Road Stories

A Slice of Roping Heaven

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It doesn’t get much better than an evening roping practice at the Tatums’ in Llano, Texas.

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People have all kinds of reasons to haul down the rodeo road to rope—money, for the fun, I’ve even been told, “nothing better to do.” Last spring, 2016, I found some of the best reasons why in one spot outside of Llano, Texas, in the Texas Hill Country.

I stopped in to visit Brett, Keylie and son Pecos Tatum, and watched their evening roping practice. The Tatums have lived their lives rodeoing, and operate their family’s Tres Rios Silver award and buckle business out of a building in downtown Llano.

On weekends, they are typically on the road to a roping. Weeknights find them at home, practicing in their roping arena on a hilltop north of the Llano River. In spring, the hills are covered in bluebonnets, red paintbrush and black-eyed Susans.

As the sun goes down, they saddle up and gather the roping calves in their west pasture. They warm up on the dummy and then rotate through three or four calves each. The point is to focus, but not overdo. Just as important as practicing is knowing when to quit.

Brett and Keylie both grew up rodeoing. Brett rodeoed for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and then was a professional bull rider. Keylie comes from a Colorado ranching family and is a Women’s Professional Rodeo Association world champion header.

At 11, their son, Pecos, has already won more saddles and buckles roping than he can count; he aims to be a Trevor Brazile-style all-around cowboy.

And it’s not hard to get them to talk about why they spend so much time roping.

“It’s the passion; and it’s the community,” Keylie says, and laughs. “I guess we wouldn’t know what to do if we didn’t.”

You can play as a family.

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