POSTED: Thursday, November 14, 2013 - 2:44pm
UPDATED: Thursday, November 14, 2013 - 3:01pm
Tyler, Texas (KETK) — East Texas is home to some of the biggest and best rodeo teams in the world.
But, the rodeo sport of "team roping," isn't just for cowboys.
Girls even as young at five-years-old, are saddling up with the best of the boys for bull riding, bucking horses and bare-back riding.
Rodeos are no-doubt a Texas tradition.
However, there is some wrangling over where the American rodeo tradition began.But, in West Texas, Pecos is the city marked in the books which held the first ever rodeo, more than 100 years ago, in the United States, and that tradition has grown as more and more people are saddling up.
East Texan Norman Gatlin is a career cowboy. Now retired from the arena, Gatlin has traveled the world competing in rodeos and he's got the metal and the money to show for it.
Gatlin was a world champion team roper in 2000 and his plaque still sits in the Texas Rodeo Hall of Fame.
Gatlin, who is now 76-years-old, stopped riding in 2008. Now, he prefers his easily mountable golf cart as a means of transportation.
But, he says he's the real deal, a true cowboy, and he has a name for people who claim to be cowboys.
"They call them drug store cowboys, they like to dress up like a cowboy but they can't do it, see," said Gatlin.
Gatlin taught team roping school for many years on his farm in Diana. And he says more girls are now heading and heeling with the best of the boys.
"They are really cowgirls too, they really can rope, run barrels, they really can rope," aid Gatlin.
One of those cowgirls is 14-year-old, Briley Carter, of Wells.
Briley was taking home awards in rodeo events since she was in kindergarten.
"I won buckles and bibles, and just little stuff and I did that when i was about 10, but I started when I was 5," explained Briley, who comes from a rodeo family. Her mom, dad and brother are all into rodeo sports.
Briley's dad, Danny Carter, says roping and rodeoing is their sport of choice.
"We take the weekend where a lot of people will go play a baseball game or a basketball game, we will go to a rodeo," said Danny.
And, it's a family affair.
"It was just kind of a family thing, it was just something we could all get out there and do together," said Danny.
Briley's brother, R.D., says since he could remember, he's been practicing to get into the big area.
"Oh, my daddy had me when I could walk swinging rope," said R.D.
At first, Briley wasn't so sure about team roping, because it's mainly a guy sport.
"I wasn't so sure about it, until my dad and my brother wanted me to start," said Briley. "My brother actually taught me more than my mom or dad or anybody else did. I started out heeling and I really liked it, then I switched to heading, and I really liked it."
Briley and R.D. practice together all the time. They practice swing rope on their dummy in their backyard, and Briley know's first hand, practice is important.
Especially, after her recent accident.
"I didn't realize it until I looked down, i didn't feel it, it happened so fast," said Briley.
Briley lost part of her thumb and damaged another finger.
"I went left and my cow went straight, and popped off and half hitched around my thumb," said Briley. "And the extra rope I had in my hands, I didn't let go and it caught the tip of my finger and almost caught my middle finger."
Half-a-thumb and two surgeries later, Briley says it won't stop her from getting on a horse and roping again. She sees it as a right of passage.
"A lot of your professional ropers, you'll see them missing fingers," claimed Briley. "It doesn't matter how good you are or how bad you are, it's going to happen."
And Briley says, it's just one less nail to paint.
Although this hobby can be dangerous, more men and women are becoming devoted to this traditional Texas sport.