JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald
JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald
You might call it a healthy addiction.
For Calvin Brevik, rodeo is “in the blood.” Since picking up a toy rope as a toddler – soon after he learned to walk, by the family’s recollection – he hasn’t been able to stop. Countless hours of training are now paying off as the 24-year-old is amid his most successful rodeo season yet.
After silently calculating, Brevik struggled to estimate how many rodeos he has participated in during his lifetime.
“There’s no telling. Thousands,” he said.
The resulting spoils – prize money, silver belt buckles, engraved saddles – speak to his aptitude. Parents Phil and Cindi Brevik even built a custom saddle rack to store them all.
“Calvin won his first saddle in Cortez at age 5 or 6. Ironically, it was the largest – here was this small kid sitting in a huge saddle. He ended up selling it to a hunter who needed that big a saddle,” Brevik’s mother, Cindi, remembers.
A few years ago Brevik sold off some of the saddles with less sentimental value to help pay living expenses at college, although tuition was not among those costs. Standout rodeo performances in high school earned him a full-ride scholarship to Howard College, and later Tarleton State University – both in Texas – where he studies business and will graduate in December.
A rugged, delicate art
Brevik’s best event is team roping, where two partners work in unison to capture a fleeing steer within seconds. Once the steer reaches a predetermined distance from the starting chute, Brevik, in the role of “header,” takes off at full speed on horseback, measures up his quarry, whips the rope around the animal’s horns (or neck) and pulls it to the left.
At this point the job is only half done. Brevik’s partner, the heeler, follows closely behind and casts his own rope around both hind feet. The clock stops when the steer is secure and the horses are facing one another.
“To be sure (of accuracy), the judges have timers, backup timers and the timers who back up them,” he said.
Modern rodeo is an organized, controlled spectacle, but the roots of team roping are highly pragmatic: It was – and still is – the fastest way to wrangle a single bovine for branding or inoculation.
As on the range, Brevik says roping in a rodeo setting is all about careful timing and precision. The difference between winning or losing can come down to hundredths of a second. With such narrow margins, any error can be fatal.
Leaving the starting gate prematurely incurs a 10-second penalty. If a heeler snags only one leg, the team is set back five seconds. The most costly mistake is “crossfire,” when the heeler tosses his rope too soon – before the steer changes direction and veers left – and results in disqualification.
Brevik also competes at tie-down roping, a solo endeavor where the rider corrals a 3- to 6-month-old calf, dismounts the horse, catches up with the calf and restrains it by tying three legs together. The knot must hold for a minimum six seconds to be considered valid.
Brevik has witnessed his share of broken bones and torn ligaments through the years, and is grateful to have avoided serious injury so far – “knock on wood,” he is quick to add. While roping is no cakewalk, it is kinder to the body than trying to balance atop an angry bull and evade its horns after being jettisoned.
“I have a lot of friends who ride roughstock and can barely walk. They aren’t even 30 yet,” Brevik said.
A fall to remember
Born and raised in Southwest Colorado and a 2007 Durango High School alumnus, Brevik is now stringing together his best series of results to date.
In September, he earned first place all-around at the Colorado Pro Rodeo Association finals in Grand Junction. “All-around” denotes participation in two separate rodeo events and carries special respect since most people specialize in just one.
At this particular rodeo, contestants entered with accumulated earnings from the year, giving the consistent high-achievers a starting advantage.
“I had a pretty big lead going into Grand Junction and no one could catch me,” Brevik said.
Two weeks ago, Brevik and his partner, Travis Woodard, won the team roping title at a major rodeo in Waco, Texas, organized by the national Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
“Qualifying for Waco was difficult. You had to compete in at least 30 rodeos and be ranked in the top 30 (in your event) nationwide,” he said.
The tournament-style format differed from Grand Junction. Contestants in Waco began with a clean slate – no pre-existing results counted. Similar to the NCAA March Madness bracket, the best times advanced to the next stage. Eventually the 30 teams were winnowed to four. Brevik and Woodard emerged victorious with a time of 4.8 seconds.
Now the stakes are even higher. Rock Springs, Wyo., plays host this week to the PRCA’s Mountain States circuit finals. Brevik, the fourth-ranked team roping header, is competing alongside Kory Bramwell of Chromo against ropers from Colorado and Wyoming. As American rodeo’s governing body, the PRCA divides the United States into 12 regional circuits to cut down on travel time. The top two finishers in each geographic area qualify for the national circuit finals in Oklahoma City.
Brevik’s parents are pleased their son has followed his childhood pastime to such lengths.
“When he won (at Waco) ... it was hours before I could calm down and sleep,” said Cindi Brevik, a former Durango school-board member. “All of these levels are steps forward toward his ultimate goal. I am very proud of him. We both are.”
For all his achievements this year, Brevik has an even loftier prize in his sights: the National Finals Rodeo, held each December in Las Vegas. The men and women who ride and rope there are America’s elite, and Brevik wants to be among them.
“Hopefully, this time next year, I’ll be preparing for Vegas,” he said.