DUBOIS – Chett Hepburn’s grin was as wide as the brim on his cowboy hat as he coached a group of children on lasso techniques near the Smeal Building at Penn State DuBois.
As part of their Kids in College experience, this assembly of elementary age students got real roping lessons from a real cowboy. Looking the part in his Stetson hat, cowboy boots and Wranglers held up by a large gleaming buckle, Hepburn offered the wisdom gained from years spent with a rope in his hands.
“Swing it above your head three times, then throw it,” he said. “Point your finger right where you want the rope to go,” he instructed as the students attempted to lasso a plastic bull’s head.
Hepburn lives in Penfield, Clearfield County, and is a Wildlife Technology Student at Penn State DuBois. However, his life began 1,500 miles away in Brady, TX, where he was born and raised on a cattle ranch. He said his father was originally from DuBois and relocated to Texas before he was born. Then, his father moved the family back when Hepburn was in high school. As evidenced by his skills with a rope and his Texan drawl, though, the 20 year old still has a lot of the Lone Star State left in him.
“I started roping when I was five or six and I’ve been at it ever since,” Hepburn explained. “I always wanted to learn how to do it. This old cowboy that was a friend of my mom’s taught me how. He bought me a rope and I started roping everything in sight.”
Hepburn also remains close to his roots by working as a hand at Dawn Rawling’s Quarter Horses in Treasure Lake, where they offer horseback riding and riding lessons.
The opportunity to have a Penn State DuBois student offer special skills to enhance summer programs was not lost on the children who participated in Kids in College. “Its fun roping. I really like being in Kids in College,” said six year old Madison Gill of Brookville.
Hepburn said becoming proficient with a rope takes years of practice, but he enjoyed seeing that some of the children he coached show potential. “This was fun, and I’m really impressed with some of them,” he said.