MERCEDES — Heston Garza raced toward the steer, twirling his colorful lasso before tossing it around the legs.
“You feel that source of pride,” said Heston, 10, after he and his roping partner successfully roped a steer made of PVC pipe at the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show.
The show with all its events was slowly winding down yesterday, but the grounds were filled with strolling clowns, braying livestock, frenzied carnival rides and food vendors.
Enthusiastic energy filled the kids participating in the Youth Team Roping as they tried to lasso the “steer” to win shirts, bags and other prizes.
Chuck Vieh, organizer of the event, gave them a quick explanation about the finer points of roping.
“Keep your rope right,” he said, holding loops of rope close to chest with his left hand.
“These are called coils,” he said. “When you reach up right here, you want these all the same size. I want my rope from my chest to my hands.”
Vieh said the kids were practicing an event performed for real on cattle ranches, where ranch hands must rope cattle by the horns and back feed in order to brand or give shots.
The youths waited eagerly for their chance to rope the artificial steer. Two youngsters dashed into the parking lot, their ropes sometimes succeeding, sometimes not.
“Two one, two in the box,” Vieh called out, using a terminology only team ropers would understand.
“Remember to hold the rope how I showed you,” he said.
Win or lose, they all seemed to have a great time.
“It’s really a lot of fun,” said Ian Knight, 13. “The challenge is learning how to hold the rope and how to take this coil in your hands.”
For some, roping was a means to a positive end.
“I get time to play with other people,” said Alex Trevino, 9, of Rio Hondo. “That’s why I like this.”
Some, like Jaime Munoz, have already taken up team roping as a hobby.
“I have been roping for two years,” said Jaime, 12, who practices at his house.
He hadn’t enjoyed the success he’s used to at the event yesterday. He looked down at his rope and explained.
“It’s a new rope,” he said. “I haven’t broken it in yet.”