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Bio
   
  I Just Couldn't Quit...
by Jonnie Jonckowski
(cont.)
   
  One day while having coffee with my mom, I noticed a poster advertising an all-girl rodeo in a small town just 60 miles from where I lived. I told Mom right then and there that I was going to enter. Mom said, "Fine, whatever." How tough could this be? Other women were doing this, and I had always been a good horsewoman.

The rodeo was just two weeks away, and I didn't know where to begin. I had no equipment- not even a cowboy hat! I went to a local cowboy dance hall and tried to weed out the talkers from the riders. Finally I found one who agreed to help this ignorant damsel. We went out to the parking lot, and I tried on his equipment right there. When I grabbed the rigging upside down, he knew even more that I needed some serious help.

I lived through my first rodeo experience and felt a tinge of sadness as I slowly took off the pieces of my riding costume: the boots, purple chaps with green clovers, spurs and glove. I did manage to take home about a pound of arena dirt and the memory of the crowd. It was great.

Soon I was riding rodeos on the weekends and working during the week. Weekend warriors, they called us. I started to have visions of winning a world title. I felt that I had the advantage over the other girls because of all my years of competing. I knew how to train, I knew how to sacrifice, I knew the cost ... I thought. I went to rodeo riding schools, always all men and me, the only girl. I learned to ride one handed where all of the other women were still riding with two. I felt this made me look better and also gave me better balance. I rode with the men so I was used to bulls that bucked much harder than what the others were getting on. I could now once again see a world-class athlete inside myself. I was sure that I was good enough to win a world title in two, maybe three years.

As I began my tenth year of riding, still without a title, the injuries I had suffered set me back much farther than I could have ever imagined. I had quit my job with the city so that I was able to take in more rodeos. It paid off, and I was now consistently in first place. But the prize money was small, and I had no steady income. I was going to run out of funds in the final stretch and not even be able to afford to make it to the finals.

My personal life wasn't going so well either. My boyfriend would try to hug me, and I'd wince from the pain of the bull riding injuries. He would yell at me, "You're gone for three weeks, come back, and I can't even touch you! Why the heck am I hanging around you anyway?"

I replied, "Because you believe in me and what I'm trying to do. I'm nearly there, and it's almost over."

"It's over all right, I'm out of here," he fumed, and he was gone.

My friends had seen me go from business woman to a broken-down bull rider who couldn't buy a cup of coffee. They couldn't understand, and I couldn't deal anymore with them telling me, "You can't do what you're doing! You're crazy!" Rather than argue with them, I walked away.

I couldn't lose focus now. I was able to see my dream, able to taste it.

Jonnie JonckowskiMy training had to change, because I could no longer afford the dues at the health club. So I began to improvise. I skipped a lot of rope and went to "Rocky-style" training techniques. I did chin-ups in the barn, filled paint cans with sand and used them for arm weights. I ran through fields of alfalfa which forced me to run with high knee lift and pointed toes, so as not to get caught in the dense leaves. I rode horses bareback for hours on end to improve my balance and increase my leg strength. I tacked notes to my bathroom mirror that read, "I'm a winner and I have done all that I can, and I deserve to win!

It was now into the coldest part of winter and lack of funds to pay the heat bill and no wood for the wood stove soon left my home around 30 degrees inside. Pipes broke and ice formed on the floor. What money I had went to paying entry fees and buying food for my dogs.
   
 
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