Forrie J. Smith was going though some pictures recently when he came across a photo of himself during his first rodeo competition.
The year was 1966 and Smith was 7, riding a steer at the Last Chance Stampede in Helena, Mont.
Friday, he was days away from turning 50 and riding a horse named King Bee during the bareback riding competition at the Tucson Rodeo.
“I thank God for rodeo. It gives me something to get up for in the morning,” Smith said.
Rodeo has been a way a life for Smith and is a family tradition. His father is in the Canadian Cowboy Hall of Fame and his mother competed in barrel racing at the National Finals Rodeo.
His grandfather also competed in the rodeo.
“I love rodeo,” Smith said. “I wish everybody here could appreciate and love rodeo half of what I do. It’s gotten me in the movie business. I’ve won money in four different countries. I was a single parent, poor ranch kid out of Montana and the only chance I had was rodeo.”
Rodeo has provided many opportunities for Smith, including a career in the movie industry. He has appeared in over 45 films and is a member of the Screen Actors Guild.
Smith’s last big role was in the 2005 movie “Transamerica,” starting Felicity Huffman.
In 1991, Smith was supposed to play a part in the 1992 movie “Far and Away,” staring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman.
After getting to Montana for filming, the studio called to say they didn’t need him.
But the studio changed its mind again and decided to use him after all. The problem is Smith had entered a bunch of rodeos by then.
“At the first (rodeo) the horse hit the fence and I had a compound fracture just above the boot,” Smith said.
After breaking his leg, Smith moved to Los Angeles where he continued to find work in Western movies.
But Smith said the “bright lights and fast women of L.A.,” along with his wife leaving him, caused him to move to Sonoita, where he worked at ranches.
“I got back to my roots and that’s when I started judging rodeos,” he said.
As a rodeo judge, Smith would watch kids win $700 or $800 and still be upset with his judging.
“I go judge a rodeo and I’m there for three days and I make $500 and I have guys that want to whip me because they didn’t like my judging,” Smith said.
“At an amateur rodeo, guys will come back and say ‘oh the horse did this and did that.’ At a pro rodeo the guys are ‘oh I should’ve done this or I should’ve done that.’
“It’s you, it’s not the horse. That’s their job to make you screw up. It’s our job to keep our focus up.”
While judging rodeos, Smith soon realized that he could still compete despite his age and having his legs, neck and ribs broken at various times.
Smith is on his second year back and hopes to compete at 100 rodeos this year.
“It kind of plays with your mind,” Smith said. “Should I be here, or should I go out and get a job and settle down like everybody else? This is all I know.”
• Friday’s results, 7C
84th ANNUAL LA FIESTA DE LOS VAQUEROS
Where: Tucson Rodeo Grounds, 4823 S. Sixth Ave.
Saturday: Pro competition, 2-4:30 p.m.
Sunday: Pro competition finals, 2-4:30 p.m.
Tickets: Advance, $12-18, call 520-741-2233 or 800-964-5662