COLUMBIA — Matthew Jordan-Garr ends almost every answer with "sir" in a thorough, confident and positive manner — a trait he says that he picked up while competing in various rodeos throughout his life.
Jordan-Garr, a 16-year-old steer wrestler from Weston, is competing in three events at the Missouri High School Rodeo Finals this weekend at the Boone County Fairgrounds. Jordan-Garr has been competing in rodeos since he was 6 and wants to carry on his family's tradition of rodeo competition.
Up until two years ago, Jordan-Garr didn't talk much and was quite bashful. It wasn't until he had to borrow a horse for a steer wrestling competition — something equivalent to borrowing a friend's car — that he learned he didn't have to shy away from help. It also taught him the importance of helping others.
And those weren't the only lessons that he took from rodeos.
"Rodeos help you have more responsibility," Jordan-Garr said. "It helps you talk to people better."
Nowadays, Jordan-Garr isn't a quiet cowboy. He goes to rodeos not only to compete but also to hang out with his rodeo friends. His demeanor reflects the close-knit ties forged in rodeos.
"I'd take my shirt off my back for anybody who needed it," Jordan-Garr said. "It's one big happy family, everyone is always there to pitch in and help."
Responsibility and respect are some of the pivotal lessons gained from taking care of the animals used to compete in rodeos.
"Animals have to be fed two times a day, they have to be kept healthy," said Jordan-Garr's mother, Tiffany Garr. "It teaches kids a lot of respect and a lot of responsibility."
When Jordan-Garr isn't sliding off of a horse at 40 mph to pin steers to the dirt at rodeos, he can be found pinning human competitors to the wrestling mat for West Platte High School. He says some of the steer-wrestling techniques carry over.
"Wrestling people is much harder, they actually fight back," Jordan-Garr said. "For steers, with patience and technique, they'll give in."
These skills also carry into his job. He works for C.R. McKellips, a company that outfits rodeos with competition animals.
"I know how to work animals, and I know how they move," Jordan-Garr said. "Rodeos give me more stock-sense."
Jordan-Garr wants to take these lessons with him into the future. He hopes to compete in college and eventually turn pro.
"It all deals with the real world," Jordan-Garr said.