story by Shiley Blackwell Last month, college junior Maddy Dickens was racing to the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association barrel racing reserve championship on her main […]
On the Trail with the Ellerman’s
Written by: Siri Stevens< Back to Articles
This year marks the end of a long era at the College National Finals Rodeo for the Ellerman family. Jay competed in 1979, followed by Tammy in 1982, Taya (McAdow) in 2003, and now Brit is making his shot at the team roping title this year. Tammy remembers going straight from her wedding to Jay’s 1979 college finals in Lake Charles, Louis. Taya will continue making an appearance at the CNFR as one of the rodeo coaches from Northeastern Junior College in Sterling, Colo. Much has changed in the 36 years, but what hasn’t is the bond that still unites the Ellerman family from Ft. Lupton, Colo. Sand, horses, roping, and the Lord.
The family claims Ft. Lupton as home, even though they have moved more than 14 times during Brit’s 22 years. “We haven’t moved more than 30 miles,” said Jay. “The last house was a mile and a half over the hill.” Tammy’s career in real estate has created this unique situation. Every time they found the “perfect place” to build, someone came along that wanted to buy it and they found the next “best place ever.” The requirements were simple.
“It had to have lots of sand,” said Tammy. “That’s what we rope in and that’s what we wanted.” She is quick to defend the multiple moves. “We lived in one house for eight years and we never had to change schools.” The kids seemed to adapt to the multiple moves. “We built six places for us that we planned to stay at – but we all realize that a house is just a roof over our head.”
Jay was used to moving from his childhood with his father and his long career on the rodeo road. “I went to many different schools before I left for Arizona when I was 15,” said the 5x NFR header. Jay learned how to rope on a ranch as a kid doctoring cattle. “At night, if there was time, we’d rope a few steers or go to a jackpot.” He got his start at the PRCA level through his friendship with Walt Woodard. “He called me and asked if I wanted to head for his nephew, Rickey Green. I went to California and roped with Rickey and Tammy would come out and visit. In the summer, Rickey would come to our house.” He headed for Bobby Harris the first year he made the Finals in 1984.
Tammy stayed home with Taya, and started building her real estate career as well as roping. Ten years after Taya, Brit came along and the family helped found the Colorado Junior Rodeo Association in 1994 to provide a place for kids to hone their roping and timed event skills. The family spent hours practicing in the arena of one of their many homes. “We are a super competitive family,” said Taya. “We’d get out our own money and rope for that.” Roping for something helped get the jitters out of the way when the stakes got higher along the way … like last year when Tammy backed into the box at the Perry Diloreto with Tyler Boyd for $200,000.
She traveled out to Reno with Barry Smith and was keeping up with her family (and her real estate) during the roping via her cell phone. “There’s more pressure when I back in the box with my kids than the $100,000. I wasn’t thinking about the money.” She admits that win was the biggest so far in her career, but the family treats every roping the same. “$100,000 was a great day,” she said. “But what I focus on when I ride in the box is to catch the steer I drew and give my partner a chance to do his job.”
“We stress being prepared, to do your job – nothing more or less,” said Jay, who remembers quitting school to rope and what his mother told him about it. “She said that roping was like gambling … but the first time I made the Finals, she was there to watch.” Jay equates the feeling of winning to the movie with Paul Newman, The Color of Money, and the quote: “Money won is twice as sweet as money earned.”
Full story available in our June 15, 2015 issue.