By Kendra Santos
On the ranch or in the arena, Colter Todd is as cowboy as they come. He shocked a lot of people when he rode quietly away from his rodeo career after roping at three straight Wrangler National Finals Rodeos from 2006-08. Those people don’t know Colter Todd. There’s a ton of buzz today in the Reno Livestock Events Center about how exactly Colter came to be heading for Junior Nogueira here at the BFI Reno Championship presented by Wild Rag Vodka. Their 6.37-second run, which was third in Round 1, kicked the roping rumor mill into high gear. Here’s the story about how we got here, but make no mistake—win, lose or draw, this has all been a God thing.
This unexpected curveball started bouncing when Kaleb Driggers’ head horse fell at a jackpot in Mount Pleasant, Texas, on June 2. He was roping with Wesley Thorp when that head horse went down and broke Driggers’ left hand. He’s since been playing a hopeful round of beat the clock on doctors’ expectations that it’d take four to six weeks to heal up enough to rope.
Kaleb and Junior were entered in the Reno Open, and were supposed to rope yesterday at the Reno Rodeo. They got traded to the last set of the rodeo here on Friday to give Driggers a few extra days to get enough strength in his left hand to hold his coils and manage the controls/reins. But that left Junior with no spinner for today’s Reno Open, which will pay $50 grand a man and is just too big an opportunity to pass up.
“It’s never a good time to get hurt, but coming into Reno is a terrible time,” Junior said. “All the rigs are here, and everyone’s excited and entered in the Reno Open. This time of year has a lot to do with who makes the NFR, and from this day forward is when we really get it.
“When I realized Kaleb wouldn’t be ready for this must-not-miss roping, my very first thought was Jake (Barnes, who got Junior to his first NFR in 2014). But I knew he was already entered with Clay O (Cooper). So I thought of Colter. By the time I got to rodeoing early in my career, Colter was done. I don’t know him very well, but I’ve always watched Colter rope and looked up to him. The only explanation I can think of for why I thought of Colter is that it must be a God thing. He’s a good Christian, and he’s a great cowboy. He went home to ranch and raise his kids, because that’s what he loves most. We all respect him for that.”
He’s got that right. But Junior called Colter anyway. And he said no.
“When I called Colter, he said, ‘No, I can’t do that,’” Junior said. “He told me it’s been dry in Arizona, so he needed to stay home and feed his cows and make sure they have water. He also told me, ‘Oh, Kaleb will surely be ready by then.’ I told him, ‘If he’s not, you can just fly to Reno. I don’t even care what you ride. I know we can go there and win it. But if we don’t, it’ll be a great time and I’ll get to bring you back, and so many people will be so happy to see you.’
“I just kept telling Colter, ‘We have nothing to lose.’ And having this chance to win big money this time of year when everybody’s rodeoing and all the open ropings are done is too big a chance to pass up. Whoever wins or places at this roping is going to be very happy with a lot to show for it, whether they’re headed out for Cowboy Christmas or headed back home to the ranch, like Colter is.”
Colter was horseback in the arena roping bulls during the last perf at the Arizona High School Rodeo Association state finals in Prescott when he got Junior’s call. He had a new cell phone with no contacts in it yet, so he didn’t pick up the first time it rang. But when the caller tried right back, he thought it might be important.
“It was Junior, he asked about roping here in Reno and I told him, ‘No, somebody has to be there at the ranch while (Colter’s wife) Carly takes (their first-born son) Colter Lee to the junior high finals in Des Moines (Iowa, which is on now), and that’s me,’” Colter said. “I don’t want to pawn my responsibility off on somebody else.
“I was in the arena roping bulls with (Colter and Carly’s youngest son) Traven, and he asked who that was who’d called. I told him it was Junior, and he immediately said, ‘Dad, you’ve got to do it.’ I told Traven, ‘No, if I’m going to be gone, it’s going to be to go to Des Moines to watch Colter Lee.’”
Junior flew home to Brazil—where he and wife Jaqueline finally had their first post-COVID chance to introduce their baby girl, Isabella, to her grandparents and extended Brazilian family—having no idea if he’d be roping here at the Reno Open or not. Meanwhile, Colter was talking to Carly, and she was with Traven, saying, “I think you should do it.”
“I finally told Junior yes, and it’s fun to be here,” Colter said. “I kept telling him that if he found someone else, there’d be no hard feelings. In fact, that’d be great. But he didn’t, and I wasn’t going to leave him hung out to dry. Anyway, here we are and it is fun. It’s Junior. That’s like when I get to heel for (Derrick) Begay. You don’t get chances like that every day.”
Junior’s riding his buckskin horse Timon here today. Colter’s riding his kids’ sorrel horse Shiner, who’s 9. Shiner is Colter and Carly’s daughter Madilyn’s head horse, and Traden heels on him, too. Their eldest Madilyn, who’s 15 already, qualified for the National High School Finals Rodeo that’s coming up in Lincoln, Nebraska, by the way. Colter’s brother-in-law Will Woodfin, who’s married to Colter’s sister, Savannah, helped tune him up for today.
Colter lost his mom, Lori, suddenly last November. His unwavering faith has provided the same peace about that as he had when he left the rodeo trail in his prime and never looked back.
“It was a good morning at the ranch, and we were all there,” he said of the day Lori headed to Heaven when her huge heart stopped suddenly and unexpectedly. “We moved cows that morning, and my mom and dad (Larrie “Rooster” Todd) went out to feed calves, and on the last bale she was gone. It was tough, but she had a good day at the ranch with the people she loved and there was no suffering. There’s already a day picked out for all of us, so I do have peace about it.”
Lori Todd could not have been prouder of the cowboy and family man she raised in Colter, and she’s clearly still here in spirit.
“People always make a big deal about me leaving rodeo in my prime, but it was not hard for me,” Colter said. “I prayed about it, and God took away my desire to rodeo. I needed someone to give me answers, and that was my answer. When I ask Him for answers, I seek and I wait. Once I got that answer, there was no turning back or looking back. I wouldn’t trade what I have at home with my family now for anything.”