Sierra Lee a favorite hazer at local rodeos
When Sterling Lee backs into the box before a steer wrestling run, he checks to make sure his horse, steer, and hazer are in the right position. There is nothing unusual in that. But when Lee looks across the chute at his hazer, he sees his little sister.
Sierra has been hazing for Sterling since her freshman year of high school in 2015. Now, she regularly hazes for four steer wrestlers on the amateur circuit, as well as her teammates at Chadron State College.
The hazer is crucial in steer wrestling, ensuring that the steer is in the ideal position for the “bulldogger” to lean off his horse and catch the steer. Sierra says, “It’s a lot harder than most people think. You have to be able to move left or right in the hole depending on whether it’s too tight or too wide. You also have to be able to read the steer and know what they do. If you have one that runs, you want to be able to cover up their eye and slow them down a little bit, but if you have one that stops, you have to stay behind them so they keep moving.”
Steer wrestlers often form a bond with the likeness to a brotherhood. It is only fitting that Sierra Lee is affectionately nicknamed “Sis.”
Sierra learned to haze out of necessity. With her brother practicing several times a week at their home in Rhame, North Dakota, it was handiest to have a family member on the other side.
Sterling says that the first steer Sierra ever hazed was for Rollie Wilson at a practice in Buffalo, South Dakota. Wilson was training a young horse, and rode by the first steer. Wilson said, “If she hazes another one like that, I’m going to crawl off.” Sierra told him not to, but he got down anyway. “Rollie got his butt chewed when he got back to the boxes. She told Rollie not to crawl off. She hazed another just perfect, but she was not happy,” Sterling says. “But she’s been doing it ever since.”
Sierra says, “I fell in love with the whole event. When they succeed or win, you get a little bit of that, too. A part of that is yours.”
During summer amateur rodeos, the Lee siblings travel together, along with Colbey Steeke, Seth Shorb, Trig Olson, and Sadie Podzimek, each man being a steer wrestler. Sterling says, “None of us hardly haze unless she’s not there. We stick her on hazing horses at the rodeo and if someone asks us to haze, we just let her do it. She hazes better than anyone else in our rig anyway.”
Sierra says she prefers to travel with the steer wrestlers. “She definitely fits in well. I think she likes hazing more than anything else, to be honest,” Sterling says.
Sierra also enters barrel racing and breakaway roping at the amateur rodeos, so her rodeo performances are busy. “We all kind of help each other with our events. I help them in the bulldogging by hazing and they give me pushes in the breakaway roping. If a run goes wrong, we talk through it,” she says.
Sierra qualified in breakaway roping to the Northwest Ranch Cowboys Association finals, scheduled for Nov. 6-8 in Gillette, Wyoming. She sits comfortably in second place, having won over $3,600. To her credit, three of the four steer wrestlers she hazes for also qualified to the finals, with her brother in first place.
Their parents were also rodeo athletes. Both Raymond and Christal competed in high school, college, amateur, and professional rodeos. Now, they are supportive of their children’s budding rodeo careers. “This last summer, we would bulldog and rope at least three times a week in between summer rodeos,” Sierra says.
Sterling and Sierra went different directions for college, with Sterling attending Dickinson State followed by Midplains Community College, and Sierra attending Chadron State. “The only time she doesn’t haze for me is at the college rodeos. This will be my fourth year without her at college, so I kind of got used to it. When she can be there, it is nice having her on the other side,” Sterling says.
Casey Olson of Prairie City, SD, a Badlands Circuit, NRCA, and SDRA champion steer wrestler from Buffalo, is Sierra’s main instructor. “Casey Olson is the one that taught me how to haze. He’s a huge part of it, even now.” Most recently, she hazed for college steer wrestlers at Riverton and Cheyenne, Wyoming in recent weeks, sending her videos to Olson for feedback.
Sterling has only scolded his sister’s hazing one time. “I kind of lost my cool on her. Then I realized I’d better not do that or I won’t have a hazer. I haven’t got mad ever since,” he says. The two say that even though they have sibling spats, they are still best friends.
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