The bigger picture
Surprise ending leaves Reaume without a win, but he sees God’s hand in it all
“My two goals are to be the best I can be as a roper and as a person, and to grow the sport of rodeo,” says Hunter Reaume, the would-be millionaire that has risen in popularity on social media since roping in the Shootout Round at RFD-TV’s The AMERICAN Rodeo on March 7th.
Reaume had $1.1 million all but in his pocket at The AMERICAN. But with a twist of unfortunate circumstances, it was lost in an instant. The native of Meeteetse, Wyoming tied his calf in 7.2 seconds easily topping the field of four ropers. Despite going head-to-head with tie-down roping giants like Tuf Cooper and Shane Hanchey, he was unperturbed. “When I rode into the box, there was no doubt in my mind I was going to make a good run, I just had to see the start. I wasn’t nervous–I was ready.”
The building erupted with cheers as Reaume finished his tie, and while attempting to remount his horse, Gypsy slipped through his hands and ran in the other direction. The result: a heartbreaking “No Time.”
What so captured the hearts of viewers was not his impressive time, or sympathy for his loss, but Reaume’s incredible grace in going from the highest high to the lowest low in a moment. As C.S. Lewis said, “Life with God is not immunity from difficulties, but peace in difficulties,” and Reaume embodies the notion. The calf was released without harm, Gypsy was caught and checked over, and Reaume was seen petting him after the ordeal. He told a friend after leaving the arena, “It wasn’t God’s timing.”
Reaume has a deep passion for the sport of rodeo, which intensified during his freshman year of college. He was playing football for California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly State) when an injury forced him down a different path. “That was a God thing, too. He obviously had a bigger plan because I got back into calf roping.” He advocated for his rodeo team through fundraising and producing. The team soon outgrew their arena and stands, and hosted their college rodeo, The Poly Royal, on the university’s football field during Reaume’s senior year, the highlight of his college rodeo career. Being a part of the transformation from a football field to a rodeo arena translated nicely into his senior project as a Construction Management major.
After college graduation, Reaume was offered a “dream job” in construction, which he turned down to pursue tie-down roping. He purchased Gypsy from Mitch Fechner when the horse was just five. “We were both green; and green and green makes black and blue,” he laughs. The pair are inseparable, now. “That little horse means everything to me. He’s not perfect, but he is to me,” he posted in a video.
After college, Reaume grew in faith while living with his pastor, Randy Bird, asking lots of questions, as he does with his discipline. “People give me crap for that–how many questions I ask. But Kobe Bryant asked a lot of questions. When you want to be the best, you learn everything you can about your craft,” he says. Reaume also takes inspiration from Tim Grover’s book, Relentless, where he describes Kobe (and others) as a “cleaner”, an unstoppable athlete that runs on instinct. Reaume was told by his friend, Dane Kissack, that “the ultimate competitor is a cleaner and a man of God.” He says, “And I think that’s what I accomplished [at The AMERICAN]. I felt like I competed at that level and also was very present there for Him.”
In the same way he helped grow the sport in college, he hopes his actions of last week draw more fans to the sport of rodeo. “My goal is to grow rodeo, at the end of the day. What happened at The AMERICAN–hopefully it reached people outside of our sport, too, and brings some more fans into it because of it.” With a shortage of positive role models in professional athletes in this age, he may do just that.
Helping others is a passion that stems from his childhood. Reaume’s parents wanted to live the western lifestyle and bought a ranch near Meeteetse, Wyoming, where Hunter was raised until his freshman year of high school. During this time, his parents operated a butcher shop in Cody. When the family made the decision to move to Wickenburg, Arizona, the ranch and business were sold. However, both sales fell through, and Reaume’s parents were forced to juggle their lives in two different locations for a time. Out of necessity, Hunter often stayed with families in Wickenburg who helped him get to school and take care of horses. “That’s where I learned a lot of things that impact me now. Other families were always a big part of my life. I was so blessed that this happened, because I want to help others and I want to be a role model for others.”
After Reaume’s run at The AMERICAN, the camera panned to him, where he was seen pointing to a single patch on his shirt. The patch carries significant meaning for Reaume, as it is a memorial for his dear friend, Michael Jeffers of Gillette, Wyoming, who passed away suddenly of a heart attack on January 16th, 2021. Jeffers left behind his wife of two weeks, Tierney, three daughters, and one baby on the way, along with many friends who remember his talent for bull riding, bull fighting, and uplifting others. The patch on Reaume’s shirt commemorates his handlebar mustache and his football number, as Jeffers was runningback while Reaume played quarterback during high school.
Reaume will keep his “great momentum” rolling in the coming week, as he is entered in Arcadia and Okeechobee, Florida. Reaume says, “Everything that happened, that just shows you what God can do when he’s active in your life. My biggest opportunity for growing the sport is being a role model. I really want to capitalize on the opportunity to help others.”
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