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High School Heeler

9 years, 10 months ago classwork, grad school, photography, projects, sports 1

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Sophomore Tanner Brundage looks for his mother’s car on Sept. 16, 2010 outside of Jefferson City High School in Jefferson City, Mo. This was the last time his mother needed to pick him up at the end of the day, as today was his 16th birthday. Immediately after school, he took and passed his driver’s test.

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While typical high school boys are involved with the traditional team sports offered by their school, such as football or baseball, Tanner competes in team roping for Missouri High School Rodeo and cowboy mounted shooting with Show Me Mounted Shooters. He began riding horses almost four years ago, and discovered roping after some of his riding friends started lessons with Mark Jobe, a roping instructor in Jefferson City. Many of the teens who compete in Missouri High School Rodeo grew up in rodeo families, but Tanner’s family has only recently been involved. “We’re kinda the rarity,” his mother Kim said. “We’re not the only ones, but most have been doing this forever.”

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Tanner waits for his best friend Spenser Epple, 15, to finish putting on his collared shirt – the only dress requirement for this particular rodeo – at a small family rodeo on Saturday, Sept. 11 outside of Vienna, Mo. The boys live across town from each other but see each other regularly in classes at school and at roping practice in Eugene, Mo. every Thursday night.

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Gary Kueffer, right, holds tight onto the rope around the calf’s horns while Tanner attempts to catch its heels  during an open team roping session at a small family rodeo on Saturday, Sept. 11 outside of Vienna, Mo. The open event allows combined teams of varying ages, letting teenagers compete with the more seasoned adults. Tanner prefers to compete as a heeler, which he says is the more challenging position in roping. He said that according to Mark Jobe, Tanner’s instructor, “You need to be a better roper for the heels, and a better horseman for the head.”

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After spending the afternoon competing about six inches of mud, Tanner takes a hose to clean off the tack on his 12-year old horse, Cochise. His friend and neighbor Macy Randolph, 13, patiently waits for her turn, as her earlier attempts to gain control of the hose led to Tanner dousing her with water. While high school rodeo is not an organized team sport, many of the teens in the Jefferson City area practice together.