All in the Family (Down the Line, Stran Smith)

Thanksgiving is in a few days and a time when I reflect on how thankful I am to be able do what I love with my family at my side. Soon we will head to Vegas where I’ll have the opportunity to win more money than I have all year. This is a blessing and I thank God every day for the opportunities before me. While being an NFR competitor might seem like a rock star existence, the responsibilities and obligations to sponsors that go with the territory can be overwhelming.

Many people don’t realize everything that’s happening during the NFR. In addition to the rodeo every night, there are four trade shows in different locations, there are several talk shows every day, there are rodeo affiliated shows and presentations every night, and the thousands and thousands of people that are there to enjoy the experience.

We get to Vegas six days before the rodeo starts and every day we are in meetings, photo shoots, or breaking in calves. During the NFR every day is taken up with appearances and autograph sessions. I’m very humbled to sign autographs and it amazes me that someone actually wants my signature. You’re meeting someone new every fifteen seconds or so and I feel like it’s important to make a personal connection and say hello when I do meet them.

I probably walk three to five miles every day while I’m out there and invariably will get shin splints every year. Trying to get from one sponsor’s booth to the other can be tricky. If I finish up an autograph session at one booth at 12:30, I’m usually scheduled at another booth to start at 12:30. Getting from point A to point B without getting stopped over and over is almost impossible.

Oddly enough, the most relaxing part of my day is when I go out to the Thomas & Mack and get ready for the rodeo. I take a deep breath and think, “Now I get to rope.” That’s my peaceful time. This year I’m riding a new horse, one that’s never been to the NFR. He’s going to use my experience this year. Unless I’m mistaken, he may be the best horse I’ve ever had there.

Jennifer’s job is a whole other ball game and she’s just as busy as I am during the day. She’s putting stories and shows together. People don’t realize the hours and people it takes to do a 30-second “Behind the Chute” segment. There are literally hundreds of people involved in the telecast of that show. And she has to know her stuff in all the events. She knows every bull and bucking horse, who’s ridden them and what the scores were because she has to be able to ask intelligent questions. She studies all that information in preparation. Plus she’s a mom and this year she’s pregnant. Both of our parents are out there helping with the boys while we work. Jennifer and I just kind of blow and go and see each other when we can.

Believe me I’m not complaining. I’ve been home watching the NFR on television and I would much rather be there competing. This year is especially exciting with five of us in my family competing: my three nephews Clint, Clif and Tuf Cooper, Trevor and myself. My goal is to be in the mix when they’re doing the math for the top spot after the 9th round. I don’t want all the money – just my share of it.

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