Rodeo: Striking it big in Vegas – Decatur’s Butler wins Junior NFR title

By Richard Greene | Published Wednesday, December 21, 2016
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Buckling Up

BUCKLING UP – Caleb Butler won the team roping title at the Junior NFR in Las Vegas earlier this month. Messenger photo by Richard Greene

Heading to the Junior National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, Decatur’s Caleb Butler found himself preparing to take the arena with new partner Colby Payne.

The new partnership quickly turned into a championship pairing. The duo won a pair of rounds on the way to capturing the roping title.

“That’s the first place we’ve roped together in a rodeo,” Butler said. “We’ve roped together in practice. We were the only team to rope all six head.”

The duo landed their top time, 4.4 seconds, on their first run on the way to winning the opening round. They later won the fourth round.

Butler and Payne pocketed $5,000 each from the event.

Butler qualified for the Junior NFR at the High School National Finals Rodeo in Gilette, Wyo., over the summer. He roped at nationals with longtime partner Weston Podzemny of Bridgeport, finishing third. They finished second at the Texas High School Rodeo.

That pairing had roped together for the past eight years. Podzemny qualified with another partner for the Junior NFR and made a strong showing.

It was Butler’s first opportunity to rope in Las Vegas. The Junior NFR was held at the Las Vegas Convention Center while the National Finals Rodeo was being held across town.

After a previous visit to the town, Butler had promised himself he wouldn’t return until he could compete.

“It’s not the most money that I’ve won, but it’s probably the most prestigious [title],” he said.

Butler, who turned 18 this week, has been roping most of his life and credits his father, Jim, for getting into the sport.

Over the past dozen years, he’s won more than 15 saddles. Many of them are stacked in the family’s living room.

“It’s always been easy to him. He’s got a lot of natural talent,” said Jim Butler.

“People asked me how I got him to practice. He’s always wanted to. Sometimes I have to tell him to take a day off.”

Butler competes in calf roping, but team roping is his favorite event. He usually competes as the header, his preference.

“You get to go faster,” he said.

Butler will get a little down time before picking back up the rodeo circuit after the first of the year.

“Hopefully I’ll make nationals again,” Butler said.

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