A Winning Team

by Elizabeth Sainsbury

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    Roping, cooking, or doing chores, Brent and Janice Ault are champions of family togetherness

    Just minutes before, the fairgrounds were alive with the excitement of the rodeo. High school students were brushing, saddling, and warming up the horses. Cowboy music rang loud, reminding all to have a “good-ridin’, fun-timin’” rodeo. The lilting music, the country drawls, and the masses of cowboy hats created a nostalgic feeling of excitement, a feeling that causes a non-rodeo attender to feel as if he’s either been placed back in time 20 years to the old small-town get-together days or else placed in a Hollywood scene for the newest western. At any rate, the cowboy inside the slickest of city slickers comes alive.

    Now, as the rodeo begins and the clouds begin to roll in, the lively atmosphere becomes more subdued. The setting sun silhouettes the announcing stand, the bleachers, and the rows of horse trailers. The announcer’s country drawl booms out from the loudspeaker and spills into the dusty haze that smells of horses and hay.

    “And, ladies and gentlemen, our next team ropers are the brother and sister team from American Fork, Utah, Janice and Brent Ault!”

    Bursting out of the chute, a calf turns, twists, and dodges, kicking up mud as he’s chased by Janice and Brent. Quickly Janice swings her coiled rope over the calf’s neck. Brent then throws his rope on the ground, pulling it up around the calf’s hind legs. The clock stops, and smiles replace the determined looks on the faces of the brother-sister team.

    It’s not often that a brother and sister compete in team roping, yet team roping is only the beginning of the Janice-Brent team. Just last fall, serving the governor of Utah, his wife, and other judges a meal consisting of garlic lamb steaks, baked potatoes, tossed green salad, carrots, a melon-ball appetizer, braided yeast bread, and a raspberry cream dessert was—yes, the Janice-Brent team.

    Adorned with aprons and hats, and reminded by 3-by-5 cards printed with such phrases as “Put plates in oven to heat,” “Cut green peppers,” “Set fruit on table,” “Change aprons,” and “Call guests,” the efficient team won first place in the state 4-H contest and a trip to Denver, Colorado.

    Ah, but this team doesn’t stop at cooking together. As the early morning sun sparkles on the dew-kissed June grass and glistens on the auburn-colored horses, Janice and Brent can be seen together, buckets in hands, feeding the softly neighing animals.

    Or one might see them on a winter-white afternoon riding snowmobiles, letting their laughter ring out above the snowmobiles’ hum. At evening time, one might find them doing homework, leatherwork, or making cookies—together—and the list goes on!

    Why is it that Janice, who is 18, and Brent, who is 16, work so well together at an age when many teenagers, although secretly admiring their brothers and sisters, avoid and label them as “pests” or “bossy”?

    “We do things together because we like the same things,” says Janice. “And by doing things together we learn more about each other and how to get along.”

    “Also,” says Brent, “when we do things together, we’re happier.”

    Janice enjoys cooking, being outdoors, camping, photography, traveling, and participating in rodeos. Brent enjoys riding horses, riding motorcycles, hunting, fishing, and snowmobiling—to name a few.

    Together, they also enjoy photography. Janice has won the 4-H state competition two years in a row. Brent has won the Utah county title and “will soon win state,” Janice adds.

    They both ride horses, and they both cook. They both ride motorcycles, and they both bake bread. And that’s the key! They are both totally involved in family and Church activities. They both enjoy the same things!

    However, Brent and Janice aren’t just a twosome team. Most of the time it’s a family team, with the extended family often participating.

    It’s a father-son team when it’s planting, plowing, and haying. Brent farms with his father, and whether it’s on the tractor, feeding the sheep, or riding the horses, Brent and his dad are having fun, and, Brent reminds, working hard.

    But don’t overlook the mother-daughter team when it’s time for baking and keeping house. By participating in meal preparation, Janice has learned to be better organized in the kitchen. “And Janice,” according to her proud mother, “makes the best bread you’ve ever tasted!”

    It’s a family team when it’s rodeo, vacation, or 4-H time. When dad needs help on the farm, everyone pitches in. With mother as 4-H leader, everyone joins 4-H! And when Brent and Janice are competing at the rodeo, huddled from the rain under umbrellas and blankets cheering them on are mom, dad, and sometimes even grandma!

    Of course, Sundays, Monday evenings, and other times find the Aults attending their meetings and serving faithfully. Brent is a counselor in the teachers quorum, and Janice is a counselor in the Laurel class.

    We feel that it’s important to be together as a family, so we’ve chosen interests and activities that involve the whole family,” Brother Ault remarks.

    Instead of isolating themselves with their personal hobbies, the Aults participate in activities that everyone can join. Instead of becoming strangers, they become friends; instead of tolerance, there is love.

    Yes, Brent and Janice do have their own interests and friends, but they’ve learned, by doing things together, how to love and respect their family. It’s not uncommon for Janice to go outside to saddle up her horse and find the horse all brushed and saddled. Standing close by with a shy smile is Brent. Of course, Janice quickly returns the kindness.

    As the sun begins to set, casting shadows on the quiet ten acres backgrounded by mountains, the horses are fed and brushed, the chores are done, and mom has just served a big garden supper, complete with Janice’s hot homemade bread. Voices and laughter echo in the peaceful stillness because the Aults are together—again.

    Still lifes by Eldon Linschoten

    Photos by Shannon P. Flynn

    Photos by Jed Clark

    Upper left: Brent and Janice are both first-place photographers (Photo by Janice Ault.) Right: preparing and serving an award-winning meal to the governor of Utah and his wife