Katie Williams picked up a small rope at summer camp when she was nine and instantly realized that she could make a 2-foot loop quicker and better than the other girls around her.
Trick roping is a Texas tradition that may be fading out of popularity, but for the SMU freshman, it’s a pastime that’s helped her steal the spotlight and surprise her peers.
“Katie picked it up at Camp Waldemar and she was very good at it. The Christmas after her first summer at camp she put a trick rope on her Christmas list and her grandmother bought her one,” said Jan Williams, Katie’s mother.
Trick roping is a competitive art that stems from the classic lasso used by the traditional American cowboy. While Williams doesn’t use her skills to wrangle farm animals, she’s used it to help her win numerous competitions at her favorite camp, Camp Waldemar, in Hunt, Texas.
Camp Waldemar, an all-girls camp in the hill country, is about to enter its 90th summer and trick roping is taught voluntarily to the girls every year. However, Camp Waldemar is one of the only camps left in Texas to teach the complicated art.
“I liked trick roping because I was good at it and it was always one of my events for competition,” said Williams, who is a business marketing and fashion media major. “And I usually won.”
Young girls at Camp Waldemar start with a small rope but can advance to a 20-foot rope or even a 50-foot rope, learning harder and more skillful loops and tricks.
“I’ve been able to spin the 50-foot rope fully twice because it’s really heavy and challenging,” Williams said. “People always want to try it but it’s way harder than it looks, which is why I think it’s surprising to people.”
Williams’ trick-roping hobby doesn’t have any major impact on her life, according to her mother, but keeps the Dallas native in touch with her Texas roots.
“Where else but in Texas could you learn something like trick roping? It’s not something Katie does to entertain the family or anything but she will pull out the rope and practice sometimes,” Jan Williams said.
Her friends joke that she could be in the rodeo but trick roping is different from typical rodeo style lassos.
“I always liked the counselors that taught it and I started doing it with my friends,” Williams said. “It’s just really random and I’m weird so I thought it was fun.”