By Kendra Santos, ProRodeo Sports News
Have you checked out the world all-around standings lately? Trevor Brazile is still No. 1, and yes, he’s still a few horse lengths in front of the field. But there’s a new deputy sheriff in town, and you might be surprised to see that it’s Bobby Mote.
Four-time World Champion Bareback Rider Mote, who’s ridden at the last 11 straight Wrangler National Finals Rodeos and won well over $2 million riding bucking horses, was fifth in the world in his marquee event at press time with $26,725 in early season earnings. The rest of his $33,912 all-around dollars were won in the team roping.
My family spent a few days roping with friends in Arizona last Christmas, and Riley and Brady Minor’s arena shares a fence with the Gillums, where we were. I was taking ropes off at the back end one day when I noticed the guy bringing the steers up the Minors’ return lane over the fence from me was Bobby. He didn’t just run a couple and roll on. He was in full-court-press mode all day long on more than one horse.
This is how Bobby Mote got to be an iconic bareback rider. It wasn’t raw talent, and he was not a natural. He got beat up and sent home broke in the beginning, but he gritted his teeth and gave it his guts – all the way to the top. Now Mote, who’ll turn 36 in June, is on a new mission. He bought Tyler Magnus’ horse Biscuit last fall for the longer scores, and Speed Williams’ Murphy in March for the fast setups. Armed with that horsepower, he’s taking aim at qualifying for the NFR in a second event.
Mote’s swimming upstream in today’s ridiculously tough team roping climate, and he realizes that. Maybe most amazing to me is how he’s climbed the caliber ladder after first picking up a rope at 25. Just as it’s easier for kids to learn a foreign language when they’re little, learning to rope as an adult is a definite disadvantage. I’ve always figured that’s at least partly because kids don’t know they can’t. But then Bobby Mote doesn’t use that particular c-word either.
“I’ve been learning to rope right in front of everybody,” said Mote, who lives in Culver, Ore., with his wife, Kate, and kids, Laura, Charlie and Trey Lucky. “I didn’t start out team roping at high school and college rodeos. When I decided to team rope there was really no such thing as ducking off for me, because I was at the rodeos with the best guys already (to ride bareback horses). The last four or five years I’ve kept raising the bar for myself, and I’ve been able to spend time with the best guys going. They’ve all been gracious to help me.”
Mote headed for Matt Garza at the first few rodeos this year, then went to a handful of events in Texas with 2000 Rookie Heeler of the Year Trey Johnson (they placed at three of the four rodeos they entered), before hooking back up with 1984 World Champion Team Roper Mike Beers this spring.
“Trey has such an infectious attitude,” Mote said. “He wakes up in the morning expecting the greatest day of his life. He’s so fun to be around. We roped a lot, and went over to Trevor’s and practiced a few times.”
It will surprise no one that Brazile went out of his way to help a guy who’s eying his throne. I’ve noticed that about the very best guys in this sport over the years. They all share that may-the-best-man-win attitude, and hold nothing back when helping others.
“As big a fan of Trevor’s as I was before, I’m an even bigger fan now,” Mote said. “He bent over backwards to help me with my roping. He turned the lights on for me. He’s definitely one of a kind. I’d always said I’d love to go work the chutes and be a fly on the wall at his arena. He works so hard, and everything he does he does with a spirit of excellence. It was pretty neat to see.”
Beers has been there to help Mote with his roping from the beginning. They lived 30 miles apart when Mote first caught the roping bug, and met through Mote’s bareback riding mentor, 1991 World Champion Bareback Rider Clint Corey.
“When Mike found out I started team roping he was good enough to invite me to rope, and he helped me a lot,” Mote remembers well. “One night he stayed out in the barn helping me rope the horns until 10 at night when the rest of his family was having dinner in the house. He’s stayed hooked and helped me through all stages of my roping. He’s roped with me when I did not deserve a partner of his ability and experience.”
Besides being persistent, Mote has been perceptive. He picked up on the fact that Beers and so many of his ironman peers who’ve been tireless warriors over the years have something extra that gives them an edge over guys half their age.
“One thing about that generation of guys is they decide what they’re going to do, and they just go do it,” said Mote, whose weapons of choice are Cactus Ropes and Saddles. “Those guys in that era know how to get it done, and I’m glad there’s at least one person besides me who believes we can do it. When I say I want to make the NFR in the team roping, I know that’s a tall order. But I did the same thing in the bareback riding. If you’re determined, you might as well set your sights high. I’m going to work at it, and we’re going to give her heck.
“If I could make the Finals in the team roping and the bareback riding I stand a shot (at the all-around). It doesn’t guarantee me anything, because Trevor’s phenomenal in three events. He would have to stumble for me to have a chance, and I would never wish that on him. I would just like to be part of the race. If in 10 years I look back and say I never tried, what does that make me? Trevor set the bar as high as it can be. I might as well aim for that and see where I end up. The only person who ever limits us is ourselves. I don’t want to be that kind of person or set that kind of example for my kids. People might laugh at me, but I’ve been laughed at before. You can’t really criticize someone for trying. I don’t want to back down, give up and quit trying when I have a passion for doing this.”
Per usual, Mote won’t push the 100-rodeo limit in the bareback riding. He never does. But he will hook up the motorhome, load up Kate and the kids, and stay on the road this summer in pursuit of his all-around ambitions.
“I’d like to go to the best rodeos, get on the best stock and compete against the best guys (in the bareback riding),” he said. “I’m past the chapter of my career when I go to every rodeo they have. Clint Corey taught me to pick the rodeos I really like, and also how to balance family time outside the arena. Billy Etbauer’s another one who did it. The last couple years I was home for half a year rehabbing injuries, and I got to spend time with my family and go to junior rodeos and hang out with them. That stuff is so important.
“As long as I’m riding bareback horses the goal will be to win a world championship. That hasn’t changed. When it comes to trying to make the Finals in the team roping and taking a shot at the all-around, I feel like I have no excuse not to try it. If I don’t go pursue it, it’s all just talk. I want to be more than a bareback rider. To be a cowboy and win against the best guys at both ends of the arena would be something that hasn’t happened for a long, long time. I don’t want to look back 10 years from now and wish I’d have tried it. I’d hate to have regrets and realize there was a time in my prime when I had a chance in the bareback riding, and a good horse and good partners in the team roping, but I didn’t try it. Why strive to get good at something without having an end goal in mind? I’m not just out there to make dust.”