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Lafayette teen calf roper chases Indiana state rodeo title

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MONTICELLO – There is a twinkle and joy in the eyes of Harrison High School calf roper RET Turner as he rides his horse, an Arabian Shorthair named Shaq, around a makeshift rodeo arena four miles north of downtown Monticello.

The 6-foot-2 Turner, whose first name is Robert E. Turner, is the No. 2-ranked calf roper in the state with 82 points as he prepares for the Indiana High School State Finals Rodeo on Friday and Saturday at Hoosier Horse Park in Edinburgh.

18-year-old Lafayette gets help from his grandparents, Steve and Deanna Pass, who own a 50-acre farm. They built the makeshift arena full of pens, chutes, railings, holds and passageways to help herd the calves so Turner could tie them up and trap them.

Turner fell in love with the sport at a young age, he said. As a toddler, he sat on his grandfather’s lap and watched rodeos on television before competing in his first competitions in eighth grade.

“He has always been interested in horses and from the age of two he had a cowboy hat on and a rope in his hand,” Deanna Pass said. “He was lassoing all the bar stools in the kitchen. We always had a saddle on a frame and he would throw the rope.”

Turner has other members of his family help wrangling calves as part of his team. And the help doesn’t get any stronger than that of its cousin Kora Pass. Kora jumped into the pens and assisted Steve in cycling the released calves out of the arena, through the gate paths and back to the stable.

Kora Pass was a former Twin Lakes basketball player who was her team’s leading rebounder in 2023.

Cora considers helping Turner a family obligation, and she said she helps Shaq warm up or helps Steve herd calves in chutes.

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“It’s becoming a habit and I was walking by so I had to go in and help,” Kora Pass said. “It’s always expected to help. I thought it would be fun to come and see (Turner).”

Calf roping is a sport where success and failure are played out in 20 seconds or less. Turner welds the calves to the ground, wraps the rope around the animal’s legs and places it on the ground before receiving a score from the judges.

One miss or misstep, and a cowboy’s day is over.

“You have ten seconds to do your best, and if not, your entry fee is gone and you’re on to the next one,” Turner said. “It can be a mentally challenging sport.”

And like other rodeo sports, it can be physically taxing. Nursing an injured ankle suffered during a rodeo competition, Turner was only able to practice lassoing the five calves he had in stock.

During matches, he catches the animal and steps off Shaq before attacking and getting a score.

The 18-year-old continues to persevere despite the injury and hopes to one day perform calf roping on bigger stages. He has competed in junior rodeo events in Las Vegas and Casper, Wyoming.

He competes in two rodeos a week during the summer at events in Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky and Ohio, but will also travel to events on the West Coast.

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Turner has been offered a scholarship to compete in rodeo at Missouri State University – West Plains, but is also interested in taking up a farrier training course and eventually learning to shoe horses in rodeos.

“It’s addictive,” Turner said. “I couldn’t imagine doing anything else even if I wanted to.”

Ethan Hanson is the sports reporter for the Journal & Courier in Lafayette. He can be reached at [email protected]on Twitter Ethan A Hanson and Instagram on ethan_a_hanson.