Meet the Member Mollie Burris
story by Siri Stevens “We were in the holding pen and when it came time to call her name, we were in the process of […]
story by Michele Toberer
“I’m gunning for a national title this year. I know there may be somebody that has put more work in than me, but I’m at least gonna give them a run. I might crash and burn, but I’m for sure gonna give it all I can,” declares Elmer, Louisiana cowboy, Will Thibodeaux. Will is an 8th grade Louisiana Junior High School Rodeo Association member that was born and raised in Elmer, as a second-generation rodeo cowboy. Will’s mom, Penny Thibodeaux competed as a breakaway roper and heeler in LHSRA, and his dad, Tim Thibodeaux has always ridden horses. Penny works in the Louisiana Early Steps program, and Tim works for Energy Transfer, a pipeline company. Will’s brother Wes is 19-years-old, and although he used to be in the roping pen with Will every day, he is now away at Louisiana Tech in Rustin, Louisiana as a constructional engineer student.
Will is an 8th-grade student at Oak Hill High School, and although he excelled in reading this past year, he feels he is good with numbers and math is his favorite subject. He has played basketball for the school in the past but is now just focusing on riding and improving his roping. Will is a heeler and has been a LJHSRA member since 6th grade. He modestly jokes, “I only compete as a heeler, I tell everyone that I can barely heel, why would I do anything else?” Will made the state finals as a 6th grader, and in 7th grade he really went to more ropings and improved his skills, helping him to qualify for national finals. He and partner, Coy Hebert didn’t have any luck in the muddy ground during the 2nd round, but the experience fueled Will to work very hard with his new partner, Kase Busby this year, and he is determined to make another nationals trip with his main goal being to end up in the top 5 in the nation this year.
Most days after school, Will and his parents are in the roping pen, where Penny works the chute, while Tim turns steers for his son. They are often joined by close friends Dustin and Max Bonnette, whom Will calls “Uncle Max,” as well as a few other neighboring ropers that get together to practice. Will credits his dad, Wes, Uncle Max, and Dustin for what he knows about roping. He often ropes 30 to 40 head of steers each day, so he is grateful to have three horses to rope on. His main rodeo horse is Rock, a 14-year-old buckskin gelding. “He’s not the most athletic horse, but he’s honest, and puts you there every time, never a bobble to him.” Gary, is a bay gelding that Will competed on in 6th grade but was off for a year recovering from a torn ligament on his rear foot. He mainly uses Gary and his brother’s horse, Fool to practice on. “Fool is a 13-year-old black gelding that was born on April Fool’s Day.”
Will admires professional ropers Clay O’Brien Cooper and Jade Corkill. “I really like watching Clay and how he has changed and learned to adjust his roping to keep winning, and I’ve always liked Jade’s style and horses.”
When Will is not roping, he may be doing chores around the farm, such as filling hay racks, cleaning stalls and filling water troughs. And for fun, he and his friends like to go riding on forestry land behind his house on their four-wheelers. Will is also really interested in motors and likes to work on cars and trucks.
Will is already preparing for his future, saving money so that he can buy his pro-rodeo card once he’s 18. “I don’t have the funds to back me up that some of the pros do, so I’m doing what I can to be ready when I get that age. I always have goals, they may not always be written down, but in my head, I have things planned out.” Will is driven to prove he can accomplish his goals, by one of his favorite quotes that he saw posted on Instagram+ by Fastback Ropes, “The best revenge is massive success.”
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