Dad's helping hand

11-year-old hazer breaks mold as dad sees success as a steer wrestler

By Quentin Jodie
Navajo Times

CHURCH ROCK, N.M., June 21, 2012

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(Special to the Times - Donovan Quintero)

Tori Tsosie, 11, waits to haze for her father Tyrone Tsosie Saturday evening at the 64th Annual Lions Club Rodeo at Red Rock Park in Church Rock, N.M.

M ost of the time they are overlooked.

But to a steer wrestler, they are more than just supporting cast members.

In fact, a hazer can make or break a steer wrestler so it's imperative that the hazer has his back.

"With any hazer out there you have to put a lot trust into that person," longtime bull dogger Tyrone Tsosie said. "They basically guide the steer in a straight path and they make sure the steer doesn't change direction."

A hazer is usually a cowboy riding on the other side of the steer but for the last eight shows Tsosie has put all his trust into his 11-year-old daughter, Tori.

"It's very seldom and rare that a woman would do this job," he said. "But for Tori, I think a lot of people had some doubts because she's a girl. Basically they thought that I'd be hitting the ground."

Instead, he's been catching most of his steers and a lot of the credit goes to Tori, who out of the blue told her dad early this year that she wanted to haze for him.

With roughly 25 years under his belt, Tsosie contemplated whether he should give up steer wrestling. And with his oldest son, Tyron, in college, he was ready to start a new chapter in his life.

"I already put in my mind that I wasn't going to do this," Tyrone said of steer wrestling. "Last year I wasn't feeling good so I thought that this is part of my age where I'm going to put it away like some of the other guys did.

"But Tori wanted to see me rodeo again," he said. "She liked the times when we went to all the pro rodeos and all these Indian rodeos we went to. She got to see and meet new people."

Last Saturday night, they made their first appearance at the Gallup Lions Club Rodeo and experienced something different as Tyrone made a tough landing on the red clay dirt.

"A lot of the contestants didn't have hazers or horses so we had to put ours to use," the elder Tsosie said. "From that, I think the horse that Tori uses was pumped up and it was kind of hard for her to hold him back."

Nonetheless, they have been successful since they teamed up in April of this year. Of the eight shows, Tori has helped her dad place in three.

"Everything has been working out," Tyrone said. "I've caught all my steers except for this rodeo (Lions Club) and Ganado."

Because of their past success, Tori is becoming a fan favorite, says her older brother.

"She gets a lot of comments about her hazing," Tyron said. "Usually everyone's eyes are on the steer wrestler, but when she comes out people look out for her because you don't see that every day."

As a hazer himself, Tyron said the job can be demanding, adding that it requires precise coordination.

"It's all about timing and you know she may have her ups and downs, but that's how I got started," Tyron said. "That's how all hazers start. And when we get into that mode where you know what to do it starts to become easy."

Admittedly, Tori said she still gets nervous before each run but she is there to help her dad.

"I kind of get a little shaky," she said. "And I start to breathe a little harder, but I'm doing this for my dad."

Tori said she gets that way because of the people watching but with each rodeo she's getting more comfortable.

In fact, at the recent Navajo Nation Treaty Days Celebration, she didn't let the pressure get to her as all the top hands competed at this INFR-sanctioned event.

In the end her dad finished third in a competitive field. Afterwards longtime hazer Ben Bates Jr. had nothing but high praise for the soon-to-be sixth grader at Crownpoint Elementary School.

"That's your story right there," he said of Tori, while this reporter was interviewing the event champion.

And while she received many congratulatory comments at that rodeo, things didn't start off that way. In fact, they were sneered upon when they entered their first rodeo together.

"We heard a lot of laughs and giggles," Tyrone recalled. "For a while Tori always got that."

At the time, the perception was she wasn't going to be on the same wavelength.

"A lot of people thought that her timing would be off," her dad said. "They think that a female's timing wouldn't be the same as a male, but she ran the steer so nice that I didn't have to reach or stretch out for the steer."

Since then the perception has changed and now they say "Tori puts the steer right on my lap," Tyrone said.

"She has fans that come up to her and congratulate her," he said. "They are real happy for her and that makes her real happy. But at the end of the day she knows that she has a job to do."

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