Steamboat Springs Some little girls collect dolls. Madison George collects belt buckles.
At age 12, the Yampa cowgirl has so many belt buckles she can't display them all on her bedroom dresser.
Some are silver. Some are gold. Some are old. Some are new, including the three George won for her titles in breakaway roping, team roping and Junior Girls All-Around at the Wyoming Junior High Rodeo Association state championships in Rock Springs, Wyo.
George's performances were strong enough to earn her a spot on the Wyoming Wrangler Junior High rodeo team, which will compete in the first Wrangler Junior High Finals Rodeo from July 10 to 15 in Gallup, N.M.
"I'm so excited," she said.
Soft-spoken and polite, George is the opposite on a horse. Riding Red, Sprite or Dream, depending on the event, George has established herself as one of the top young cowgirls in Colorado and Wyoming.
The sixth-grader at Soroco Junior High also is doing well in the regional Little Britches rodeos held closer to home.
"Everybody has to pay their dues," said Bobby George, Madison's father, driver and horse breaker. "Her first year in rodeos, she was 9. She would place once in a while and otherwise just donate. That's what I call it."
The days when Madison George "donated" entrance fees without getting anything in return are gone. The little girl in Wrangler jeans, a cowboy hat and spurs already has won two saddles from competitions.
She uses both.
"I don't remember the first time I rode a horse," George said.
George competes in timed events, which require her to rope a calf, tie a goat or race around barrels.
On Wednesday, George quickly knotted Sparky's legs together, waited six seconds and untied the pet goat.
She looked up with a smile.
Earlier, she demonstrated how to rope a calf using a hay-
bale and a plastic calf head mounted on metal and stuck into the front of the bale.
She didn't miss her target once.
George competes in Wyoming because driving to Rock Springs, Wyo., was closer than driving to the Front Range. The George family has a new trailer, which doubles as a comfy home-away-from-home for Bobby, Madison and Morgan George, 7.
They will need it.
After competing in the WJHFR, the world's largest junior rodeo, the Georges will travel to Pueblo for the Little Britches national finals. Madison and Morgan have qualified.
"We aren't even coming home before then," Madison said.
The rodeo season lasts from August to August, so the competition year has almost ended, but the two largest rodeos Madison has ever competed in are coming up.
"I should do well," she said.
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley, call 871-4208 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org