A real Oklahoma cowboy: Meet the next cowboy in line to become Oklahoma rodeo royalty
Rodeo's are about cowboys and cowgirls, bucking broncs, belligerent bulls, ropes and piggin' strings, belt buckles and cowboy hats. But most importantly it's about time.
It's a sport where 10ths of seconds can separate you from a big purse and even a world's championship, which is why 20-year-old PRCA calf roper Tyler Milligan practices each and every day.
"You have to because everybody else is," said Milligan. "If you want to beat everybody else you have to do like they do and that is practice every day."
This Pawhuska cowboy has had a rope in his hand since he was 5 years old. His father was a roper too, but at no time did he push Tyler to follow in his footsteps or to spend hours and hours practicing.
"I would try to get him to back off some, but the more I tried to get home to back off the more he wanted to do it," said Steve Milligan, Tyler's father.
The fruits of Tyler's labor are everywhere in his father's log cabin that sits on 892 acres of Osage County land. The belt buckles from numerous titles, the saddles that are stacked throughout the house. In December, Tyler will add another title, 2017 PRCA calf roping Rookie of the Year. He's excited about reaching that goal, but there's no time to celebrate. He's focused on his next goal.
"That was one goal, but the end goal is to make it to Vegas," said Milligan. "That's my goal for next year. What we're going to try and do."
The 2018 season is already underway and Tyler is 12th on the money list. A trip to the National Finals Rodeo is certainly a possibility, but that means competing against the best in some of the biggest rodeos in the world -- San Antonio, Denver, Fort Worth and Houston.
"It pays $50,000 to win Houston," said Milligan. "Fifty, then pays 25, then 12 something like that. I don't know the numbers exact."
He may not, but Tyler knows what it takes, practice, good equipment and a darned good horse.
"It's everything," he said. "If you've got a good horse, you've got over half the battle figured out. If he scores good and he's fast and can help you out, that's everything."
Consequently, as with most cowboys, these stars of the show are treated that way. A large percentage of this cowboy's budget goes toward his animals.
"If you take good care of them, probably 45 percent. If you take good care of your horse, they eat before you do," said Milligan. "They're everything. They're more important than you just about."
And ropers can't skimp on their very basic piece of equipment -- their ropes of course. Most new ones cost at least $100 and they'll last about one, maybe two rodeos.
"Their ropes, if there's moisture in the air, they get stiffer," he said. "The sun will make them softer, so you can make them however you want them. The way this one is is the way I like 'em."
He doesn't like soft ropes, doesn't like finishing second and doesn't like traveling, but the latter he understands is part of the sport.
"You've got to want to do it," he said. "It's not fun sitting in that truck for 10 hours. You've got to want to go where you're headed."
For Tyler, that road starts in the practice arena.