The face is a little more weathered, the creases around his eyes a little more pronounced, but the high-wattage smile is still that same now for Canyon’s Will Lowe as it was when he broke into the ranks of professional rodeo in 2002.
That season, Lowe traveled around the nation and when finished, had garnered the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s Rookie of the Year honors both in his discipline, bareback riding, and overall.
One of Lowe’s first stops in his inaugural pro campaign was in the Permian Basin at the annual SandHills Stock Show and Rodeo.
“I still remember the horse I got on,” Lowe said after riding in Wednesday’s third performance of this year’s SandHills Stock Show and Rodeo.
“Harry (Vold) was still the contractor then and I got on Foxhole and scored 79 points; got my first check out of it.”
The first of many as Lowe went on to win three world championships before his career was five years old (2003, 2005, 2006).
He has consistently finished among the top 15 competitors in the event and qualified for 14 consecutive years (2002-2015) for the annual Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, a streak that ended when Lowe was part of the Elite Rodeo Association during the 2016 season and couldn’t compete in any PRCA events.
“I was doing what I thought was right, to improve the sport of rodeo,” Lowe said. “I’ve been in the sport long enough to understand what needs to happen and I was just trying to do what was best and some good things came out of it.”
Through all his success, Lowe also has been a fixture in the Permian Basin each January, making the four-hour trip south from Canyon to the Ector County Coliseum to help kick off his season.
Something that won’t stop until Lowe, 35, decides to hang up the spurs.
“I love coming to Odessa,” Lowe said. “I think the rodeo committee does a great job here in taking care of the cowboys and doing what’s right for them.
“This is a great rodeo to help get the year started right. If you do well here you are going to jump up in the standings and that’s going to help you get into a lot more rodeos down the road.”
Lowe struggled on this trip, scoring just 66 points aboard Wrangler Moon, who took one big jump out of the gate and then started bucking in circles in front of the chutes.
Still, the smile was on Lowe’s face as he packed up his gear Wednesday, having just watched wife Tiffani compete in the barrel racing event.
Next up for Lowe is a trip to the Midwest to Des Moines, Iowa, for a roughstock event that he hopes will move him higher in the standings and closer to a return trip to Las Vegas after a two-year hiatus.
After Iowa, Lowe is scheduled to compete in Denver, then Fort Worth and San Antonio as the winter campaign continues.
“I’m up in Denver on the 18th and hopefully I’ll do good enough to hang around for the short go on the 21st,” he said. “I just squeaked into San Antonio this year because I only went to 17 rodeos last year, but did well enough to qualify.
“You want to have a good winter so you can pick and choose during the spring and summer. I’m not going to be out on the road for 250 days like I was earlier in my career.”