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No Cold Turkey

8/19/2004

Tom Reeves doesn't have anything left to prove.

During a ProRodeo career that has spanned more than two decades, Reeves has emerged as one of the greatest saddle bronc riders in history. He won the world saddle bronc riding title in 2001, has qualified for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo 18 times and has won more than $1.6 million.

But Reeves is still out there, going down the road riding rank saddle broncs.

His motivation at this point is to ease himself into a post-ProRodeo career. Something that he concedes has been more difficult that he thought.

"It's a progress trying to get out," said Reeves, 39, of Stephenville, Texas. "You just can't say, 'I'm out.' You've got to ease out for a lot of different reasons. Cowboys aren't really business-minded people. I've tried to get a lot of things going. It's not easy out there."

Whenever Reeves ran into obstacles in the past, his refuge was always the rodeo arena. This year is no different.

Reeves returned to competition in January after spending most of the previous year rehabilitating from a serious knee injury.

"I took most of the winter off and I had just broken into the top 15 last year," Reeves said. "I came back in the spring and got hot and I won second in my hometown rodeo [Stephenville, Texas] and was showboating a little and jumped off and tore my knee completely out."

Reeves returned to competition this year because his sponsors wanted him to, not so much because he wanted to.

"I've got a wonderful wife and four wonderful kids," Reeves said. "It's trying to stay out there."

And, until recently, Reeves said he didn't feel much like hitting the rodeo road.

"People have asked me where I've been and I tell 'em, 'I've been getting my butt kicked,'" Reeves said.

But that's starting to change. Reeves won the saddle bronc riding title at the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo in Colorado Springs (Aug. 11-15). Reeves finished the rodeo with a two-head total of 158 points to finish in a tie for first place with Cody Wright. Reeves, who won the rodeo's first round, earned $6,197.

That, combined with a paycheck he earned in Sikeston, Mo., has Reeves eager to compete again.

The last time Reeves felt this rejuvenated was in 2001, when he rolled to the world title, winning $204,000.

"I've been traveling with Matt Marvel," Reeves said. "Since I got in with Matt, it kind of reminded me when I got in with Jesse [Bail in 2001] and I was burned out. Jesse got my fire going again that year and got me to feeling like riding broncs again.

"It's like that again. I'm kind of back in there. I'm kind of fired up. I'm ready to play now."

Reeves, who works for Gold Buckle Feeds, said it's difficult competing against full-time cowboys.

"That's all they've got on their mind is spurring them broncs," Reeves said. "You've kind of got to get in their zone to ride with them. I wouldn't even try to bring up the word beat them. You don't beat those guys, you ride with them. They're awesome competitors and what a great bunch of guys to replace you."

Yet, when Reeves is in his zone, as he proved in Colorado Springs, he can ride with anybody — and beat them, too.