Clay Norell is a busy guy. When the DCI finally caught up with the Hotchkiss rancher, he was hauling cattle.
Norell, who lives outside of Hotchkiss with his new bride, Katlyn, is also busy preparing to compete at the National Western Stock Show Pro Rodeo in Denver this weekend. The rodeo is one of the biggest of its kind in the nation.
Norell is a professional team roper, and this isn't his first stock show rodeo. Throughout his professional career, Norell, 28, has competed throughout the state and from Texas to Wyoming, and won a fair amount of prize money along the way.
It's a family tradition. The Norell family name is synonymous with quarter horses, which they have raised for 75 years. His paternal grandfather's family was inducted last year into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame for being among the first familes in the nation to breed quarter horses.
Norell was 5 when his family moved to Delta, and was already making a name for himself in rodeo. He won his first saddle at age 8, and eventually worked his way up through the rodeo ranks. When he turned 18, he got his Colorado Pro Rodeo Association card. He attended college at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas, on a rodeo scholarship, and competed in team and other roping events throughout his college career. He majored in science and technology, graduating with a degree in environmental engineering.
Younger brother Payton, who will compete at the stock show this weekend, also attends Tarleton.
Norell has competed at the National Western Stock Show a few times over the last 10 years, and remembers watching his dad, Ken Norell, competing there when he was a kid. While a qualifying event was held in Denver last December, Norell qualified on his 2015 rankings. His roping partner is Joe Roderick, a professional roper from Loma.
Having two family members competing so close to home is a great opportunity for the entire family, including his in-laws and parents Ken and Paula Norell, both competitive ropers. Norell said the stock show is a great family event because there's so much going on.
The stock show marks the very beginning of the 2016 pro rodeo season. While ranch work keeps him busy, ranching and rodeo go hand in hand, said Norell, who combines work and practice during the week and competes on weekends. Katlyn is also learning to rope.
Norell hopes to take home his share of the prize money, "But the money is only as good as you can do," he said.