Apple doesn#8217;t fall far from the tree

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 6, 2008


GATES – What’s the typical lifestyle of your average, run-of-the-mill 16-year-old male?

Chasing girls…hanging out with your ‘buds’…hunting…fishing…listening to music…the list can go on and on.

Austin Brown is your normal 16-year-old teenage boy. Undoubtedly, he likes all of the aforementioned lifestyles, but there’s a whole other side to this young man n Austin Brown is a rodeo champion.

And, keeping with a popular saying, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.

As the son of Gates County Championship Rodeo founder and organizer Aaron Brown, Austin is more of a natural on the top of a horse than he is behind the wheel of his pick-up truck.

“We put Austin up on his first horse when he was six days old,” Aaron Brown said. “Of course he didn’t ride it; we just held him there.”

More or less, Austin has been there ever since. He joined the Junior Rodeo circuit at age 7 and has been competing for the past nine years.

His specialty is team roping. There, two young cowboys work in tandem to rope a steer n one known as the “header” and the other called the “heeler.” The header ropes the steer’s horns, wraps the rope around the saddle horn and then turns the steer so the heeler can wrap the animal’s hind legs. The winner is determined by which team can finish that effort in the fastest time.

Austin and his partner won the Mid-Eastern Team Roping Championship in 2006. The Mid-Eastern division covers Junior Rodeo competitors from Georgia to Pennsylvania.

Currently, Austin and his partner, Cody Welborn of Wilson, sit atop the points standings in team roping in the Virginia High School Rodeo Association (VHSRA). They won the points title last year.

With only one month remaining in the 2008 VHSRA season, Austin and Cody are near-locks to qualify for this year’s High School National Finals, dubbed as the world’s largest rodeo. The top four in each state’s points standings as well as qualifiers from five providences in Canada and Australia receive invitations to compete in the national finals. This year’s finals will be held in Farmington, New Mexico.

“It’s great to travel and see other places,” Austin, a Gates County High School junior, said. “But first, Cody and I have to concentrate on the (Virginia) state finals. We want to finish what we started.”

Accompanying Austin to the state championship (to be held in Dublin, located southwest of Roanoke, Va.) and to the national finals in New Mexico will be his trusty companion, “Rusty” n a seven-year-old quarter horse.

“My horse is my main partner,” Austin said. “He knows exactly what to do. We practice a lot, at least twice a week.”

In order to save on expenses on the New Mexico trip, Austin and two other national competitors will share a ride with a friend from Richmond, Va. That friend owns a massive horse trailer, complete with living quarters.

Meanwhile, Aaron Brown plans to board a commercial jet and fly to New Mexico to see his son in competition.

“I wouldn’t miss it,” said Aaron Brown who is self-employed in the horse industry.

Seeing his son follow in his footsteps is pleasing for Aaron Brown.

“I once competed in amateur rodeos,” said the Pennsylvania native, now living in northern Gates County on Slo-Go Ranch. “Austin and I still compete every now and then. As a matter of fact, we are entered in the team roping portion of the Gates County Championship Rodeo (set for this Friday and Saturday, May 9-10).”

When asked which Brown catches the most grief for missing his mark in roping a steer, the father was quick to say it was him.

“Austin will definitely let me know when I mess up,” Aaron said. “He pretty much keeps me on my toes.”

Such is the life of a up-and-coming rodeo star.