When Darryl and Sharon Steele taught their four children how to rodeo, they never knew it would pay off when the next generation came around.
Instead of chasing their grandkids all over the West to watch sporting events or listen to recitals, the Steeles merely have to look at the calendar for the next Little Britches rodeo.
Eight of the Steeles' grandchildren participated in Little Britches rodeos this summer. The only problem the grandparents have is keeping track of everybody.
"There were six of them in the short go at the World Finals in Pueblo," Darryl said. "They were running two arenas and one track, and our kids were all over the place."
Darryl and Sharon's children, Pam Taylor, Joyce Barnes, Janice Edwards and Brett Steele, have all reared rodeo competitors. The parents are the primary coaches but the grandparents get in on the action as well.
"I help coach bull riding, and my wife is a good barrels and poles coach," Darryl said.
Maybell Enterprises and Steele Livestock, both of which Darryl and Sharon are a part of, sponsored the Little Wranglers World Champion Saddle the last three years. Last year grandchild Casey Barnes won the saddle.
"We had no idea when we sponsored it that Casey would win," Darryl said. "It was pretty neat."
Barnes moved up to the junior division this year, which meant he could ride bulls for the first time. He said he has dreamed of being a world-class bull rider since he could wear boots. One of his favorite times to practice rodeo is when he gets to ride his grandfather's mechanical bull.
"I rode it even when I couldn't ride bulls," the 9-year-old said. "I've ridden it quite a bit."
Barnes said he learns a lot from his grandfather and his 14-year-old cousin, Troy Vernon. Then he passes it on to his little brother Cutter, or to his other cousins.
"I try to teach what I learn," he said. "It helps us all."
Vernon, who finished third in the world in all-around points for Little Britches, is the oldest of all the cousins.
"Every weekend is like a family reunion," he said. "Everybody makes a cheering club and it gives us an advantage."
That advantage helped the grandchildren bring home a combined 24 belt buckles from the NLBFR last week.
Pam Taylor's two sons, 6-year-old Dusty and 8-year-old Denton, brought home a combined nine buckles.
"We were hoping to do better but the competition was tough," Pam said. "It was a fun experience for us there."
When the Taylors arrived home from Pueblo after a long summer on the rodeo circuit she expected them to take a break from the sport. But, "the first thing they did was put on the rodeo stuff and play all week," she said. "It's amazing that they want to do nothing else."
Taylor Vernon, 12, said that rodeo is in the family blood.
"Our whole family does it, but I do it because it feels great," she said. "There's no pressure, but most likely we'll all still be doing it when we're older."
Taylor is the only girl cousin to compete at the finals.
"It's hard sometimes as the only girl," she said. "Sometimes there's a lot of house cleaning."
Whether it's Casey listening to every word Troy has to say or Dusty Taylor and Trent Vernon walking in the grandstands with their arms around each other, it's visible that the family loves being at the rodeo.
That could come from the attitude that has been instilled into the family by the matriarch.
"I really like to see their best effort when they compete," Darryl said. "Then it's good to have fun in between."
Pam's coaching philosophies were similar. "It's important to stay focused when you're out there competing," she said. "It's all business during the event but they all have fun."
In the long run Darryl said that it won't be the end of the world if none of his grandchildren stick with rodeo. It's the values they learn now that can transfer to other areas of life.
"It's worth every bit of time, effort and money," he said. "It's an investment in their future because of the work ethic, family values and responsibilities they learn to take on."