Roping good grades and bull riding is one way to go through school
While most of the Senior Class at Powell County High School may be thinking about what they will be doing this summer before going off to college, the military or joining the workforce, at least one young man already has plans. They involve a helmet, a rope, a bull and trying to hold on for eight seconds.
Keith Caudill, who graduated this past Sunday, already knows that before he steps onto the campus at Murray State this fall, he has some unfinished rodeo business to attend to. Caudill has been taking part in the National High School Rodeo Association (NHSRA) since he was a sophomore.
“I saw it on television and it kind of caught my interest. So I tried to find out where in Kentucky I could try it,” Caudill said. There was a place in Corbin that you could pay $20 and they’d let you ride. So I took up bull riding.”
Now Caudill is part of the Kentucky High School Team. “The way it is set up is that not each high school has people who ride. But if you ride then you are part of the state’s high school team,” Caudill explained. “I ride with people from Indiana, Tennessee and Ohio.”
The Eagle Scout, who once collected 825 Hot Wheels to donate to the Shriner’s Children’s Hospital in Lexington for kids to play with, has found the rodeo to be an interesting passion. But why the rodeo and why the most dangerous of event in bull riding?
“I really can’t explain it. You meet some pretty crazy people at the rodeos,” Caudill said with a grin. “You have to be a little crazy to do it.” Caudill said he had suffered a few injuries to hands and shoulders, but nothing serious. “I said I’d try it if I could wear the helmet and chest padding, so I did and I love it,” he stated.
The NHSRA began in 1947 in Texas and has grown to be made up of local organizations. There are students from 48 states, Australia and Canada that compete. The association is now based in Denver, Colorado and was incorporated in 1961. It was set up to promote an interest in rodeo sports among high school students. The association helps to provide training, but their top goal was to keep kids in school. There are over 12,000 members and the NHSRA sanctions over 1,100 rodeos a year. Students must have good grades to compete.
At the association’s rodeo in Lexington last year over $100,000 in scholarships were awarded to the contestants for education. At the National Finals last year $285,000 in scholarships were awarded.
Caudill joined the association in the spring of 2009. He goes to bull practice pens and competes in seven rodeos a year throughout Kentucky and neighboring states. He was awarded the Inter County Energy Cooperative 2011 Kentucky High School Rodeo Championship Scholarship. Caudill has also given the 2011 Cinch Academic Team Scholarship, which is given to one boy and one girl in the state.
Caudill was slated to take part in a rodeo in Liberty on May 11-12. But that was canceled. The Kentucky High School Rodeo Association (KYHSRA) has an event planned in Anna, Illinois on May 19-20. The KYHSRA will be in Lexington May 25-27 and the state finals are set to be held in Murray on June 8-10.
So what is it like sitting on top of a bull and waiting for the chute to open?
“It’s hard to explain,” Caudill answered. “I mean I love it and I want to ride that full eight seconds. I can do it in the practice pens, but so far I haven’t in a rodeo. But I still love getting up and trying it again.”
And what are Caudill’s plans since he graduated from PCHS last week?
“I’m going to school to study mining engineering at Murray. I may take part in a few ‘hometown rodeos’ and I’ll still go to the practice pens,” he said. “I rode in my first rodeo in my hometown in Letcher County and I enjoy doing that. I’ll probably ride in a few smaller rodeos. I just love it.”
Caudill is the 17 year old son of Rick and Faye Stamper of Stanton, and Robert Caudill of Letcher County.