Visalia teens making rodeo a family affair

FRESNO, Calif.

While most athletic kids their age are off playing basketball or volleyball, Visalia's Lily Tillery, and her cousins Billie and Lefty Holman are not only practicing their passion, they're living it.

"Yeah, it's a lot different, I feel like I'm more myself in rodeo than I am at school," 14-year-old rodeo star Lily Tillery said.

"It's just different than everything else. It's unique and you have really good responsibilities. I just love it," 16-year-old Billie Holman said.

At 16, Billie is the oldest of the three relatives.

The Golden West junior has racked up more championship buckles than she can count and made it to the National Junior High School Championships in New Mexico twice.

"That's like a really high title to get up there and make it. You just feel really accomplished when you're there," Billie said.

Right on Billie's heels both in age and performance is cousin Lily.

A 14-year-old rodeo prodigy who, like Billie, is fresh off an all-around championship in the junior high division at last month's Riverdale Rodeo.

"To win all-around makes you feel really good because you know that you've worked really hard and that's the best that you could have done. And you did," Lily said.

Just beginning his climb to standout status in the arena is Billie's brother, 13-year-old Lefty Holman, who just happens to be right-handed.

What he lacks in experience he's already made up for in toughness.

"Yeah I was riding a bull and he stepped right here on my shoulder, and he broke my scapula and he broke a couple ribs and punctured my lung," Lefty said.

But for these three relatives, rodeo is more than just an extra-curricular - it's a family affair and it's a lifestyle.

"When you grow up around it, it becomes like what you want your kids to do and what want - I don't know. I always see riding in my life. For the rest of my life," Lily said.

It's also a ticket to higher education.

"I want to go to Cal Poly and be on the rodeo team. I think that would be really awesome," Lily said.

And it's helped conquer fears, like one-ton bulls breaking your bones. Being just teenagers, just starting down the path to rodeo stardom, the future is theirs for the roping.

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