Seeking opportunity, a cowgirl hits the road

In an interview with Wrangler, the event’s
sponsor, after her victory, Crawford mentioned the unborn baby girl she had
already named Journey.

“This is one amazing journey that I’m getting
to be on, and little Journey getting to be on it too,” she said. “She was
giving me some kicks today, so she was excited.”

Two months after giving birth in March ,
Crawford, 39, went back out on the road for a full season of rodeo competitions
with baby Journey and her 4-year-old son, Creed, in tow. Her husband, retired
roper Charly Crawford, stayed at home in Stephenville, Texas, with daughter

Rodeo athletes typically spend the summer racking
up prize money at local events to qualify for the National Finals Rodeo at the
end of the year in Las Vegas, a competition among the top 15 athletes from each
discipline in what is considered the Super Bowl of the rodeo world.

Women have limited opportunities in the sport.
Breakaway roping — in which riders throw a breakaway lasso around a calf
released from a chute — and barrel racing are the only individual events open
to them. In fact, the 2020 season was the first since 1959 in which the PRCA —
which sanctions local rodeo competitions — included breakaway roping in its
annual finals, though as a separate ticketed event. Until then, just one of its
seven events, barrel racing, included women competing by themselves.

And the financial rewards for women are often
small. By the end of the 2021 season in September, for example, Crawford had
earned $36,200 at PRCA rodeos, which got her back into the finals. By
comparison, bull riders, all of whom are men, would have earned at least
$100,000 on their way to qualifying.

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But the fact that breakaway roping is now
being included in the National Finals Rodeo and other rodeos indicates that the
perception of it as a niche event within the rodeo world is changing.

And Crawford, though she did not repeat as
champion in 2021, finishing sixth, is determined to ride the wave.

“This season was long and financially really
hard but we made some great memories,” she said. “And I felt good about being
able to win a world championship, take a few months off, come back and still
make the NFR — that was a big accomplishment for me.”

“But we’re going to keep pressing until the
PRCA will put us in everywhere as a standard event with equal money.”

Last year, The New York Times caught up with
Crawford at a few stops along her journey, including a rodeo event in Alvarado,
Texas. In a hectic life on the road, Crawford found peace astride a horse. The
pressures and stresses melted as she waited for her moment in the arena. Her
mind calmed. Her nerves steadied. And then, with the nod of her head, the calf
was released and she set forth, kicking up dust behind her.

©2021 The New York Times Company

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