OAKDALE — Trevor Brazile made the catch, leaped off his horse and sped to the calf, like he'd done hundreds of times before. But, for once, the rope didn't obey and on this clear Friday morning neither did the calf.
Brazile, the 17-time world champion and rodeo's closest thing to royalty, did not throw a fit. He might have been forgiven for a spot of temper, given the fact he no-times about as often as snow falls on the Oakdale Rodeo.
Probably more shocking, however, would have been anything short of class from Brazile. In this sport, the four-legged animals rule, and cowboys often are just along for the ride.
Brazile knows this. So does every other bloke who tries to make a living in rodeo, the original extreme sport. So the sport's singular superstar went about his business tending to his horse, saying hello to friends, signing autographs for kids.
"My rope got hung up under my horse's bit. Messed up our timing," he reviewed. "I've been at both ends of it here."
Comes with the dust and mud in rodeo.
Brazile, 36, annexed the all-around title at Oakdale in 2010, much like he's inscribed his name on rodeo trophies from Cheyenne to Cave Creek. He's won a record 10 all-around world championships and, incredibly, the last seven straight. No. 7, last December, was clinched on Day 5 of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
The NFR runs 10 days, which means Brazile put away the gold saddle before most cowboys worked up a sweat. He's that good. No, he's better than good.
Picture the elite, the best of the best, at their moment of greatness: Pavarotti as he hits the high note, Kobe Bryant elevating for another contested 20-footer, or Tiger Woods stalking another 10-foot putt.
Brazile waving his rope high above his hat belongs on that list. He didn't need a blanket as a child. He slept with a rope in his hand. Oakdale, a ropers' hotbed, appreciates such passion.
Before his tough trip in tie-down, Brazile and team roping heeler Patrick Smith (a two-time world champion) combined for a 5.3-second trip and a tie for fifth in the first go-round. Their payday was $732.32 apiece, tip money for a cowboy who's banked a record $4.6 million.
The obvious question was asked: What motivates you after all these years?
"Just winning," Brazile began. Then he warmed to the topic.
"And also to not take lightly that I'm doing what I love and making a living at it. That's not the key to winning. That's the key to happiness," he said. "It's a decision, a choice we make. Life's too short to dwell on the bad things."
It follows that Brazile's licensing company is titled "Relentless." Nothing describes him better. Every rodeo, every year and every NFR, he's there. On top. Waving to the crowd. Winning everything in sight.
More important, he's still willing to pull those all-night rides to the next town. Maybe it's because he's embedded in the sport. His wife, Shada, will barrel race Sunday in Oakdale, one day after her husband departs for more competition in Logandale, Nev.
Top priority, of course, are their children Treston and Stella. The man from Decatur, Texas, likes that balance a rope in his hand, a rodeo wife to love and children to raise.
"The rope has always been a part of me. At the age I started, I didn't know anything else, so it seems natural," he said. "I don't know what I would have done if it wasn't rodeo. I'm glad I never had to make that decision. Anything less that this (the rodeo life) would jeopardize the love I have for what I do."
You'd love it, too, if you cashed in like him. But with Brazile, it's more than material wealth. After all these years, he's still happy pulling those all-night rides to the next stop.
So when the youngsters approach him only moments after he's failed in the arena he's only happy to oblige. To him, it's not merely being professional. It's an obligation.
"I don't care that they didn't give me my five minutes of disgust," he laughed. "I've been there. I've got kids looking up to me. They're the next generation of our sport. I want to make sure I'm the best example I can be."
In truth, Brazile didn't no-time in tie-down. He just won in a different way.
62nd Oakdale Rodeo
At Oakdale Saddle Club Arena:
Slack time today at 8 a.m.
Grand entry today, Sunday: 1:30 p.m.
Tickets at the gate: $20 for adults, $10 for children 12-under, under 6 free.
Discounted tickets: Boot Barn and Crossroads Feed in Modesto and other outlets, or online at oakdalerodeo.com.