I’ve heard the sound of hundreds of people cheering for a team to “Hit that stunt!”. I’ve experienced the addicting high of winning. I’ve got the jackets, the patches, the uniforms, the titles, and the permanent stain of glitter on my soul. I was a cheerleader, a part of me will always be a cheerleader. But all the screaming, the feeling, and the awards never filled my heart the way true friends, bonfires, and late night Whataburger has.
Rodeo has been something both of my siblings and parents have been into for a long time. However, it has never really been my cup of tea. So I cheered and my siblings did barrels, poles, roping, and chute dogging. As more Keller kids came around with the desire to rodeo my parents decided to create a place for kids to come together and experience the rodeo life style, thus The Western Heritage Foundation was born.
Although I’ve known about the team for almost three years now, I just recently in the last year have really started engaging with the Kids and adults of the team. At first I felt awkward and I wasn’t sure how a bunch of cowboys and cowgirls would react to a cheerleader like me. But what I experienced was immediate acceptance for who I was and not one of the kids labeled me as a “Cheerleader” or automatically assumed I was stuck up or conceited. I started volunteering at the rodeos working concessions to sort of scope out the scene. And though there were disagreements at times I was in awe of the maturity and ability to work together the kids each had. I also couldn’t believe that not only a few parents but every parent of the team was there to work and be a help wherever was needed. After a long weekend and working nearly 25 hours I realized that working had never been more fun. Not that it wasn’t hard, because believe me there was always something to be done. But the people I was surrounded by made it so stress free and fun. Because I had such a great time I decided I would come back the next weekend when my sister was riding. The way everyone sat together in the stands and cheered each team member on caught the rest of the association by surprise. We were loud when girls ran sixteens and louder when they knocked down all three barrels, because it wasn’t about winning, it was about them doing what they loved. I fell in love with the people, the atmosphere and the laughing until our sides were aching. I came every weekend after that.
As the year went on and I became more and more a part of the team I began to build relationships with each of the team members. Which lead to crazy things like being “kidnapped” after school by the guys, sleepovers with the girls where we go to Wal-mart at midnight to get frozen macaroons and sparkling grape juice, recording ourselves riding the Titan at Six Flags, Girl trips to Glen rose, zip lining into trees, days where we just sit in the back of trucks listening to music, tons of bonfires, Up Town Funk becoming “our jam”, having Whataburger at least 3 times a week, and the team practically living at our house. They became people I could lean on, even cry on. The girls are people I can trust and vent to without worrying about anyone else finding out. And the Boys became big brothers who always know how to make me laugh and are always threatening to hurt anyone who hurts me. Being able to trust every person on a team was something I had never been able to do before. There has been no greater feeling than being able to relax and be myself all of the time. Because I’ve engaged in the Western Heritage Foundation I’ve come to know what it’s like to be around people who cherish and respect me even when I mess up. I’ve come to know what a true friend is and that there really is such thing as people who don’t want drama in their lives.
The bottom line is… I love being a part of the Western Heritage Foundation. I’ve made more friends in the last year than I did in the 9 years I cheered. And I’m confident that these are the people I’ll be friends with when we’re all old and crazy.