Rodeo back to work

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 21, 2003

The Troy State rodeo team opened its spring semester practice Tuesday, but the emotions were noticeably different.

Tuesday marked the first practice for the team since an automobile accident claimed the life of Brandon Barbee and severely injured Matt Albritton, both members of the team.

"It was difficult (to return to practice)," freshman Ryan Krantz said. "Brandon was such a great guy."

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Teammates described Barbee as a fun-loving person. A coach told Barbee and roommate Erin Bullin, affectionately known as "2-G," to wear cowboy hats to practice rather than their baseball caps, so the duo bought Mardi Gras hats to wear.

Bullin had a picture of the two together, sitting on a rail wearing their subtly defiant hats.

"He was always fun to be around," Krantz said. "If you were in a bad mood, he made you happy. If you were mad, he made you happy. There's no one around here who didn't like him."

The absence of a friend and a teammate was evident to the team.

"It's not as fun as it was," Bullin said. "I mean, it's still fun; just different."

Even the roping practice Monday was noticeably different. Although Barbee was a bull rider, Krantz said he would come down to Cattlemen's Park to help during practices for the other events.

"He would come down here for the roping practice and even for the girls' practice," Krantz said. "Matt would too. They just loved to help."

Krantz spent a few hours with Barbee the day of the accident, Jan. 13, and originally had plans to spend some time with him later that night.

However, Krantz said he and his girl friend got engrossed in a movie and Barbee planned to visit later.

"He said it was OK, he'd just come by later," Krantz said. "Then I got a call about midnight and I went to the hospital."

Bullin and Barbee were talking to each other on a cell phone when the accident happened.

"The phone just went dead," Bullin said.

The only passenger to escape the wreckage unharmed was a black miniature dachshund puppy named Bit. Bit now lives with Bullin, who offered a simple explanation of his reason for wanting to keep the dog.

"I was his roommate," he said.

Bit was a gift from Barbee's girl friend. Bit goes to rodeo practice now. He serves as a reminder of Barbee's life.

Krantz said the only way to go on is to remember Barbee's life.

"He was such a good person," Krantz said. "We are all better people for knowing him. We just have to think about him and smile, because he always made you smile."

Bullin had a different idea of how to go on with the rest of his life.

"You just have to go," he said. "Death is a part of life."