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Stran Smith…It is getting harder and harder to leave home..

For the better part of two decades, RodeoHouston held nothing but frustration for Childress’ Stran Smith.

Now it seems there’s always something special in store for him here.

“I got to win the $50,000 on (wife) Jennifer’s birthday last year,” said Smith, the reigning Houston tie-down roping champion and 2008 world champ.

“This year, actually, her due date was (Sunday) to have our first little girl (Faleh), but she always delivers early, so she’s almost two weeks old now.”

Smith’s stay in Super Series V, which features three defending champs, ends tonight with the third go-round at Reliant Stadium.

The other returning Houston winners are Shawn Hogg in bull riding and Ryan Gray in bareback.

Not an ideal situation

Advancing won’t be easy after Smith failed to win any money in the opening round. He did it last year, finishing second in his series after posting a no-time in his first run, but this year is different.

With the baby — his first girl after two boys, Stone, 7, and Scout, 5 – still so young, Smith’s wife and kids stayed home, leaving him to compete in Houston without their support for the first time.

That’s not a situation the 40-year-old veteran cares for.

“It’s getting harder and harder to leave home. That’s for sure,” Smith said. “And this year is really hard for us since they didn’t come down because the baby’s 13 days old. It’s hard for me to rodeo like that.

“If I have to rodeo like that, I’ll be done in less than a year.”

Smith says he doesn’t see that happening. He’s planning to rodeo for at least a couple more years. But competing here without family isn’t the only thing that’s different this time around.

He’s coming off recent surgery to clean out an ailing shoulder, and he’s competing on a new horse. But Reliant’s vast space suits him, and he’s feeling good after winning here last year.

“(Merel’s) really good, and I feel pretty confident, even though I haven’t been anywhere in a while and my shoulder’s still pretty sore and pretty tight,” Smith said.

“The good thing about it is it’s not a real fast setup. That’s where I’m struggling to get back to the top of my game.” (read more)