When school lets out, Becky White's busy season begins.
While other 17-year-olds get part-time jobs or bask in the sun through their off-months, she's in her backyard arena practicing roping and racing.
"You just have to put so much time into rodeo," White said.
She practices on her own during the day, then, when her parents, Robbie and Willie White, get home, she works with her animals until it's too dark to see.
Then, every weekend, she and her parents load up their three-horse trailer and head off to that week's rodeos. Usually, she'll compete in two one-day contests, but sometimes, she'll have three back to back.
She got started in the sport seven years ago, because her sisters, Lacy and Kelly, are involved. The women have been around horses all their lives, so moving into the rodeo arena was a natural step.
Lacy now competes at a professional level, and Kelly still participates locally.
Becky competes in the High School Rodeo, Junior Rodeo and Little Britches associations, and in the breakaway roping, pole bending, barrel racing and goat tying categories. She travels throughout Colorado and Wyoming to compete.
White sees a division between her friends who rodeo and those who don't because "it's a different lifestyle."
Her season runs from April to September, so she's busy during the school year and over the summer, so much so that she does not get to see many of her high school buddies often. But she thinks that sacrifice is worth it.
"That's where my best friends are (anyway), from rodeo around the state," White said.
Brandon Whitaker, 17, who's been doing rodeo since he was 8, feels the same way.
"It's what I've done forever," he said. "I like to rodeo so much that I don't even notice I spend so much time doing it."
He also practices daily and travels on the weekends. He does the High School Rodeo and Little Britches contests, as well as the United States Team Roping Championship with friend Clay Foulk, 17. He participates in the calf roping and team roping classes.
"I like that it's more individual," he said of calf roping. "You have to worry about your horse, but you don't have to worry about another person."
He also likes the way the competition affects him.
"When you do good, you feel good about it, and most of the time you'll win more money than you paid to get in," Whitaker said.
White likes the atmosphere of the rodeo, and outside the arena as well. She and her friends play football and hang out between competitions.
"The rodeo environment's a lot of fun," she said.
No matter how much time and effort she puts into preparing and competing, White's happy with her choice to rodeo. She likes the road, the arena and the moments spent in between. She wouldn't change a thing.
Michelle Perry may be reached at 824-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org.