Most 10-year-olds, when they get out of school, take it easy. They kick back with a snack for an afternoon of cartoons, or maybe gear up for soccer practice.
Ketch Kelton isn’t like most 10-year-olds.
“I probably had a rope in my hands before I could walk,” said Ketch.
The prize-winning rodeo roper spends every free moment with a rope in his hands, even when he’s supposed to be done practicing for the day. “He continues to have a rope in his hand, and rope the multiple dummies we have throughout the house in different rooms, rope our feet, rope mom as she’s walking through the kitchen,” said Tammy Kelton, 40, with a chuckle.
Tammy called from Guthrie, Okla., where Ketch had just competed in junior calf roping. From there, the family will drive to Texas for a team-roping competition, where Ketch’s father Chance Kelton, 41, also a rodeo competitor, will be competing in steer roping. Tammy estimates that the family spends a combined minimum of three months out of the year on the road for rodeo events.
Home is Kelton Ranch in Cordes, Ariz., where the family, along with daughter Kenzie, 12, organize their lives around the sport. Each day starts with a morning of homeschooling; around noon, Ketch heads out to begin his day’s rodeo work.
“When he was born, I was packing him onto my horse before he could even see,” Chance said. “So he was doing it before he even knew he was doing it.” The pair practice in the arena until sunset and then head indoors – and that’s when Ketch switches from roping cattle to roping mom’s feet.
Tammy calls herself her family’s “biggest cheerleader,” and she’s even secretary of the Arizona Junior Rodeo Association. But when you ask her what she’s most proud of, it’s not the 23 saddles Ketch has won or the $20,000 prize he recently split. It’s his heart.
“I’m most proud of who he is,” she said. “He’s the most caring, giving, helpful child. … He really is an old soul.”