Jessica Holmes always looks on the bright side of life.
The Northwest Ranch Cowboys Association member goes through life, thinking every phase "is the best years of my life," she says, "but I keep saying it." And now that she has a daughter, life "is better. She’s my life now."
Jessica grew up northwest of Buffalo, S.D., the daughter of Joe and Cindy Painter. She participated in youth rodeo and South Dakota High School Rodeo in every girls event, qualifying in all six events for the state high school finals all four years of high school, and winning the pole bending at the National High School Finals in 2002 and 2003. She was reserve all-around champion at Nationals those same years.
After graduating from Harding Co. High School in 2003, she attended National American University in Rapid City, competing in goat tying, breakaway, barrel racing and team roping. She made the College National Finals Rodeo all four years in the goat tying and breakaway roping, and won the CNFR’s breakaway title in 2006.
Jessica earned a degree in business and marketing, and then attended Black Hills State University in Spearfish. She earned her MBA and was assistant women’s rodeo coach while at Black Hills State.
She worked in marketing for an aerial mapping company in Rapid City, and married Casey Holmes in 2009. Casey, who is from Madison, Wisc., came to South Dakota for college, and stayed, but Jessica jokingly wonders why. "I’m not sure if it was for me or if he liked it." Casey’s parents get to see their granddaughter frequently, and they also Skype.
Two years ago, Jessica and Casey decided to move back to her family’s ranch. The timing was perfect, she says. "I loved ranching and the lifestyle, and so did my husband. We were expecting the baby, and there is no better place than Harding County to raise her. We didn’t have to do day care, and she could grow up riding and ranching."
Tommi Jo, who was named after her grandparents, has a unique birth story. She was born in June of 2012 "accidentally," Jessica laughs, at the College Finals. "My sister, who is six years younger than I am, was at the CNFR, and I had a really good feeling about her in the breakaway. So I just had to go watch her. I couldn’t stay home." Jessica was only a week away from her due date, and Casper is a five hour drive from the ranch. "Tommi Jo decided to come, so she was delivered at the Casper hospital. My husband was coming to pick me up, because I only went for slack." It was a memorable week, not just because of Tommi Jo’s birth, but also because Jessica’s sister Joey won the breakaway roping on the same horse that Jessica rode for her CNFR title six years before. And everyone from slack came to the hospital to visit the new arrival.
Jessica joined the NRCA while she was in high school, and has competed at every NRCA Finals except for 2012, when her daughter was born. This year, she won the breakaway, and in the past, she’s won the barrel racing twice and the all-around once. This year, she has fully retired from goat tying. "I’m 28, so I should start considering my knees and ankles," she says.
Jessica is also a member of the Women’s Pro Rodeo Association, the Slope Circuit Association, and a former member of the South Dakota Rodeo Association. She has qualified for three Badlands Circuit Finals, and won the all-around at this year’s Slope Circuit Finals. Casey is also an NRCA and Slope Circuit member, and won the heading in the Slope Circuit this year.
The National Pole Bending Association honored her this year with an induction into their Hall of Fame in Liberty, Kentucky, and she was also honored as one of the Rodeo Cowgirl Greats in the Casey Tibbs Foundation.