By BRAD KEITH
(July 16, 2015) — Jackie Hobbs Crawford isn’t trying to make any kind of women’s rights or equality statement and she sure doesn’t have anything left to prove in the world of rodeo.
But the 13-time Women’s Pro Rodeo Association world champion does have a bucket list, and this week, she’ll scratch off one of her most desired items.
Crawford is competing in the prestigious California Rodeo Salinas this Thursday through Sunday. In the team roping. Against the men.
“I’ve never done this. In fact I’m only the second girl to ever do this at Salinas that I’m aware of,” said Crawford, who follows in the footsteps of Tammy White by roping with the men at the famed event. “There have been a couple girls rope in Cheyenne but not more than one here in Salinas.”
Crawford will be partnering with Stephenville cowboy Marty Yates, best known as a world-class tie-down roper. Yates, who turned 21 on July 6, made his first National Finals Rodeo appearance last year, winning or sharing three rounds at the NFR to finish fourth in the world. He is seventh in the current Windham Weaponry PRCA world tie-down standings.
“Obviously I had to have a partner, so I was just thinking about who heels,” said Crawford, who has roped previously with Chase Williams, another Stephenville cowboy best known for his tie-down skills. “Marty heels great, I’ve seen him heel a lot. Plus we’re good buddies and it will be super fun.”
With a total payout north of $400,000, California Rodeo Salinas is a must stop for the big names in rodeo, and that includes droves of team ropers competing in a rare five-head average.
“It’s such a prestigious rodeo number one, and number two it’s so unique in the sense that it’s a five-head average,” said Crawford of choosing to rope at Salinas. “The steers are let out a long way, so generally everyone has a chance there.”
And a lot of them will be rooting for Crawford and Yates.
“A lot of people are excited and getting behind me,” she said. “But it’s not like I’m trying to make some big statement, it’s just something I’ve dreamed of. Most girls don’t get to feel that energy, excitement and intensity as you back in at these kind of rodeos. People talk about their bucket lists, this is definitely on mine.”
Even after claiming three WPRA titles – team roping heading, tie-down roping and breakaway roping – in 2014, Crawford admits she could never handle the travel faced by her husband, eight-time NFR qualifying team roping header Charly Crawford, and other men on the PRCA circuit. That’s especially true during stretches like the recently completed “Cowboy Christmas.”
“This is so cool and different for me. I could never do what these guys do because I hate driving that far or long, she said. “Our schedule is crazy, but nothing like these guys with the all night driving and the plane flights, all of that.”
But for a week, she won’t just be one of the guys, she’ll be trying to overtake them. And she’s doing it at one of her favorite rodeos.
“Salinas is such a fun time. It’s kind of the calm after the storm because everybody can finally get somewhere and stay three or four days. It’s a good atmosphere and a fun time, a chance for everyone to wind down after traveling and competing so much around the (Fourth of July),” she explained. “Plus it’s been like three weeks since I’ve even seen Charly, so it will be a good time to catch up.”
Charly and the boys will simply be hoping they aren’t the ones playing catch up with a girl in the arena.
Not just any girl, but one of the all-time greats.
“If I’m competing, I’m there to win,” she said. “I don’t know what will happen, but I know when we back in, it will be serious and we’ll be ready to go.”