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April 06, 2010 3:33 am

Outlaw for a cause

Written by Tribune Staff

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Bulldogger John Silva looks to bring down a steer during rodeo competition. Despite some early-season ups and downs, the Powell native has his vision locked on capturing a world title in 2010. Courtesy photo/Dan Hubbell

Silva chases his dream while helping others with theirs

Every cowboy carries around a hard-luck story. Powell's John Silva is no different.

A promising up-and-coming steer wrestler, Silva got close enough to a world title in 2000 and 2001 to taste it. There's a difference though between being close to a championship and being a champion, and Silva's path to glory eventually turned down a more well-worn rodeo route.

“It's the same story every guy has,” Silva said. “I got broke and had to come home."

Once back home, Silva's life began to pull him in different directions. A wife and an adopted son led to bigger responsibilities outside of the arena. A divorce sent his life spiraling, but also opened his eyes to a possibility.

“I'm the kind of guy that thinks when God shuts a door, He usually opens a window,” said Silva. “I thought about it and realized that this was also an opportunity to achieve my goal.”

That goal is to finish climbing the mountain that he came so close to scaling nearly a decade ago.

“I plan to dominate the event,” said Silva. “My intent is to win the world title and I'm devoting myself 150 percent to the goal. I work out five days a week. I'm in the practice pen three or four times a week. I'm trying to be like any pro athlete. You don't see them working changing tires during the week. They're devoted to their sport full time, and when I came close, that's what we did.”

Early on, that plan worked to perfection. Silva breezed through qualification at the Denver Stock Show, earning an early paycheck of more than $3,000 and scoring a spot in the top 10 of the world rankings. When it came time for the finals a couple weeks later, Silva was back on the rodeo roller coaster.

“I didn't get a good draw,” he said. “I'm not sure I could have caught one of those steers with a 30.06.”

Being shut out in the arena was the least of his concerns, however. Rodeo, it seems, is not beyond the reach of a recession and the effects hit Silva hard.

“I lost every sponsor that I had lined up for 2010,” Silva said. “Every single one of them — you just can't expect to lose them all.”

Suddenly, the man who made a commitment to dedicate 150 percent of his time to training was instead frantically working the telephone trying to find the cash to salvage his season. Unless something changed, Silva's pursuit of a dream might come to an end before it ever really got started.

“It's a game of variables, and one of those is where you're at mentally,” said Silva. “You try and control as many of the variables as you can, but not knowing how you're going to pay for being on the road definitely affects you. It's like you're chasing a dream, but you're living a nightmare, and as a single father, it probably was harder for me than it might be for some others.”

Once again, with a door shut, Silva looked for a window and found one in Casper's non-profit Reach 4A Star Riding Academy. The academy, which provides remedial and therapeutic horse-assisted activities to youth and adults suffering from a variety of conditions, was looking for a way to raise its profile and attact donors as well.

It turned out to be the perfect match.

Silva joined forces with rodeo travel partners Dean McIntyre of Wittmann, Ariz., a former Northwest College teammate of Silva's, and Kyle Calloway of Gillette. Together, the trio billed themselves as Outlaws 4A Cause. The group will strive to raise awareness and money for the academy while also pursuing their dreams on the rodeo circuit.

“It's really pretty amazing how this all came together,” Silva said. “I'm not looking to get famous off this. I want this partnership to be about them at Reach 4A Star, because the stuff they're accomplishing over there is just phenomenal.”

Silva estimates it will take approximately $40,000 in sponsorships to keep the Outlaw trio on the road through April of next year. Any amount they're able to raise above that amount will go to the Reach 4A Star Riding Academy.

Silva and crew are preparing to head to Logandale, Nev., in a week. Later this month, they'll hit California for a swing of rodeos. While they're still in need of sponsors, they're back in the saddle and in full pursuit of both their dreams and national recognition and support for a worthwhile cause.

“I'm 36 years old,” said Silva. “In the athletic world, that's considered getting too old, but I don't feel old. Mentally and physically I feel like I'm a lot younger. I'll match any 20-year-old in the practice pen on 10 head of steer anywhere.”