By: Hope Sickler
Last year at the Pikes Peak Or Bust Rodeo presented by Cinch, it was local talent Darnell Johnson who stole the show in the tie-down roping. The Pueblo native, now living east of Pueblo in Fowler, saw one of his biggest wins to date last year at the Norris Penrose Event Center. With his family by his side, Johnson held up a giant check for $15,000 and smiled for the cameras as they documented a very special moment that will never be forgotten.
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"Winning Pikes Peak Or Bust Rodeo last year was something that I will never forget," explained Johnson. "The year before I tied for the win with Trent Creager, and he won the tie-breaker, so it was extra special that I was able to come back and win it this year."
If you would ask any one of Johnson's fellow competitors, they would define the friendly calf roper as humble and kind. He is tenacious for setting goals and keeping them to himself, and he relies on his horse and long hours in the practice pen to do the talking. Johnson has had to focus on perfecting his mental game over the years, and at one point in his career didn't think he could ever "hang" with the top calf ropers in the business.
I have had to really focus on my mental game, and learning how to enjoy roping again, instead of worrying about always having to win. Each year my goal stays the same which is to get a little better every year, eliminate mistakes and keep the right attitude.Johnson has been roping at the rodeo in Colorado Springs since he bought his PRCA card in 2004, and he explains that the setup for the tie-down roping really fits his current mount, Rio Fols aka "Bubba".
"The box is longer, so you have to run the calves down the arena farther, and I think that is good for my horse. He scores good, and stops great, but he can really run. It is more of a horsepower competition in that arena and "Bubba" excels in those kinds of setups."
12-year-old "Bubba" is a very imperative part of the Johnson family. Not only is he a top-notch tie-down horse for Johnson, but he is also a remarkable breakaway horse for Johnson's wife, Erin. In fact, "Bubba" has won the WPRA World Finals for Erin two years in a row (2011 & 2012) in the breakaway roping.
"He is a heck of a horse and has done a lot for our family. He will be hard to replace someday, but until then we will continue to enjoy every moment we get to rope on him," Johnson said about the talented counterpart in his success.
Johnson considers himself lucky no matter win, lose or draw, because he is chasing his dream with his family by his side. He is quick to credit his wife Erin and their three young children, Denton, Evin and Annie, for keeping him focused and striving to do the best that he can.
"Rodeoing as a family means everything to me. The only reason I rodeo is for them and having them with me makes the rodeo road that much more enjoyable. I am a very lucky man!"
Best of luck to Johnson as his defends his 2016 title Wednesday night in the first performance of the 2017 Pikes Peak Or Bust Rodeo presented by Cinch.
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