story by Siri Stevens Tony Keeton started his company, Rockin’ K Rodeo in 2017. It’s not his only full time job. Tony has worked for […]
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Meet the Member Brad & Braxton Culpepper
story by Michele Toberer
Titles, buckles, and trucks already top the list of successes for Brad and Braxton Culpepper of North Poulan, Georgia; but the father and son team ropers competing for a world title at the International Finals Rodeo 49, is something that will mean more to the Culpepper family than just another accomplishment for the list. First-time IFR competitor, Braxton, 17, will not only be competing alongside his father, but he’ll be riding a sorrel gelding named Red Brick, that was bred by his late-grandpa, Donnie Culpepper. “My dad was a cowboy at heart, he got me into it, and built an arena on our farm when I was 11 years old, hoping that one day he’d have grandkids roping in it. His dream of rodeo came true for our family, and when Braxton came along, he fell right into the plan that my dad had,” explained Brad. “My dad and I shared a love for rodeo and we always had a close relationship. I still called him after rodeos to tell him how I did, until he passed 8 years ago. Now, I’m sharing the love of rodeo with Braxton, and I hope it keeps us just as close over the years.”
For the Culpeppers, success has been far from elusive. Brad, 48, sponsored by Classic Ropes, FRM Feeds, and Smarty, won the 2008 IPRA World Champion Team Roping Heeler title and is a many time IFR qualifier. At 19 years old, Brad started roping with Speed Williams, who was an IPRA World Champion, and that partnership changed the course of Brad’s roping career. “Through ropers like Speedy, and Cory and Paul Petska, I was able to see what the rodeo world was like in a way I hadn’t before. Speed introduced me to the IPRA, it was always important to him because his dad was an IPRA cowboy also.” Braxton, the oldest of Brad and his wife Misty’s three children, is a senior at the Chess Academy, a modified homeschool program; plays basketball, and has learned much about the rodeo world traveling with Brad and competing in the junior rodeo ranks and team ropings since he was 8 years old. In 2015, while Braxton was just 14 years old, he won 3 trucks as he competed as a heeler. He decided to switch back to heading, working on reaching on steers to be more competitive; and has taken those new skills to his IPRA competition his rookie year. This season, he’s mainly roped with Ashlee Sweedenburg, Adam Plyler, and Lane Mitchell will be heeling for him at the IFR in January. “I’m pretty excited about competing at the IFR after watching it my whole life. I’m glad my dad will be competing there too and can help me know what my start needs to be. I look forward to roping with him as my main partner next year, he’s been my main teacher and is the best partner I could ever get,” explained Braxton, who is sponsored by Cactus Ropes, FRM Feeds and Smarty. The Culpeppers feel that even when roping against each other, if one of them wins, they both win. A built-in cheering section, Braxton’s younger sisters, Tresley, 12, and Doni, 7, will be supporting their favorite ropers at the finals along with Misty, who spends most of her time managing the Culpepper kids as well as helping Brad with their trucking business when they’re not at rodeos.
“When Braxton and I rope together, I never have to wonder what he’s going to do as a header, we’ve worked for it, practicing how we will execute, and building his roping through the years. If it doesn’t go right, I feel like it’s my fault. I take some of the credit, but all the responsibility; the wins don’t just happen at the rodeo. The top level of roping is way stiffer now than when I was Braxton’s age, but he is at such a higher level than I was at 17. I made my first IFR when I was 22, and Braxton made first IFR at 17, and going into the finals, I feel like I have two chances to win.”