‘Rather be roping’
Casey Barnes, 16, high school student, emerging cowboy
February 1, 2012
Casey Barnes describes his childhood in Maybell as simple, and an experience he wouldn't change.
Barnes lives about a mile east of Maybell on a ranch with his family, across the pasture from his grandfather, and only a few miles from many of his cousins.
Instead of wasting away in front of the TV playing video games, Barnes helped move cows. Instead of toiling on the Internet, he rode horses.
Elementary school was in a one-room structure in Maybell, a small town 30 miles west of Craig, instead of one of the three schools in Craig.
Barnes, 16, said he has loved his upbringing.
"I help my grandpa move his cows and I move our cows and ride our cattle," he said. "I enjoy doing it and it is a good way to make some money. It has its ups and downs, but it is a good way of life.
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"I have grown up around it my whole life and it was what I was taught to do."
In his blood
The way of life has allowed Barnes to grow up feet from his favorite thing to do — rodeo.
The Barnes family has a rodeo arena on their property where Barnes and his younger brother, Cutter, practice.
"I can practice any day I want and I can take as many runs as I need to," he said. "I have all my horses here and have my own steers, so it makes it easy."
Barnes started competing in rodeo when he was 6. He said he started by team roping on his parents’ old horses.
Rodeo is something he also can do with his family, Barnes said, including his cousins — the Vernons, the Steeles and the Taylors.
As Barnes got older, he could participate in more events, from breakaway roping to riding bulls and roping calves.
"It was kind of a family thing and everyone did it," he said. "I practice every day depending on how much time I have. I at least try to rope every day."
Barnes said the next event he wants to try is bulldogging.
However, Barnes had to put his rodeo career on hold after getting injured during the summer.
Barnes fell off while bull riding in Monte Vista and the bull ran over his left leg, crushing his ankle.
"I tried to get up after I got stepped on, but I just flopped over, so I knew it was broken," he said about his ankle. "I had to have lots of surgeries and I have been out a long time and am just now starting to come back.
"I can't run like I could before and I don't have all my strength and motion back yet."
Barnes was on crutches and had external fixations on his left leg for about four months.
The injury was severe, Barnes said, but it hasn't turned him off the sport.
"I plan on continuing to do rodeo the rest of my life," he said. "When I go to college, I want to continue and hopefully some time compete in the National Finals Rodeo."
Barnes attended the one-room schoolhouse from first to fourth grade.
He said there were about eight students with one teacher and one teacher's aide in the one-room schoolhouse.
Barnes said the school was surprisingly efficient despite the range of ages and grades.
"They spread it all out and had everything planned out so they could help everyone," he said. "You still had your classes where you would go up to a table and that was your class and you went back to your desk.
"There wasn't as many kids who cause trouble, so it was more about getting your stuff done."
In fifth grade, Barnes started going to school in Craig and attended Moffat County High School his freshman year.
However, because of his leg injury, Barnes and his parents decided he would take online classes for his sophomore year so he could stay off his injured leg.
Barnes said the decision was made because of his injury, but his family has thought about homeschooling for a while.
"We have been wanting to do online school for awhile and we didn't want me walking around with rods sticking out of my leg, so we went with it," he said. "After the injury, it also allows me to practice more and go to rodeos without having to miss days of school."
Barnes said he does homework for a couple hours each day, but said if he really wanted, he could get a week's worth of work done in a day.
"I still have all the classes I would have (at MCHS), but I only have to go for about two hours a day," he said. "You waste quite a bit of time at school with all the students and going from class to class."
Barnes said he might go back to MCHS for his senior year to graduate, but he is content with taking online classes.
Living near family members, Barnes said, allows him to see his grandpa and most of his cousins at least once a day.
And like any family, there are disputes, but he enjoys time with his family.
"There are times when we argue, but it all works out in the end and we are back to being friends," he said. "During winter break, all us cousins like to ride snow machines and go hunting and just hang out.
"It is nice to be around family that much."
Having family involved with rodeo, Barnes said, also allows him to improve individually.
"Sometimes, it is better to have more people around because there are more eyes to tell you what you are doing wrong," he said. "But, for the most part, I think I like being able to practice on our property."
When Barnes is ready for college, he said he would like to go somewhere warm for a while, like Texas.
Eventually, he said he would like to come back to live outside Maybell and be near his family.
"You get by with a lot more things out here than you can do in town," he said. "You can go ride four-wheelers and snow machines wherever you want and I can ride my horse whenever and wherever.
"We do play video games and go into town sometimes, but most of the time we would rather be roping."