Wade and Carie White of Richfield, Wisc., just one of two husband and wife participants in the International Finals Rodeo, travel with pet monkeys.
“My wife had one before we got married and I bought another one for her for Christmas four years ago,” said Wade White, who is originally from Okmulgee and is making his 16th trip to the IFR in tie-down roping.
White thinks he is the only cowboy who brings monkeys to rodeos, “except for a couple of rodeo clowns,” he said. The animals have been certified as “helping hand” monkeys so “they can go anywhere with us,” he said.
“They sleep in bed with us. They take showers with us. Everything,” he said. “We have them more for companionship than anything. They are like kids.”
His wife, Carie, qualified to her fourth IFR in barrel racing. The only other husband and wife IFR pair are Brad and Amanda Stewart of Mount Ulla, N.C. Brad qualified in steer wrestling while Amanda qualified in breakaway roping.
VIOLIN OR FIDDLE MUSIC?
When it comes to music, a cowboy's taste normally is country and western or blue grass, but saddle bronc rider Austin Joseph was trained on a violin, not a fiddle.
“I was born and raised playing classical music,” said the 25-year-old cowboy from Benton, Ky. “We got into a little bit of folk music but mostly it was classical.”
Joseph has been playing the violin since he was 4. He rarely performs in public, but does plays in church.
In 2011, Joseph performed the national anthem on the violin at the National Finals College Rodeo in Casper, Wyo.
His choice of music today seems more fitting for a cowboy.
“If I play anything now it's more country or church music,” Joseph said. “I don't listen to classical.”
Joseph was a member of the rodeo team at Murray State University in Kentucky and would bring his violin on the road at the request of his coach.
“My rodeo coach used to always get on to me when I didn't bring it to the college rodeos because he always liked to hear me play,” he said.
GRANDPA WAS A BULL RIDER
Michael Schleicher may be the oldest bull rider in the country.
At age 50, this grandfather of two from North Carolina qualified for his first IFR.
After riding in the late '80s and '90s, Schleicher got back on bulls three years ago after a 13-year layoff. He had quit after “destroying my knee” in a bull riding accident in 1996.
“I was sore for awhile,” Schleicher said of his comeback. “Nowadays the bulls are a lot ranker than they were. You remember the moves and stuff. It's more a mental game, than a physical game.”
Schleicher had kept himself in shape by working out and was surprised by his success.
“I didn't really set a goal of coming to the finals,” he said, “I just wanted to pick up some extra money. Everything starting falling together and it turned out to be more than I expected it to be.”
IFR A FAMILY AFFAIR
The youngest cowboy in IFR 43 is 15-year-old team roper Shayde Kreder of Sperry, who is heading for his father, Shawn. The other father-son pair in the IFR is Chet and Corey Kidd of Statesville, N.C. Chet is competing in steer wrestling while Corey qualified in team roping.
Two sets of brothers are in IFR 43. Canadians Cody and Mathew Mousseau both qualified in steer wrestling while Cody also is in team roping and calf roping. Twin brothers A.J. and Kyle Horton of Stigler qualified in team roping.
There also is a brother and sister in IFR 43, Ross and Jolyn Lowry of Summerville, Ga. Ross qualified in team roping while his sister qualified in breakaway roping.
LAST DAY OF RODEO
Sunday's final performance of the IFR begins at 1:30 p.m. at State Fair Arena. Doors open at 11:30 a.m. for the OG&E Kids Rodeo.