I made the mistake of telling my little boy a story I had heard about Roy Cooper. The fact that the story even registers with him is funny, as the Super Looper is a few years out of most eight-year-olds’ frames of reference. But Crae, even though he’s never seen the patriarch of the trio of current Cooper champions rope, is well aware that there must have been something great about a guy who could win eight gold buckles.
So when I told Crae a story that I had heard about Roy Cooper tying calves until his hands bled and then taping them up and tying them some more, Crae took it to heart. He got a goat tying dummy for his birthday, last summer, but for the most part it has sat in the corner of the living room gathering dust. Every now and then, he has gotten it out and tied it a few times, but he’s never really “practiced” by any means.
However, buoyed by some pretty nice awards he received for his top four finishes in all of his events last year at the junior rodeos, Crae decided it was time to get to work. He asked me, “Dad, how many times did that guy tie calves until his hands bled?” I told him a hundred, just hoping he’d tie his dummy twenty times or so. The little booger grabbed a pen and paper and started tying. He’d tally each run or have me do it, and by about run number twenty, he had it down pretty well.
At about run number thirty-five, his finger started getting a little tender from pulling his hooey through so well. It was pretty cool to watch. In thirty-five runs, he had gone from having to get told how to do it all over again to making really smooth runs that were picking up more and more speed and aggression with each flank of the dummy. Of course, Mandi, who was a pretty studly goat tyer in her day, was on hand to point out some of the finer points of keeping a goat tied, studying the boys ahead of him, and looking the goats over before the rodeo. It was fun to see Crae just lighting up with every success.
He looked at me and said, “Man, this is fun. I’m getting better.”
I told him, “Yep. Pretty quick, it will be automatic.”
“You think Gator Goodrich has one of these dummies?” he asked.
I told him I thought Gator probably had every gadget in the book. I told him, “For Pete’s sake, his dad’s been to the NFR a bunch in the calf roping, so I’m sure he’s got everything it takes to get really good, if he wants to work at it.”
Crae said, “Well, practice is what it takes to get good,” and he flanked that goat again.
By the time Crae had gotten to sixty, he had made several flawless runs, and it was becoming automatic. He had tape on a couple of fingers. I told him he needed to quit. He argued, “But I’ve only got forty to go, and I’m not bleeding yet.” We told him he needed to be able to do it again tomorrow, and he agreed. “One more perfect one, though.” He stuck it on one more and put the tied goat back in the corner.
He and I were talking about it after he finished, and he told me he wanted to be one of the big boys. I said, “You know what it takes?”
He told me, “It all comes down to three words, Dad: practice, practice, practice.”
I laughed. “Yeah, and rich parents.”
I don’t know if Crae will ever be one of the big boys in any of his events. But I AM glad he’s finally figuring out that it takes work to be good at something. We were talking about a show we had watched during the Olympics about raising Olympians. Mikaela Shiffrin’s parents had instilled in her that the fun in any sport was being good because of all of the work one had put into it. Because of that, Mikaela has a passion for drills, for working out, for all of the monotonous exercises that allow her to be the best in the world at skiing a slalom course. Crae’s been paying attention to that a little more all the time. The person who works the hardest usually ends up winning.
I remember my favorite “No Fear” t-shirt from twenty years ago. Emblazoned across the shirt were the words, “Someone, somewhere is practicing right now, and when you meet him in head to head competition, he’ll beat you.” That’s the truth in athletics, with very few exceptions.
I suppose it’s pretty true in life, as well. If we’re not moving forward, we’re moving backward. If we’re not seeking life, we’re settling for death. If we’re not disciplined enough to keep walking toward God, we’re slack enough to fall away from him.
Hebrews 12:11 says, “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Sometimes, it’s pretty hard to make the right choice, the one that leads us to the life Jesus offers. But it’s critical to making it across the finish line in the race that Paul tells us we should run to win.
Broken Horn Ranch Ministries has a mission of bringing Jesus to the Western World through western events and regular fellowship, introducing people to a real God who cares about their real lives.