it for sure.

As tough as it sounds, I’m not going to let it keep me from enjoying the experience. I welcome this opportunity and will use it to help make me stronger when I’m under the gun. This is the second time in my career to go through this; the first time I made the finals by $14.

Hopefully, this year I’ll emerge without cutting it that close, but I’ve come to realize that they’ll have this event with or without me. Whether I make the NFR or not will not affect world peace and if I don’t make the finals, no one’s going to eat me – it’s not the end of the world. My philosophy is to enjoy the experience no matter what. Thankfully I enjoy roping under pressure. Is my situation bad? Not really, I only have to be slightly observant to notice others who have it a whole lot worse.

Here’s the real deal – I’ve got two little boys sitting in the back seat watching me and learning from how I react in every situation. What’s really important is for them to honestly be able to say, “Win or lose, my dad was the truest guy I know.”

If I can accomplish that, I’ve won the world, with or without a gold buckle.