- Associated Press - Monday, February 24, 2014

GASTONIA, N.C. (AP) - It’s no secret Richard and Carrie Tucker love Texas, rodeos and country music. They wear their enthusiasm on their sleeves - and on their studded jeans, glitzy belt buckles and polished cowboy boots.

The Clover, S.C., couple spent years running rodeos in Texas before settling on the East Coast. Now in retirement, the Tuckers have set their sights on East Asia, and specifically on bringing a rodeo to China.

They’ve done the legwork and gone through the political channels. The couple hope in a year they’ll be coordinating an eight-day event overseas that will benefit American students.

More than 30 years ago, the Tuckers went on vacation to China.

Carrie Tucker had been to the region as a child with her family and she always felt a connection.

After the couple retired from rodeos and selling western apparel, that connection resurfaced. About three years ago, Carrie Tucker told her husband she was bored and it was on him to come up with a project for them.

“He said, ‘I know rodeo and you know China, so why don’t we take rodeo to China?’” she said.

So that’s what they set out to do. The couple made visits, developed programs and prepared for the big event in 2011.

Two months before the rodeo was scheduled to go on, animal rights activists got uneasy.

Chinese politicians pulled the reins on the project.

“The government became nervous and said they’d like us to postpone,” Carrie Tucker said.

The Tuckers now hope to put Rodeo China into action in late 2014 or early 2015.

They have high expectations for the first-time event.

During the day, staff would teach impoverished Chinese children about the rodeo, bringing kids into the arena and letting them ride horses.

A rodeo would kick off in the evening with barrel racing and bull

riding.

A concert would be performed each night, and Richard Tucker said he’s going to recruit big names.

The daytime clinics would be free for the children, but other events would cost money.

The proceeds would come back to the United States to provide scholarships, the Tuckers said.

The Tuckers don’t have any children. But they’re passionate about education.

For three years the couple has funded a program called the Asian Experience at Furman University in Greenville, S.C. Participants go to China for three weeks, spending the first at a university and the other two traveling the country.

Students are required to study the Chinese language for a year before being considered for the program.

The Tuckers have also paid for elementary schools in their area to teach Chinese to 4- and 5-year-olds.

Chinese children begin learning English at age 3, according to Richard Tucker. Teaching American children how to speak Chinese is leveling the playing field, he said, and can only lead to better opportunities in the future.

“If we give our students the same opportunities as the Chinese do, they can get it done,” he said.

The Tuckers say if they have their way, every child in South Carolina will take Chinese five years from now.

The couple live just south of the North Carolina line in the River

Hills community along Lake Wylie.

Since building a strong relationship with China, the couple also take frequent trips to Washington, D.C.

They recently returned from the Chinese Embassy there, where they celebrated the Chinese New Year, the year of the horse.

The Chinese community has been welcoming to the western-clad couple, Carrie Tucker said.

Carrie Tucker does most of the communicating and planning for Rodeo China.

Richard Tucker sticks to what he knows - rodeo.

Because if you can’t use your know-how to get things done, it’s like Tucker says - “It don’t mean a hill of manure.”

___

Information from: The Gaston Gazette, http://www.gastongazette.com

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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