Hanley “Noodle” Miller just returned from his journey to the National Junior High School Finals Rodeo in South Dakota. Miller competed for the first time at the national level in several events against with than 1100 other participants from 43 states and four countries. He qualified for the finals after earning points for his junior rodeo performances, in which he competed in about 11 over the year.
The young cowboy, 12, traveled about 2500 miles and through six states for the round trip with his mother, Dena Miller. Three horses, including Hanley Miller’s favorite, Capone, made the trip, although one was a purchase delivery.
The rodeo started on Sunday, June 23 and ended for Miller on the June 29. He rodeoed each day of the event, competing in goat tying. Miller said he thought that he competed best at goat tying, where he placed in the top 20s. He said his favorite competition event was ribbon roping.
“I really enjoyed that,” he said. “It was worth it to go down there for a long time and have fun in rodeo.”
He said the most interesting part of the rodeo was the rain and flooding and trying to compete in team and ribbon roping with a horse in deep mud. Also, the event had two arenas running events simultaneously.
“Sometimes the announcers would talk over each other and you couldn’t hear when you were up,” Miller said with a laugh. He added he had never competed at a rodeo with that much rain and mud, which even forced rodeo delays.
Miller is already planning to attend next year’s finals in Des Moines, Iowa. In fact, he’ll compete in a Prineville Junior Rodeo during Chief Joseph days later this month.
The events were spaced out through the day and Miller said he preferred competing in the morning.
“Then you can go have some fun,” he said. He added that a nearby water park and a number of jackpot ropings offered interesting diversions in his off time.
With all the roping he did, Miller was dead-on target, missing only a breakaway roping calf. Oregon did well at the rodeo, with seven competitors making the finals and one emerging as national champion in ribbon roping.
One thing Miller enjoys with rodeo is the personal connections he gets to make. One of his friends competing was Jace Schneeberger, the son of Tim and Haley Bridwell, stock suppliers for the Chief Joseph Days rodeo.
Miller said he learned some areas he needs to work on improving for next year’s rodeoing:
“My scoring (how a horse waits or stands in the box until the rider cues the horse to move forward) is not very good, so I’m going to work on that a lot,” he said. He added he would work on a faster method of dismounting his horse for the goat tying event.
His family manages the Fence Creek Ranch and Miller said the work is helpful for rodeo.
“It helps with my riding skills and dealing with high pressure situations,” Miller said.
As for Miller’s mother, Dena, she said her son understands the sacrifices made to help him on his rodeo journey.
“I’m proud of him,” Miller said. “Noodle is very appreciative of the experience and the time and expense to go back there, and that makes it worthwhile.”
As for her son, he already has plans for making next year’s performance even better. Asked what he planned to do after his Chieftain interview, his answer was simple: “We’re going home to rope more.”