Rodeo brings roper 1,400 miles from home

Kevin Holamon | Brownwood Bulletin
The front of Michael Tash's horse trailer is home away from home, on rodeo weekends. It's close quarters, but cuts traveling expenses. As most rodeo competitors know, you do what you must to get down the road.

Michael Tash landed almost 1,400 miles from home, for his freshman year of college, and it took him another 4,000 miles to get there.

Tash is from Dinwiddie, Va., where he began competing in team roping at the age of 10.

"I started roping calves when I was 13," Tash said, "and started bull dogging when I was 15."

Rodeo is always a family sport and, practically everyone involved is from a family of rodeo competitors or fans.

"My grandpa was a big rodeo man and kind of a legend on the East coast," Tash said, "and his legacy kind of inspired me to want to start."

Tash's mother had run barrels and ropes now, and an uncle ropes, as well.

So, what brought him from Virginia to Texas?

"I wanted to be out West. There's a lot more money in rodeo out West," he added, "I really wanted to be in the Stephenville area, because it's a big time roping and rodeo area."

Because the prize money was so good in open rodeos and jackpots, Tash didn't compete in high school rodeos until his sophomore year.

"The main reason I competed in the high school rodeos was to be able to have a coach look at me and, hopefully, to get a scholarship out here."

That's where the other 4,000 miles comes in. This past June, after graduating from high school, Tash traveled about 2,000 miles, one way, to the High School National Finals Rodeo in Rock Springs, Wyo. That's where he met Llew Rust, the rodeo coach at Ranger College. 

"Llew offered me a full ride to Ranger," Tash said, "and it was right in the area I wanted to be, so it all worked out."

Rodeo is an expensive sport in which to compete. Particularly when you have to travel with and feed two horses. Of the four he owns and keeps at the college, Tash brought a heading horse and a calf roping horse with him to Brownwood and he borrowed a bull dogging horse.

His horse trailer had only a tack room, at the front, until his dad helped him convert it to a living quarters. They added carpet, insulation, and an air conditioner, which saves a tremendous amount of money on motel expenses. Recently, Tash also won a new pickup at the Tuley Production Roping Competition at Glen Rose.

In a stroke of luck, this weekend, Tash didn't have to compete until Saturday, drawing into the slack in all three events. His parents flew down for the rodeo, so he stayed with them until he had to drive back to Ranger, Friday night, to trailer his horses back Saturday morning.

While out of school for the summer, Tash plans to stay here and compete in as many rodeos as possible. Rodeo is how he wants to earn a living, so now is as good a time as any to jump in. For now, Tash says he has been able to earn enough to stay ahead by rodeoing, without having to get a job. His future plans, other than striving for a professional rodeo career, are to graduate with an associates degree from Ranger, then pursue a degree in mechanical engineering from either Tarleton or Texas Tech, hopefully on a rodeo scholarship, as well.

"I hope I don't have to use it and I can make a living in pro rodeo," he said, "but, if not, I'll have that to fall back on."

Tash said he has been very pleased with Ranger College and its rodeo program. He complimented all of his teachers and is happy that the school is close to so many rodeo and roping events.

"It's a smaller school, but the coach is great," Tash said, "he's always there for the kids and helping them out."

"He lets the kids practice pretty much at will, during the week, and rope as much as they want to rope," Tash added, "and he's always there in the arena with you and always willing to help with anything."

"If it wasn't for Ranger College and Llew Rust, I probably wouldn't have been able to come out here."