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It’s all about friendship, family

BY DARRELL MOODY

Appeal Sports Writer

RENO ” Matt Hussman and Garrett Smith have been friends for a long time, and now they’re teammates.

The 32-year-old Hussman and the 23-year-old Smith, son of team roper Steve Smith Jr. and stepson of barrel racer Lita Scott, are in their first year as team roping partners.

They made their Reno Rodeo debut Monday night, turning in a time of 8.2. They will return to action on Friday night, knowing they will need a real low time to win some performance money. Making the finals, according to Hussman is probably a longshot.

“I could have been a little better,” said Hussman, who is the heeler. “I pushed him a little too hard left and got him into the fence (wall).”

“He (Hussman) set me up good,” said Smith, who serves as the header. “I could have given him a better chance.”

That’s the sign of a good team. There was no finger pointing. They both are smart enough to know that it takes two to excel in this event. One thing is certain, despite their nine-year age difference, they like to have fun, and they like being around each other.

“We have a good time all the time,” Hussman said. “We don’t get too hard on ourselves or take ourselves too seriously.”

“We’ve known each other forever,” Smith said. “I was living in Utah the last few years. When I came back we thought we’d try it out.”

The younger Smith said he did OK while in Utah, usually competing in rodeos close to home.

Garrett’s dad, admitted he pushed his son a bit into rodeo.

“When he was real young, Garrett did a lot of roping,” the elder Smith said. “He played other sports as he got older, but in high school he focused on rodeo.”

Hussman and the younger Smith, who used to ride jackpots together, have been in just four or five events and already placed a couple of times. How many more rodeos the duo will compete in this summer hasn’t been decided.

“We haven’t planned anything,” Smith said. “We’re kind of playing it by ear. We’ll probably go to every close one on the circuit.”

And, no doubt they will improve as they continue to work together. Hussman works during the week, which means they either practice early evenings during the week or on the weekends.

Garrett’s dad, Steve, makes his 2008 Reno Rodeo team roping debut today in a 7 a.m. slack performance.

The elder Smith and his partner, Wes Goodrich, placed in earlier rodeos at Livermore and Clovis in California. Out of 10 appearances, Smith and Goodrich have cashed four checks.

The elder Smith said he’s been coming to the rodeo since 1983. He placed second in bareback one year and won the California Circuit bareback championship in the early 80s.

“It’s in the family,” Smith Jr. said. “My grandfather was an original member of the Reno association and my father rodeoed.”

It was Smith’s life. He was a full-time guy for several years, driving endless miles, eating bad food and scrambling to bring in some good-sized purses.

Family issues forced him off the circuit full time. He still goes to about 20 rodeos.

Does he miss being out on tour full time?

“Yes and no,” the elder Smith said. “It’s a long road and a tough lifestyle. It’s a hard way to earn a living.”

Indeed.

Another thing that makes it tough is that the 44-year-old Smith Jr. and his wife, Lita, have two youngsters at home, 4 and 6 years old, respectively. They also train roping horses and barrel racing horses. Smith Jr. also owns a stable in Southern California.

The family has a lot on its collective plate, and maybe full-time rodeo isn’t in the cards, but you know Smiths and Hussman will be fixtures on the California circuit.

– Contact Darrell Moody at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281