Weekend rodeo in Steamboat Springs to memorialize cowboy Travis Darling | SteamboatToday.com

Weekend rodeo in Steamboat Springs to memorialize cowboy Travis Darling

— It's been nine months — only nine months, as Barb Lynn puts it — and it's still not easy.

Her son, Travis Darling, was cowboy to the soul, and his love for the life of roping and riding was first and firmly established in the high country meadows around Steamboat Springs.

The Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo Series' board of directors was quick the offer help in the days following Darling's death in an October car crash on a Texas road. Taking them up on that offer and establishing a memorial saddle bronc ride has been something of a beacon for his mother.

"It's given me a focal point," she said. "Knowing I needed to pull this off, it's been good to get me through as much of the healing as I can. This is what Travis would have wanted, how he would have wanted to be remembered."

This weekend's two performances of the Pro Rodeo Series will seek to honor Darling in his favorite event: saddle bronc riding. He was a former seasonlong champion in the event at the Steamboat rodeo, and the automatic money in the weekend's competition will be doubled from $1,000 to $2,000.

About 20 riders are expected to compete for that beefed-up prize pot, another $500 bonus, a custom buckle and the title of The 2013 Darling Round Champion.

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"Immediately after Travis passed away, people were talking about what we could do for his family and to celebrate his memory," Steamboat rodeo spokeswoman Laura Sankey said. "It's our way to celebrate his life and remember him in a really positive way. Travis was a great cowboy and a great person, and a lot of people in Steamboat were close to him."

Darling grew up in rodeo and also excelled in football and wrestling in Steamboat Springs before he moved with his father, Mark Darling, to Ignacio to start high school. He focused on wrestling and rodeo there, qualifying for the Colorado State Wrestling Tournament three times and winning three state high school cutting horse championships atop his horse, Tom.

He was a champion in Steamboat's seasonlong series and in the Pat Mantle Memorial Saddle Bronc riding competition at age 19, earned a rodeo scholarship to Casper College in Casper, Wyo., and still was following his dream of making the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas when he moved to Rockdale, Texas, to work on a ranch.

This weekend's prizes will go to the highest pointed ride from the rodeo's two performances. The first night of rodeo begins at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Brent Romick Rodeo Arena in downtown Steamboat Springs. The event continues at the same time Saturday.

For his mother, it's an opportunity. She said she expects about a dozen of the riders to be close friends of Darling's and that the 23-year-old's friends and family will fill the stands, grieving his loss by celebrating his love and his life.

"It will be a good way to remember what Travis left in his 23 years, a legacy of friends he made throughout his life," Lynn said. "This will be a gathering place for them, and it seems appropriate.”

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com

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