Tee Woolman in the ProRodeo Hall of Fame

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By the time you sit down to read this in the comfort of your living room or living-quarters trailer, I will have made another one of countless dicey decisions that go with being a working mom.

My job doesn't hold a candle to my kids, but I do love my career and all the wonderful people I get to work with. I've learned to be a pretty clever juggler and agile tap-dancer in my quest to have it all, but there are times when that simply isn't possible.

I missed my boys' school Olympics the other day after they closed DFW due to a lightning and thunder storm. I was down in Decatur with the Cactus crew and Fast Back boys, and had a plan in place to get back late Thursday night, just in time to roll up my sleeves and orchestrate the Olympics as the lead fifth-grade mom.

The fifth-grade parents put on the annual extravaganza to raise money for our soon-to-be sixth graders' week of science camp next year. When I finally got to Phoenix in the middle of the night, and realized I'd missed the last flight to San Luis Obispo, I was sad and mad all at the same time.

Nothing is more important to me than my kids and sharing this ride with them.Lane and Taylor look forward to my Reno and Salinas trips every year. Those rodeos are in driving range, and the boys are on summer break, so they always jump in and go with me. Last year, Lane had to stay behind with Uncle Wade because of an All-Star baseball conflict. This year, it's Taylor's turn. His first-ever All-Star game is the day of the BFI. Translation: I'm going to miss it. (That's the bad news, the good news is our BFI coverage starts on page 14.)

Yes, I'll leave the video camera behind, so I can catch a few highlights upon my return. And I'll get all the blow-by-blow after the game via cell phone. But as happy as I'll be for the guys who win the BFI, my heart will be home at that game with my skinny little blondie. Lane and I are headed for the Reno hills in the morning. His All-Star tournament runs on top of Salinas.

The fifth-grade parents put on the annual extravaganza to raise money for our soon-to-be sixth graders' week of science camp next year. When I finally got to Phoenix in the middle of the night, and realized I'd missed the last flight to San Luis Obispo, I was sad and mad all at the same time. Nothing is more important to me than my kids and sharing this ride with them.

Lane and Taylor look forward to my Reno and Salinas trips every year. Those rodeos are in driving range, and the boys are on summer break, so they always jump in and go with me. Last year, Lane had to stay behind with Uncle Wade because of an All-Star baseball conflict. This year, it's Taylor's turn. His first-ever All-Star game is the day of the BFI. Translation: I'm going to miss it. (That's the bad news, the good news is our BFI coverage starts on page 14.)

Yes, I'll leave the video camera behind, so I can catch a few highlights upon my return. And I'll get all the blow-by-blow after the game via cell phone. But as happy as I'll be for the guys who win the BFI, my heart will be home at that game with my skinny little blondie. Lane and I are headed for the Reno hills in the morning. His All-Star tournament runs on top of Salinas.

My most current dilemma involves determining my whereabouts on August 14th. That's the day a whole herd of my friends will be inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs. I always make the journey back to my old PRCA stomping grounds when a special friend heads into the Hall, be it Ty Murray, Joe Beaver, Tuff Hedeman or Jake and Clay, and this year is a slam-dunk in that department.

Tee Woolman, Fred Whitfield, Clint Corey, June Ivory, Dr. J. Pat Evans and Bob Tallman are all very near and dear to my heart. But the boys have a junior rodeo finals that day, and the way the regular season is shaping up, odds are it's going to be a special day for both of them come awards time. What's a girl to do?

I know the boys will have another day in the sun, but we're supposed to live every day like it's our last, right? If I knew it was my last weekend on earth, I'd obviously opt to spend it with them. But it is the only day I can remember when that many of my personal pals take their place in rodeo history together.

That's very special and sentimental to me, too. I'll have to make that call later. In the meantime, I have one last story to write before climbing the Sierra Nevada mountain range and rolling into Reno. Time to call Tee, and get this thing done.

I'm thinking a fireside-chat-style story without the fire. That'd be a fun way to get inside the head of the next team roping Hall of Famer as he reflects on a colorful, classy career, I figure.

Strike One: I'm at the baseball field watching the little 9- and 10-year-old boys of summer slide the knees right out of their uniforms. Just dialed Tee's cell phone, and got his voicemail. Yikes. If he's taken off for Tahiti, I'll never make this deadline.

Strike Two: Tee returned my call, but I missed him because I was at the barn doing post-baseball practice chores. The good news is, he got my message. The bad news is, all I could hear was a lot of loud static, the word "Tonopah," and more deafening static. That means he's headed to Reno and out of range. Please, deadline gods, do not hang me out to dry on this one. Spare me that third strike.

