Sweethearts Of The Rodeo

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Living on the family owned Cup & Saucer ranch in Strawberry has given sisters Lindi and Shelbi Parker a leg up in the high school rodeo circuit.

The girls have spent their entire lives living under the shadows of Strawberry Mountain, where parents Wade and Margaret Parker have devoted their lives to their five children. This devotion included passing on the love they have for cattle, horses and rodeos. Margaret also grew up on the ranch which was purchased by her great-grandfather Albert M. Lufkin in 1913.

Shelbi, a senior and Lindi, a sophomore at Payson High School, have been competing in the Arizona High School Rodeo circuit since they were both freshmen. Prior to that, their skills were honed in local gymkhanas. Both girls were in the saddle before they could even walk.

The Parker girls now compete in barrel racing and pole bending on the high school level.

Last year, they attended 12 rodeos during the school year. Shelbi advanced to the finals in pole bending, taking fifth place with just tenths of a second between her time and the first-place finisher. It's was at the finals that Shelbi also competed for the title of High School Rodeo Queen. Although she did not win, she proved she was an accomplished rider and was named outstanding horsewoman for her skills in the saddle.

With the finals out of the way, the girls loaded their horses up and attended summer rodeos in Fallon, Nev. and Panquitch, Utah.

It was at the Utah rodeo the girls were the most successful. Shelbi won a buckle for her second-place finish and Lindi took 13th out of the 60 competing.

The girls, like most athletes, spend several hours a day practicing. However, they are fortunate they have an arena in their front yard and a string of horses to work with while their high school peers are confined to facilities at school.

The time and financial commitment for their parents is also above and beyond what the average family of an athlete has.

There are no buses to transport them, instead its a diesel truck pulling a goose-neck horse trailer. Margaret estimated the average expense for each rodeo is $530 which figures in the entry fees, motel, gas and food. Multiply this by 12 rodeos and you are talking over $6,000 for the school year. The amount does not include feed, shoes and veterinary care for the horses.

Shelbi will graduate this year and plans to attend Central Arizona College on a rodeo scholarship. Lindi has two more years of school and is setting her sights on becoming a chiropractor. Both girls plan to continue their rodeo careers beyond high school.

For now they are looking forward to starting off the 2001-2002 rodeo season with their first competition being held here in Payson.

The 7th Annual Payson High School Rodeo is Sept. 15 and 16 at the Payson Event Center. Saturday's performance is at 1 p.m.; the Sunday performance begins at 8 a.m. Featured events are bull riding, saddle bronc, barrel race, calf roping, pole bending, breakaway, bareback broncs, steer wrestling, team roping and goat tying.

Other events include a karaoke teen dance at the Tonto Apache gymnasium Saturday night following the rodeo. Those attending must have their high school identification card.

Additionally their will be an open barrel race Friday night for all ages. Entries will be accepted starting at 6 p.m. with the competition at 7 p.m.

For more information contact Shelbi in the evenings at 476-4473.

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