Barrie Smith (header) competes with Jackie Crawford during the Wildfire Roping in Salado, Texas.
By Jolee Lautaret-Jordan
Barrie Smith (header) competes with Jackie Crawford during the Wildfire Roping in Salado, Texas. Photo by Lone Wolf Photography
Salado, Texas — When Mary Walker won the WPRA World Championship in barrel racing in 2012, one of the many big stories of her season was the fact that the Walker household had just become one of a very few two Gold buckle households in the history of professional rodeo as Walker joined her husband Byron, the 1981 PRCA World Champion Steer Wrestler among rodeo's elite.
It was a rare accomplishment but the fact was that another couple had joined those ranks two years prior but without any fanfare.
In 2010 Barrie Smith won the WPRA's World title in heading, gathering a Gold buckle to match her husband Brad's 1978 PRCA World Championship in the same event.
It was no doubt inevitable that this accomplishment would fly under the radar. For one, WPRA roping World titles are not decided under the very big spotlight of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. For another, Smith herself is a very quiet champion.
In an age of big time personalities amongst top level athletes, Smith is incredibly unassuming and humble. In fact, it's tough to get the cowgirl to talk about the things she has won in her amazing career.
"I don't like to brag," she says, "and I'm a terrible interview."
Actually, Smith is quite personable and a favorite among her fellow competitors for her upbeat attitude. Growing up in central Arizona, Smith was born to a family of ropers. Her brother, Bret Beach, went to three Wrangler NFR's and has taught thousands of people to rope; her brother-in-law is Clay O'Brien Cooper , a ProRodeo Hall of Fame cowboy has won seven PRCA World titles.
"My family did it," she says simply of her decision to pick up a rope as a young girl. "I guess you either love it or not."
Smith loved it and she began picking up championships while still in high school. She won the National High School Finals Rodeo Goat Tying title three years in a row (1974-76) and followed up with National titles in the collegiate ranks for Central Arizona College including two Women's All Arounds and another National title in Goat Tying.
Moving on from college, Smith married her husband, an accomplished roper in his own right, and the couple had two children, Sterling and Shelby. As a professional team roper, Smith has won nearly every major all women's roping in the country including the Windy Ryon, the USTRC Finals Women's roping twice and the Wildfire Ladies Championship.
It's the latter that may just pave the way for Smith to go one-up on her husband in the gold buckle count.
Smith recently competed at the 2015 edition of the Wildfire Ladies Championship. Though she did not take home the huge $25,000 prize for winning the roping this time around—that honor went to Beverly Robbins and Jessy Remsburg--she did place in the average with three of the four partners with whom she roped.
PHOTO BY: Lone Wolf Photography
Held in early February each year, the Wildfire Ladies Championship is held at the Wildfire Ranch in Salado, Texas and in conjunction with the Wildfire Open to the World Roping which features top PRCA talent and the Wildfire Businessman's Roping which lets sponsors get in on the action, competing for big payoffs and an incredible prize line.
The Wildfire Ladies Championship has been held every year since 2003 and has been co-sanctioned for WPRA ropers since 2010. In 2015, there were 262 teams competing for a share of the $77,660 total purse.
The Wildfire gives each team three rounds of preliminary competition before the top 20 in the average are invited back for the short go. The preliminary competition was held on Friday, February 6 with the finals the next night.
In fact, the finals were held at the same time as the short round at the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo in 2015. While Smith was gathering up her big wins in Salado, her son Sterling was busy winning the huge winter rodeo and $16,909 toward a second trip to the Wrangler NFR in the tie down roping.
"Yeah, we didn't get to go watch [him win]," says Smith. "He shows me his videos though."
In Salado, Smith picked up third in the average with longtime partner Jimmi Jo Montera with 40.84 seconds on four steers. She finished fourth with WPRA World Champ Jackie Crawford and 10th with Bailey Peterson. Peterson is her niece, the daughter of Cooper, and will be her partner for the Reno Rodeo Ladies Only roping in June.
Smith picked up $7,820 at the Wildfire, enough to propel her back to the top of the WPRA World standings.
"I think Lari Dee [Guy] won more than me; she won second [in Salado]," Smith said when told of her position in the standings. "I don't keep track."
Guy is also a past WPRA World Champion Header. She won second in Salado with reigning WPRA World Champ and reigning Wildfire Champ Annette Stahl. She won $5,900 to move to second in the standings with total season earnings of $6,246.
Meanwhile, Stahl moved to the lead on the heeler's side with $6,403 won. In addition to second in the average, Stahl placed twice in the round money to take a $3,238 lead over Crawford as she seeks to defend her WPRA title.
Meanwhile, Smith won't lose sleep over her chase of a second gold buckle.
"If it works, it works," she laughs and the cowgirl truly means what she says. She divides her time between the family's ranch in Stephenville, Texas and a farm in Beulah, Colo., and makes time to train rope horses along the way. The family also owns a construction business.
In Salado, she rode her trusted grey gelding Richard, another one of the many she has trained in her career.
"He's a good one; I'm lucky," says Smith, who endorses FastBack Ropes. "We got him as a yearling and I've had him a long time."
"We've sold out," she says of other roping prospects. "Guess I need to get more to get going."
When asked what keeps her motivated to get in the practice pen every day, especially after winning nearly everything there is to win, Smith's answer in a simple one, brought with a laugh.
"I hate to miss . . . it's a terrible feeling."
She's equally levelheaded about her favorite wins too.
"Any moment when you win, whether it's just $20 or not, it's great," she laughs. "Jimmi Jo and I won some at the Wildfire and it had been a long time since we placed together so that was special."
For the time, Smith is spending time with family in Arizona and roping, of course.
"I can't remember a time that I didn't love it," she says of her chosen career. "I love the horses, I love to rope and I like the people we get to be around."
Other WPRA cowgirls to take home Wildfire money were Jordan Jo Fabrizio and her mom Debbie and Kelsey Mosby. Jordan moved to fourth in the heading standings while Mosby moved to ninth; Debbie went to fourth on the heeling side.
More information about the Wildfire Ranch Arena is available at www.wildfirearena.com.