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Mother, daughter barrel race together

August 24, 2000

Mother, daughter barrel race together



By RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro


WILLIAMSON, Pa. - It was rodeo time at the Franklin County Fair on Thursday evening. The participants recounted the challenges within the ring as they awaited their turns to compete.

Two of the rodeo's competitors could go home, sit down at the kitchen table and talk about their experience - as mother and daughter.

Laura Lee Thomas climbed on her first barrel racing horse when she was 2 years old. Her daughter, Mandi Lynn, beat her by six months.

The mother and daughter Thomases were sitting on their horses waiting for the cowgirl barrel racing competition to begin.

Laura Lee, 34, was mounted on Skip, a 12-year-old paint. Mandi, who says she's "11-and-a- half," sat on Jack, a 15-year-old bay quarter horse.

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Laura Lee said she has been barrel racing since she was 2. Mandi started at 1 1/2. "She was walking and talking at 10 months," her mother said.

She's gotten so good at riding horses around barrels at top speed that she's beaten her mother's time in some competitions.

The world of rodeo is the driving force in the life of this Union City, Pa., family.

"We go every weekend all over the U.S. and Canada," Laura Lee said. "Mandi misses some Fridays in school, but she still gets straight As."

"Last night we were at a rodeo in Meyersdale, Pa.," Laura Lee said. "We're here tonight and we'll be in Logan, W.Va., tomorrow night, in Wellington, Ohio, Saturday then in Chenango Fork, N.Y., the next day.

"You gotta love this or you wouldn't do it," she said. "Our truck is only two years old and it already has 106,000 miles on it. That sums it up."

"I like it because I go to a lot of places and meet a lot of people," Mandi said.

Laura Lee's husband, Bruce Thomas, was home Thursday night recuperating from a dislocated shoulder and broken arm - a mishap five weeks ago in a steer-wrestling event in Shartlesburg, Pa.

"No, he won't quit. He's getting it loosened up now. He's hoping to be ready in time for the rodeo in Tulsa, Okla., in January. That's a really big rodeo," Laura Lee said.

A good barrel-racing horse, "one you can win money on, can cost from $20,000 to $50,000," she said.

She has six barrel racers at home where she also trains horses.

The Thomases compete in International Professional Rodeo Association competitions.

The family sleeps in a living compartment in their horse trailer when they're on the road.

The only member of the family who doesn't compete is 5-year-old Cody. "He just trail rides," Laura Lee said. "He says he's not going to rodeo."

"He says he already goes to too many," his sister said.

The fair continues today at noon and all day Saturday, the last day, from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.

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