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It was behind the roping chutes in the year 2000. That’s when I knew my Brittany was a keeper. I can vividly remember the two of us, standing behind the roping chutes at the Ellensburg Rodeo more than two decades ago and realized, “Yep, she’s the one.”

Brittany and I have been together at every Ellensburg Rodeo since 2000. Our girls — 16-year-old Delaney and 14-year-old Adelyn — have been with us at the arena for their entire lifetimes as well. We all will continue to take in the Ellensburg Rodeo year after year together … but it’s going to be strictly as fans from here on out.

This is my last rodeo column.

We’re never saying goodbye as fans, we’re not saying goodbye as neighbors, but it’s still difficult to say goodbye as a rodeo reporter even though I’ll still be roaming around the chutes and town for many years to come.

As life continues to get more wonderfully hectic — as the girls, who are both high schoolers, and their responsibilities grow while Brittany and I happily juggle the increasing expectations of adulting — balancing freelance rodeo writing with the rest of life has been tough.

It’s time to tip my hat and hand over the reins to the next rodeo reporter. I don’t know who that will be, but if they have half the fun I did during my time, life will be good for them.

But before I go, y’all need to know what a true privilege covering rodeo has been for me. Even better, y’all need to know how thankful I am that I got to share all of this with my three girls: Brittany, Delaney and Adelyn. I never competed in rodeo, but immediately grasped how special rodeo and the Western way of life is to this community when I jumped into this position of rodeo reporter in May of 2000.

I hoped my column created a dialogue with people from around the Kittitas Valley. It has always amazed me still to this day when someone mentions reading something I wrote. I honestly wrote because it was fun, and I wanted to make sure this sport — this lifestyle — got proper billing. My kids loved being quoted (they say they didn’t, but they thought it was cool), my wife tolerated being quoted, even when I took creative liberties at times, and when I’d go too long without mentioning them, someone would point out that my Guddat Girls needed some love in print.

My family has seen first-hand some amazing accomplishments at the Ellensburg Rodeo and many arenas across the West. But beyond the attention of the arena, it’s amazing how families live the western way of life in their own homes, on their own farms and ranches. I tried to showcase that lifestyle the best I could. Even with the best intentions, there will always be countless stories that don’t get told. Maybe some stories didn’t always get shared in writing, but the effort, the hard work and the dedication to the craft and family was certainly discussed around my dinner table.

While Under the Hat with Guddat rides off into the sunset, I’ll leave you with this: It’s been an amazing experience for us. And I do mean us. While Brittany, Delaney and Adelyn might not get their own bylines, anyone who has followed my coverage for more than 21 years knows they’re more of a part of my rodeo life than anyone else.

No one is more blessed to see my three beautiful girls at the arena than I am. That will never change.

We’ll be around. We still have our bucket list of rodeos that never gets any smaller, despite checking many of them off the list. That’s what I hope people know: The Guddats are rodeo fans first and foremost, we ain’t going anywhere … except to the next rodeo.

Thank you … truly, thank you.

The Guddat Family has covered rodeo since the spring of 2000 and had a heckuva great time doing it.

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