The horse rider who calls me Papa

"In 65-plus years of life, pretty much my only interest in horsehide has been hitting it."

Axton Mansch
Axton Mansch is in the saddle as his grandfather watches on a beautiful day in Montana.
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Scott Mansch
Scott Mansch

OK. Full disclosure here.

In 65-plus years of life, pretty much my only interest in horsehide has been hitting it. We’re talking line drives in the gap or long ones over the fence.

I was and always will be a baseball boy.

But that’s changed a little bit.

As you can see by the recent story under my byline about Jackson rodeo star Sadie Hotzler and a few of her young roping and riding friends, horses have earned more meaning.


In more ways than one.

Though I’m a Murray County man, born and bred, I lived in Montana for a long time before returning home. My only son (a talented ball player back in the day) still lives in Big Sky Country after marrying his high school sweetheart.

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She was, and is, a rodeo girl.

So of course their boy Axton, my only grandson, is a fledgling rodeo star. He’s a team roper, an 11-year-old who cares more about heading and heeling than head-first slides. More about fast times than tape-measure home runs.

More about horses than hitting the horsehide.

And that’s perfectly fine with me.

Shelly Hotzler and I have quite a bit in common. She is Sadie’s mother, a former softball star who coached the Jackson County Central High girls to abundant success on the diamond.

Ball players were important to her, too.


But now that Sadie is a barrel racer and breakaway roper, loops and laps around the cloverleaf pattern have replaced line drives on Shelly’s wish list.

I know that feeling myself.

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On a recent trip to Montana, Axton and I spent lots of time together. Oh, he was interested in throwing the football around and playing a little catch with the baseball. Didn’t even mind when I asked to throw him some batting practice.

But he was happier when showing me how to properly toss the lariat. By the way, it’s not as easy as it looks.

“Use your wrist like this, Papa,” he said.

“No, take a step forward like this when tossing the rope,” he said.

“Well, that isn’t too bad,” he said when I missed.

After about 20 tries to rope a dummy steer by the horns, I caught one.


“There you go,” Axton said.

Ha. Reminded me of when I was a boy and Dad would groove a fastball that I connected with.

There you go, Scotty Boy.
But those days are gone. The youngest Mansch boy in the family isn’t going to be playing baseball anytime soon. He’s going to rope and ride and become a real cowboy.

Come to think of it, I’ve always liked cowboys. Whether on the big screen at Dad’s Murray County Theater in Slayton or singing in the honkytonks.

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So I can adjust.

In this day and age of travel teams for youth sports, rodeo is no cheap date. It’s expensive to haul horses across the country. Rodeos don’t exactly abound in southwest Minnesota, either.

My grandson is in the Montana Junior Rodeo Association. He’s got big dreams, and a great family to support him. Indeed, his mother and father and extended family are behind him 100%.

That’s what it takes to be successful in any sport.

Shelly Hotzler knows what I’m talking about. Sure, she thought young Sadie might one day be a fast pitch softball star. But that doesn’t appear to be in the cards.

So the Hotzlers will continue to pay for Sadie’s rodeo education, one trip at a time.

“You know what?” Shelly said. “It’s worth every dime. To see that smile on her face is worth every dime.”

Scott Mansch may be reached at

Related Topics: SLAYTONRODEO
Opinion by Scott Mansch
Scott Mansch, who in a crowded Viking tavern has been known to say “Go Pack Go” at times in complete disregard for his health, can be reached at
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