Yes! Success! There's a reason Tee's been to more National Finals than any other cowboy in history (40 total, including Wrangler National Finals Rodeo and National Finals Steer Roping appearances) and is closing in on the $2 million mark in career earnings. The guy takes care of business.

He drove in and out of call-service range, so Tee just broke Brad Culpepper's record for the most calls needed to complete one story at 17. But he stayed hooked until the end, and graciously took the time to field 12 questions I hope you'll find interesting.

Here they are, Tee Woolman's Not-So-Dirty Dozen:

1 How old were you when you first picked up a rope?
I was young, probably 3 or 4. A guy named Walker Vivian was a friend of the family, and he was an old-time cowboy who day-worked around ranches in our area. I looked up to him, and he did whatever cowboy work called for. It was kind of like John Wayne in "The Cowboys." I wanted to be just like him.

2 When did you know you'd make a living with a rope?
By the time I was in high school I was paying my own way, mainly from money I won at jackpots.

3 What do you love most about rodeoing for a living?
Winning. You come and go as you please, and do what you want to do. You're on your own time schedule. All the friends you make and all the people you meet is pretty great, too. If I wasn't rodeoing for a living, I'd never have met people like George Strait or James Caan.

4 What do you hate most about rodeoing for a living?
Traveling and being away from home.

5 What was the best day you ever had at a rodeo?
I've had a lot of good days. I can't pick just one. Winning the team roping (with Rich Skelton) the first time they had team roping at Houston was pretty special. They asked me what I thought about it, and my theory was, "You have to win the first one to win 'em all." I was young and cocky back in the day. I've had some great days in the rodeo business.

6 Who's the best partner you ever had and why?
All my partners have been great, really and truly. I've roped with the best of 'em, I really have. Roping with Leo (Camarillo) was a big privilege in my roping career. He got me started. I started right at the top of the list, and it's just stair-stepped from there. I've roped with Jerold (Camarillo), Clay (O'Brien Cooper), Rich, Allen (Bach), Bobby Harris, Mike Beers-all the world champions. They've all been great in their own way. When I roped with them I thought they were the best there was. Things don't always work out, but you never know until you try it.

7 Name the best horse you've ever ridden and why?
I've ridden several good ones.
I like the one I'm riding right now, Megazord (he's 10). I had Brandy when I roped with Rich in about 1993, Kojak in the late '80s, Bertha in the early '90s and Doc when I first started out in the PRCA. Dutch was by far the best in the steer roping. The great ones want you to win. They pull out all the stops and try. They give you 110 percent every time, no matter what the conditions, or if they're tired or sore. They're just like a top athlete-when it's on the line they're going to give you all they've got. They all have that in common.

8 What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
Surviving 20-some years in the rodeo business. Winning three world championships, the NFR average four times, and the NFSR average one time-those were all things I set out to do. The only thing I haven't accomplished that I set out to do was win the world in the steer roping. I don't have that burning desire like I did have. It'd still be great to do it, but it's not a priority at this point.

9 What's your favorite rodeo?
The National Finals has to be one of the favorites because all the money's there. I've always liked Dodge City (Kan.), too. I usually do good there. I like San Antonio and Houston, but I have years I do and don't do good at those. It seems like I always win something at Dodge. (When I pointed out that Jefry's Switzer's practice pen in Dodge is where he darn near met his maker a few years back, the eternal wise-cracker fired off, "Hey, you live and die for your favorite rodeo.")

10 What's the secret to your longevity?
I have no secrets. I just try to stay active. I like to hang out with the younger guys. They keep you on your toes. They're sharp and witty, and you have to be sharp and witty with them. I like to hang out with (son) Walker and his buddies, and I try to stay as positive as I can.

11 Any goals left?
My goal is always another world championship. That's what keeps everybody going. As long as I have good horses, good partners and I'm physically able, I'm going to keep trying for a while. If I can't make a living and support my family, it's time to do something different. If you don't have a goal to win a world championship you don't need to be out here, because you aren't striving to be the best. Your roping will go downhill if you back off like that.

12 What's next (after rodeo), and when do you expect to ride off into the sunset?
I'll take the fifth on that one. No, I really like giving roping lessons and teaching schools. As for when, I'll make the move when I can't win anymore. When I can't support my family it'll be time to hang 'em up and go to work. They haven't made too many that can beat me yet, so I think I'm still all right.