Patrick Finley: Tucson rodeo: Family living the cowboy life

2013-02-18T00:00:00Z 2014-07-08T15:33:24Z Patrick Finley: Tucson rodeo: Family living the cowboy lifePatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
February 18, 2013 12:00 am  • 

They hadn't yet dismounted from their horses after barrel racing Sunday when they started to make plans.

"Ice cream!" Taylor Lunderville said.

"And curly fries!" her sister Peyton said. "It's a tradition."

They had plenty to celebrate.

The oldest of three sisters from Rio Rico, 11-year-old Taylor won her heat at the Tucson Rodeo junior rodeo barrel racing event, with a time of 18.68.

Peyton, 8, finished only four-and-a-half seconds behind her big sister.

And their kid sister, Dylan, got one of the loudest ovations of anyone - pro or amateur, animal or human, bull rider or team roper - all day.

With red bows in her blonde hair and a plastic whip, the 6-year-old entered the arena riding a Shetland pony, rather than a horse.

Its name was Butterscotch.

As fans cheered and made collective "ain't-that-cute" noises, Dylan - who has done the Tucson Rodeo for three years now - trotted the pony around all three barrels and to the finish.

"The barrels," Taylor said, "were bigger than her pony."

Fiesta de los Vaqueros was created 88 years ago as a tourist attraction, a way for locals to add a few extra weeks onto the traditional vacation season in Tucson.

It's evolved into more than that.

City slickers, like myself, like to close their eyes and pretend, for one moment, that they're cowboys. And those who actually live the cowboy life come to connect with their like-minded, and similarly chapeaued, brethren.

That's how the girls' parents met.

Chad, from Rio Rico, and Melisa, from Marana, were kids on the junior rodeo circuit with parents who performed in events. Chad's grandparents were horse-racers, too.

(How's this for a rodeo family: Sunday, two of the three girls wore rodeo belt buckles won by Melisa's mom, Kate Tuchscherer. Hours later, Melisa's brother, Clayton, competed in steer wrestling.)

When Chad and Melisa started having kids, there was little doubt they'd ride horses, though neither parent pressured them into rodeo events.

"They're competitive against each other anyway," Chad said.

The kids learned how to ride around their third birthdays - if, for no other reason, to help around the property.

If you know anything about sibling rivalry, you know what happened next.

"They have their own junior rodeos at home, by themselves," Chad said. "They time each other and film each other."

That's how I learned about the three Mountain View Elementary students: there's an Internet video of them, filmed by them, set to a country song called "Giddy on Up." They're galloping around their family's own small arena, which sits below the family home.

"There's a lot that goes on down the hill that I'm unaware of," said Chad, who's a team roper, "until I see the video."

Taylor is president of the National Honor Society and Peyton is on student council. When they're not playing with a zoo full of pets - they have three cats, three dogs, a guinea pig and a desert tortoise, not counting strays - they ride their horses almost every day. They clean out their corrals and stalls.

When they race, the sisters don't cut 6-year-old Dylan any slack because of her age.

The same is true when they swim, do gymnastics, play golf and run cross country.

"Dylan doesn't quite finish the 5K," Taylor said, "but she'll run a mile."

The journey was a bit shorter to the ice cream stand Sunday.

Dylan, still on her Shetland pony, said she wanted chocolate.

Contact reporter Patrick Finley at pfinley@azstarnet.com or 573-4145. On Twitter @PatrickFinley.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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