Mini cowboy makes his home in Lenoir

Nov. 04, 2013 @ 09:40 AM

Most kids dream of being cowboys.

But 7-year-old Tyler West of Lenoir already is one.

Tyler rides in rodeos — riding sheep, for now. If he sticks with it (and he plans to), he’ll move up to calves, then steer, then bulls.

The Hudson Elementary student has been riding since he was 4.

“My brother told my dad (about rodeo), then my dad got me on one,” he said. “I started it and I kept on going and I thought it was fun.”

The brother is Kory Barton, whose mom, Kelly, is engaged to Tyler’s dad, Eric. These days, when rodeo presents a new challenge and Tyler gets scared, it’s Kory who tells him to “cowboy up” — because cowboys don’t cry.

So Tyler got started riding in competitions and exhibitions around the country, always wearing his rodeo gear – fringed chaps emblazoned with crosses and the words “courage,” “strength” and “riding on faith.” (Tyler kicks like a cowboy when he walks, sending the fringe up in a spray of metallic blue.)

Tyler has collected four of the heavy, Western-style belt buckles that are the rodeo version of a trophy. Each time he’s tied onto a sheep, he said, he’s thinking one thing: “I gotta win.”  

Like any other sport, the rodeo habit can quickly consume time and money. Tyler, who pays for his own gear using money from his winnings, soon will be off to the 2013 National Junior Bull Riders Association finals in Oklahoma on Nov. 13.

The last time he qualified, he wasn’t able to go. The money just wasn’t there. This time, his parents are piecing together money from sponsorships (to sponsor, you can email Kelly at kellybarton72@yahoo.com) to find a way to send Tyler to the finals.

“Whatever it takes, he’s going to get to go this time,” Eric West said.

Tyler, who also wrestles and plays baseball, football and soccer, loves rodeo. You can see it in his eyes when he talks about his favorite bullrider, J.B. Mauney, or his favorite bull, BushWacker.  

It’s that same light other kids get in their eyes when they talk about their favorite wrestler, their favorite race car, or their favorite football star.

Tyler said he has no plans of stopping, that he wants to be just as famous as Mauney, to ride bulls like BushWacker.

He wants to do this forever.