Time for some rodeo

This is Jon. The Ellensburg Rodeo officially begins the Friday before Labor Day, but rodeo for me is an all year thing. As we get closer to the Ellensburg Rodeo, however, things get really rolling. On Wednesday, a local family hosts what they call the "Best of the Best" roping. Seriously, the best and biggest calf ropers and team ropers in the world descend on the WestStar Ranch arena (yes, he has a lighted rodeo arena, complete with a press box and stands surrounding the fence in part of his backyard, of course, his backyard is 100 acres). These guys are the most gracious people you're going to meet and always willing to sit for an interview or just simply chat and hang out as I've gotten to know these guys over the past 10 years. I'm calling them or seeing them all the time through the years. Just today I walked up and chatted up Trevor Brazile while is wife and daughter watched he and his son toss a fishing line into a creek. Trevor, to compare to "normal" sports would be the Michael Jordan, Hank Aaron or Joe Namath of rodeo. He's the best, but has no barriers or entourage protecting him. His 3-year old son and baby daughter might be more popular than him soon since they have their own clothing line for Wrangler. Seriously.

In the background is Kelsey Parchman, a team roping header. In the foreground is Michael Jones, the heeler. Kelsey had never made the world finals until last year when one team roping run won him $50,000 at RodeoHouston (no, that's not a typo, RodeoHouston is one word). Michael is sponsored by Jelly Belly, which isn't a staple at rodeos, but he happens to know a big wig there who thought it was a great marketing campaign to paint Michael's horse trailer (which is basically a house on wheels) as a moving Jelly Belly advertisement that probably sees around 40,000 miles a year. I did a story on it last year. He was visiting an assisted living home handing out jelly beans to some residents and giving tours of his trailer. How can you not like a guy like that?

The guy in the red is Rich Skelton. The guy to his left is Trevor Brazile. Rich won the team roping world title with his partner Speed Williams eight straight years...unprecedented and will probably never be equaled or even challenged. There was a slogan that never got old to me: If you want to get Rich, you have to have Speed. Trevor has won 11 world titles, including 7 all-around titles (all-around means you compete and do very well in more than one event). Trevor team ropes, calf ropes and steer ropes. He's won two titles (Gold Buckles) apiece in tie-down and steer roping. He's the sport's first $3 million cowboy in career earnings, but let's just say he probably doesn't pay for his truck, trailer and other incidentals, too. Some of these trucks and trailers these cowboys have are unbelievable.

The guy roping in slack (happens before the rodeo actually starts, that's why there's no fans in the stands except us die-hards). Justin McKee is a steer roper, but he's more famous for his voice. He's back in Ellensburg as the voice of the rodeo and he's got a great personality, a gregarious voice and a knack for saying the right thing at the right time. I wish I could announce a quarter as good as Justin. This event above is steer roping which the whack jobs at PETA think is too harsh. As you can see above, Justin has caught his steer and the rope is lingering to the steer's right hind end. Justin is going to dally the rope around the saddle horn, make a 90-degree left and trip the steer to the ground before dismounting and tying the steer's legs with a piggin' string. It's awesome.

The above video is of Trevor steer roping. You can hear me saying something like, "That's the way it's done," but a few seconds later, saying "never mind" as the steer got up before the six-second wait period to ensure he stays down. Even the best roper in the world has difficult days.


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