Eight the magic number for rodeo family
They could make up a basketball or volleyball team, or even a football team if they include their parents, but for Thorpe and Shelly Thompson’s eight children, their sport of choice is rodeo.
The Lusk, Wyoming, family has at least one child in each age bracket of Little Britches Rodeo and their youngest, born April 12, has already attended six rodeos.
“A big family wasn’t something Thorpe and I ever discussed. We both love kids, and it just happened; we just knew after each one we’re not done yet, we want more,” Shelly said. “It’s a team effort, we all have to work together.”
Their family consists of six girls and two boys.
Rodeoing as a freshman at Eastern Wyoming College in Torrington, Jamie, 19, competes in breakaway roping and goat tying.
Jamie’s horse fractured her knee a year ago, and she is finally starting to ride her.
“We bought the horse when Jamie was 13. She tried this horse and it had bucked her off, but she still loved it. She didn’t vet check but all she talked about was her,” Shelly said. “The owners hauled the horse to the same rodeo, and Jamie said, ‘There’s my horse.’ I said ‘You really do love her,’ and so we bought her.”
Their second daughter Jacey, 17, is a junior in high school and competes in every event, her mom Shelly said. “She will do anything to win; she truly, truly loves rodeo,” Shelly said. “She always asks, ‘Where can we go?’ She loves roping, loves goat tying, and is very outgoing.”
Jacey’s talent is recognized on a national level.
“She made the Bloomer High School Rodeo Team this year. Over 300 applied,” Shelly said. “Jacey is on their team for breakaway roping. She went to Texas over Easter, did a photo shoot and interview on TV, and radio.” Only three members per event are accepted.
Haiden, 12, is a sixth grader and is “so happy she finally gets to junior high rodeo,” Shelly said, “No more going to watch everybody else. Things are going very well for her there. She is a mirror to Jacey.”
Thorpe and Shelly’s first son, Tiegen, 10, is a fourth grader.
“He rodeos but he’s a boy. Boys are just really different than girls,” his mom said.
Hadley, 8, does every event she can do, Shelly said. She’s in second grade and in Little Britches.
The Thompsons’ second son Turek, 6, does every event, as well.
“He is my easier boy. He loves to run the chute when we rope; he’ll do anything to get to do that, even at the rodeos,” Shelly said. “He is so helpful in general. At night when its getting to be bedtime, he goes and picks up the house for me. He’s very good with his two little sisters, and he loves them so, so much. He loves them a little too much, whatever they want, they get.”
Tinlee is 18 months old.
“She makes us all smile; she’s hilarious,” Tinlee’s mom said of her
Baby Taisley was born April 12 and went to her first rodeo at four days old.
“The week we had the baby, we went in Tuesday afternoon, and were induced,” Shelly said. “The other kids had the trailer loaded and cleaned, laundry done, so when we got home they all got to see her and we left for a rodeo immediately.”
All of the Thompson children five years and older are homeschooled.
“They would think it’s child abuse to send them back to school because of how much homeschooling benefits them. Kids waste a lot of time in school and learn things that aren’t always great for them. Girls are naughty and ornery to one another and can be real nasty, and that’s why my girls are easy; they’re not dealing with that,” Shelly said. “Once they reach fifth or sixth grade, they go to online school. They have to do their studying; I don’t say, ‘Let’s go, kids, time for school.’”
The kids are also an integral part of working on the ranch and must balance their schoolwork and ranch work.
“Their dad may come in and say, ‘We’ve got to work cattle tomorrow,’ so they may not be able to do school, so maybe they have to do more a different day,” Shelly said. “Eventually in college they’re not going have someone pushing them, so they learn more real life experiences.”
All but one kid completed their schoolwork for the year by March 20, the date set and agreed upon by the family.
“The only thing that is hard [about homeschooling] is the social aspect,” Shelly said. “With us rodeoing that helps us a lot. If they want to go bowling, roping, or to the dance, I give them a pretty loose rein because that is their social time.”
The Thompson family started rodeoing the weekend before Easter and will attend rodeos every weekend through the end of September.
“Someone always asks what we would do if someone doesn’t choose rodeo. They’ll get to do that; they get to chose what they like and what makes them happy. So far rodeo has been what they’ve chosen but if that’s not what they choose that’s ok,” Shelly said.
“We know that taking them to rodeos teaches them leadership, work ethic, and that rodeo is a sport where it’s all about you, it’s not about a team. It’s about the hard work you put in before you go,” Shelly said. “How hard did you practice? How bad do you want it?”
The Thompson kids have been rewarded for their winnings and hard work.
“The kids’ rodeo scholarship that Jamie received Jacey will get; even Haiden won four of the six saddles and $8,000 in scholarship,” Shelly said. “They get to do what they love and at home, Jacey and Haiden are old enough that they work like a man, which isn’t always good, but they’re that good of help. It’s only going to put them ahead someday; there aren’t a lot of kids that have that these days.”
Both parents believe in being directly involved in their organizations; Thorpe is the president and Shelly the membership secretary of Wyoming High School Rodeo Association. They also believe their children should devote their time.
“They have to step up and help. As a sophomore, they have to be a student director, president, vice president, or secretary,” Shelly said. “Last year, Jacey was WyHSRA Breakaway director; this year, she’s president. It shows how important it is to be a leader and role model. They have to go get sponsorship that way. While rodeo is great, it also costs money. They have to understand each committee has expenses, like saddles and buckles.”