Young roper lassos dream on last night of rodeo
On the final night of the Chisholm Trail Roundup & Rodeo, Gus Stephens grabbed his lasso, mounted his trusty steed and snagged a calf, the same as the other top-finishing ropers did.
There was one difference between the Lockhart resident and the seasoned calf-ropers that took their turn in the arena before him, though.
While he can expertly ride horses, Stephens is still two years away from legally driving a car. Just a couple of weeks before he rode alongside professional roping’s shining stars, Stephens had just finished the eighth grade.
The 14-year-old’s ride was only an exhibition that came a week after a top-10 finish in the Texas Junior High State Rodeo, but his performance was no less remarkable than those of the seasoned competitors a healthy-sized crowd witnessed on Saturday night, Wild Ride Productions owner Jimmy Welvaert said.
“The last hole to pay in the rodeo was in the 11-second range, and he finished only about a second off the money pace,” Welvaert said. “He just went out there and snagged one. I was super proud of him.”
It was a night to remember for Stephens, who accomplished the 12-second ride in front of his mentor, decorated rodeo star Justin Maass, his trainer Wayne Dabbs and world champion calf roper Shane Hanchey.
And he hasn’t been in the saddle long. The son of Colby and Erin Stevens has been roping for only about three years, but his mom said her son is focused on honing his skills as a rodeo competitor.
“It’s a huge money and time commitment,” she said. “He home schools so he can practice during the morning and afternoon. He’s always feeding his animals, working out and training. He’s definitely not getting as much phone or screen time as other kids his age.”
Stephens trains under Maass and Dabbs, who taught him to rope.
His memory of Saturday is one that’s sure to stick with him.
“I think the Chisholm Trail Rodeo was an amazing experience,” Stephens said. “Special opportunity getting to rope against some of the biggest guys in calf roping right now in my hometown.
“I thank God for the opportunity to rope and for such a cool horse. And to my dad who supports me and those who have helped me along the way … Patpa, Wayne and Justin.”
As for future success in roping, Stephens is betting on himself.
“I’m gonna win it someday,” he said.