Living the Dream

Written by Teresa Dennard.

One shot at it and that's all you get

For a good part of his 20 years, Bryce Barney has been sitting on top of a horse either riding or roping. Starting in the six and under age group in the Piney Woods Youth Association, Bryce competed in barrel racing, goat tying and breakaway roping. From there he progressed to riding steers and junior bulls. He didn’t care much about calf roping till he turned 15. “One day we went to an open rodeo in Jacksonville,” recalls Bryce, “and it was the first time tie-down calf roping went smooth for me. We were on the way home and I told Dad that I was gonna quit riding bulls and focus on roping. I’m glad I did even though there’s more money in riding bulls in this day and time. The pure factor of what it does to your body made me rethink what I was doing. I’m glad I don’t have to worry about that anymore.”

 Rodeoing was always a family affair for the Barneys. Most every weekend, Jeb and Sandy Barney were hauling Bryce and older brother Spence, to a rodeo somewhere to compete. “When you’re together as a family every weekend,” says Bryce, “you grow closer. My dad was a roper and my mom barrel raced a little bit, but it really wasn’t her cup of tea. It was Dad’s deal for sure. A lot of kids don’t want their parents with them, but me, I’m kind of the opposite. They help me out a lot and I enjoy it when they go with me.” There’s a room full of saddles, tack and trophies to show for the skills they mastered over the years. Spence’s biggest payday came at the International Finals Youth Rodeo in Shawnee, Oklahoma, which is the richest youth rodeo in the world. The event draws contestants from Australia to Canada. He won the All-Around and came home with a 2-horse trailer, a Gist buckle, a saddle and close to $7,000 in prize money. Not only does it take a lot of personal skill to rope, but a good horse is also essential. According to Bryce, a good roping horse can cost upwards of $20,000 these days. “My first good calf horse was passed down from Spence. I rode him from the time I was 15 until about 17. I’ve now inherited his yellow horse. He’s been real good to me. That’s my A game, my best horse right now. I have a 4-horse trailer with living quarters and I usually carry three horses when I go to rodeos—a calf roping horse, a team roping horse and a bull-dogging horse.”

The next part of living the rodeo life is the traveling. “Life on the road is fun. It’s living the dream…it’s what I always wanted to do. Rodeo is a tough, mental game. Physically, I know I have what it takes because I’ve done it for so long, but after you drive all night to get there and you wake up the next morning at 9 am and eat a honey bun, then back in the box to rope, it plays a role on your mind.” Bryce plans to enter the calf roping event at the Panola County Cattleman’s Association PRCA Rodeo in May. To enter a rodeo, if it’s a one-header (only one calf to rope), fees are $75-$100. “A three-header can cost up to $1100, but, of course, the payout is amazing. If you win, they write you a check for 20 grand. It’s just a gamble you take. Everything has to go right—your horse has got to work good, you’ve got to draw a good calf, and then you have to perform to the best of your ability. What’s so crazy about rodeoing that people don’t understand, it’s not like a baseball game where you kind of warm up through the game and you get better. When you back in there, you have one shot at it and that’s all you get.”

A member of the Panola College Rodeo Team for two years, Bryce has learned how long and expensive the travel can be. “We recently went to Kingsville. (You can throw a rock to Mexico from there!) As part of the Rodeo Team, we get $150 for expenses. With the cost of diesel, that won’t get you very far, but it helps out and I’m grateful for it. We take care of all our expenses—horse feed, vet care, travel. I try to get somebody to ride with me so we can split the costs and it makes the trip go by faster to have somebody to talk to.”

Bryce’s future plans are to attend SFA and major in Ag Business. He thinks he may get his teaching certificate so he can become a college rodeo coach like his coach, Dameon White. “I know just about everything there is in rodeo. That’s right up my alley, helping kids and being around rodeo. My dad told me one time that if I find something I enjoy and love to do and get a degree in it, I won’t go to work a day in my life. But right now I’ve got my entire life invested in rodeoing, and I want to make something good before I walk away from it.”