Rodeoing family tradition

Liliana Castillo

As a girl raced toward the first barrel on her trusty steed, Sally Bland yelled “Go Stephanie!”

Then she realized that wasn’t Stephanie. Stephanie was that girl’s mother.

“She so looked like her, competing in the same event and everything,” Bland said.

At the High Plains Junior Rodeo Association Finals, it’s not unusual for competitors to have generations of family watching them compete in the same finals those family members competed in as youngsters.

In its 37th year, the association’s finals have been held in Clovis since the beginning, Association President Ryan Figg said. As usual, the finals are a family event.

Bland, of Tatum, has kept time for the finals for two years. She said she participated in junior rodeo with the American Junior Rodeo Association and her children followed with HPJRA. Now her grandchildren, Barrett Bland and Jayce Bland, are competing in the HPJRA finals.

“Of course, it’s a lifestyle,” Bland said of rodeoing. “What we enjoy the most is time spent with family. We’re around people with the same values and morals and beliefs.”

Bland said her grandchildren are rodeoing with her peers’ grandchildren.

“In this day and age, it’s best if parents monitor their friends, their friends’ families. Society has changed that much. Here, we know everyone’s families. That’s very important,” Bland said.

Curry County resident Jo Hughes said the families spent much of the summer together, traveling from one rodeo competition to another around New Mexico.

“The friends and memories you make here, you keep for life,” she said.

Hughes’ children are competing in the finals this year.

“It’s so family oriented,” she said. “This is one of the best associations for kids around.”

The HPJRA finals include events for children ages 6 through 19. This year, about 100 youth competed in the 5-day event from eastern New Mexico and west Texas.

Bland said she remembers watching Ryan Figg compete in the finals.

“It’s just fun for me to see these kids doing this,” she said.

The Figgs, of Clovis, are another generational HPJRA finals family. Ryan Figg’s son, Colter, has competed in the event since he was 6.

Now 10, Colter competes in steer breakaway, team roping, calf breakaway, calf touch and double mugging but double mugging is his favorite.

“I like just getting to come out here with friends and family,” Colter said. “It’s pretty cool my dad got to do the same things I get to do.”

Ryan Figg said rodeo is a family sport.

“You practice at home together, you travel to different rodeos together and you’re with family all the time,” Figg said. “It’s a great way to raise kids.”

Figg’s two younger sons, 5-year-old Cade and 3-year-old Cross, aren’t quite old enough to compete but that didn’t stop Cross from trying to rope boot heels all day Thursday.

“We don’t start them young, they do it on their own,” Figg said, laughing. “The time that you spend with them is the most important thing.”