CHILDRESS, Texas –The Bruce brothers and Colee Cox have a considerable homefield advantage when it comes to the STS Championship, set for April 30-May 2 at the Mashburn Event Center and Arena in Childress.
They’re from here, and they’ve been inside the indoor facility more times than they can count.
“We have the privilege of having that arena in Childress,” said Colee, 13, a seventh-grader who competes in breakaway roping, goat-tying and ribbon roping. “It’s a very nice facility, so no matter what it’s doing outside – whether its raining or really windy or snowing – we can go practice.”
By the time the youth events begin that Saturday morning, Colee and the Bruce boys – Cutter, 13; Sterling, 11; and Quay, 9 – will know every inch of the complex, inside and out. But they’re excited about the experiences they will have on the opening weekend of May.
“A lot of our friends are coming to rope from all around the Panhandle,” said Cutter, also a seventh-grader who competes in breakaway roping, tie-down roping, ribbon roping, team roping and chute dogging. “Most of our friends plan on coming. We’ll have a fun time hanging out with them, too.
“It’s awesome to have an event like this here, because we don’t have to travel with those horses. They’ll get to rest, and they’ll be a lot more comfortable by not having to be hauled three hours.”
Each of the youngsters will have plenty of opportunities to show their stuff over those two days of youth competition. The STS Championship will also serve as a qualifying event for the Vegas Tuffest Junior World Championship, which is expected to take place in December in conjunction with the National Finals Rodeo. That’s obviously a goal for all who put their names in the hat.
“I want to make the Vegas Tuffest in breakaway roping and tie-down, but I’m also going to try to make the “Tuf Cooper” (Junior World Championships),” said Sterling, a fifth-grader. “We’re really thankful for (world champion tie-down roper) Stran (Smith) for putting his name on this; we couldn’t put on this event without him.”
Like his big brother, Sterling likes to be involved. He competes in goat-tying, breakaway roping, team roping, tie-down roping, ribbon roping and double mugging. His favorite? He couldn’t pick just one.
“It’s probably tie-down roping, ribbon roping or double mugging,” he said with a smattering of confidence. “I get to get off my horse on those.”
While all four local youth are the first generations of their families to compete in rodeo, the love of horses goes back for several decades. Parents showed horses, and Colee and Cutter started out doing the same. By the time they were 6, though, they found a passion for something different. Even the youngest, Quay, understands why.
“I do it for fun and because I get to see my friends,” said the third-grader, who competes in breakaway roping and goat-tying. “I also do it because I can make more friends.”
The socialization is a pretty big deal, and rodeo has always had more of a family feel.
“My parents and the Bruces’ parents took us to our first rodeo, and me and their oldest son, Cutter, are very close and in sync,” Colee said. “We told them we wanted to do this, and we haven’t been back to a show since.”
Each child has found success along the way, whether it was competing at the Vegas Tuffest or even at a jackpot in a small Texas town somewhere down the highway.
Being involved in rodeo and caring for animals and others around them is part of the mix. Family has been a major support system, and that also enables them to learn along the way. There’s something in their voices when they speak of the pride they have in their equine partners and what they do to take care of them.
“Being able to compete in Childress is great, because it’s easier on my horse,” Sterling said, noting that his horse is 27 and won’t be put through the rigors of the rodeo trail much longer.
Many changes are ahead for all four, but the oldest three at least have an idea of what they want to do as adults:
Sterling: “I want to be a veterinarian.”
Cutter: “One of my hobbies is beekeeping; I’d like to do that when I grow up and rope for fun in my free time.”
Colee: “I would either like to be a professional breakaway roper or an equine assisted therapist. I have a bunch of autistic friends, and think it would be really cool if I could help them. I’m very caring for those kinds of people and take them in. I think it would be awesome to put that together, being able to help people while using horses to do it.”
Until then, though, they’ll keep roping, tying goats and having fun while they chase titles and hang out with friends. After all, that’s what kids do.