By Kevin Wilson
When Tabor Smith left Greyhound Arena last Saturday, college diploma in hand, he didn’t need to be told that he still had time to learn something new.
He knows that already, and proves it every time he and his horse Jax take on another steer in the confines of a rodeo arena.
Smith is one of three Eastern New Mexico University rodeo team members getting ready for the College National Finals Rodeo, Jun 13-19 in Casper, Wyo. Unlike others, though, Smith is a top-ranked roper that — no pun intended — never learned the ropes until he came on campus.
“I started my freshman year in college,” said Smith, a 1998 graduate of Elida High School. “I’d been friends with J.D. Kibbe growing up and he’s a really good roper. He was my roommate during my first year of college.”
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Smith said he spent most of his high school time playing basketball, but decided to try his hand at rodeo after he played a limited role on the Greyhound basketball team as a freshman.
Now, he’s the top team roping healer in the Southwest Region. A roping team consists of a header and a healer. The healer, Smith said, is responsible for roping the two legs of the steer after the header has secured the head. A healer receives a clean time for roping both legs, a five-second penalty for roping one leg and a no time for a miss.
The top three headers and healers in the region advance to the CNFR, and have to pick partners from the region. Smith said it was an easy choice to go with Colby Schneman of Tarleton State, since the two have roped together this season and Schneman finished second in last year’s CNFR with Jed Middleton of Texas Tech.
Schnemann and Smith are finding their own partners for practice between now and the CNFR. Smith has a few places that he ropes at, but usually ends up in Arch roping with Stanley Dixon.
Smith said that Dixon, who is also his boss at Valley Electric, has been a valuable asset with his facilities and his willingness to give Smith time to practice.
Dixon, who plans to spend some of the summer roping with Smith, is quick to give credit right back.
“It takes a lot of determination to get where he’s got to,” Dixon said. “It’s pretty impressive to take 18 hours of (senior-level) courses, rodeo and get all A’s and B’s.”
Smith graduated last week from ENMU with a degree in biology, and plans to attend Parker College of Chiropractic in Dallas this fall.