Sunday, June 28, 2009

Practice Makes Perfect

Earlier this year, the first World Finals Qualifier was held at the Mid States Fairgrounds in Paso Robles, California. The PTR California Winter Classic brought team ropers from all over the state of California to compete. If you were there, you saw over 140 teams compete in the #11 qualifier. Chris Perry of Oakdale, California roped with Tyler Holzum (also of Oakdale) and the team roped four steers in 36.88, enough to win $12,000 and fully tooled Vaquero saddles and a free entry into the PTR World Finals. Chris ropes regularly at the Camarillo arena in Oakdale and over the years has tuned his skills under the instruction of Jerold and Leo Camarillo. Everyone that ropes tends to practice at least semi-regularly, but practicing under the expert tutelage of PRCA Hall of Fame ropers certainly has a beneficial influence. Although not a certain recipe for guaranteed success, more often than not, spending some time and money with expert ropers pays off. The next time you are kicking a bit of dirt in frustration, and loading horses to drive home empty handed, you may need to rethink working with the experts. These champions have "been there, done that" and can really help you reach the next level. Like the saying goes "there is no free lunch" think of working with professional trainers as an investment in your roping skill. For Chris, and others like him that sport five digit checks and new saddles in the tack room, it can certainly be worth it. One of the hardest things to find is professionals that really take an interest in your roping. Many winners can attest to the Camarillos true dedication to teaching. If you want to improve your skills, give them a call, or you can reach them by email on their website (message from a student of the Camarillos).

The Real Beef - by Leo Camarillo

The other day I was "conditioning" a new herd of roping steers. As usual about half the herd was good'ns the other half were rebels. As I wrestled with the bad habits of a dogged few I explained to one of my students that trueing a herd for practice is guaranteed when you learn and work with your cattle's character and learning cattle charater can give you a leg up in competition. Unfortunately, today's roping pen is crossed with a variety of breeds, so what looks like an orange could in fact be a lemon.
Before I get into the evolution of rodeo cattle I'd like to recognize the creme de la creme for bulldogging and roping, and my personal favorite, to own and rope, the "Chango" (Spanish word money is slang for the Mexican Corriente). Similar to a good breed of horse, the true Mexican-grown Corrientes' solid nature, i.e. athleticism, honesty, durability, and size makes this cattle a quality product (like the Classic nylon rope) that can't be beat. Growing good thick horns that look like a big-ass banana and remain solid and thick from base to tip, Corrientes are the easiest keepers that can survive and thrive on rocks and weeds. Corriente-heifers are proven strong, reliably easy cavers, and when it comes to roping cattle, the Corrientes are second to none. Their unique sense for how to do the job in practice and in rodeo competition makes them invaluable on all levels. Once Corrientes are shown how to load in the chute they'll line up every time, in just about the same order. They'll run straight down the arena and stay true each time. as long as you don't entice mutiny, and by this I mean if there's a hole in the fence they'll use it, for the most part Corrientes will work obediently for a long time. Akin to a good peach tree, if you raise your corriente herd right everything comes out peachy. Unfortunately the Corriente I'm talking about is the Mexican gown Corriente which is the organic version of the breed, and its purity and simplicity guarantees a quality product. Here in America it's hard to get the true "authentic" Corriente because they've been blemished with American domestication, hence a pinch of Brahman, Longhorn, or other cross and too much grass. On the whole, American Corrientes are the best of the American cattle breeds for roping. Just, remember "Brazilian" labeled coffee grown in the domesticated settings of the US ain't the same stuff they grow in the Brazilian tropics. Until next time, that's all I known. (Leo Camarillo - Rodeo Sports News, April 15, 2009).

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Proposed Rules Change Commentary from the Camarillos

Leo: What about that three seconds?
Jerold: They’re spoiling roping. A 3-second penalty for a hind foot is spoiling your roping just like the (5-second) broken barrier deal, and the thing about it is, it’s not helping you rope. It should be two horns/two feet or no time. What about that?
L: Exactly! What happen to trying to get better at what we do? It’s like saying, “O.K. when we go out to the golf course let’s make the hole bigger so it’ll be a lot easier to make a putt.”
J: Ya, or let the machine do the driving and we’ll just pitch it from there.
L: I wonder if they’re going to put their ropes on next? I mean, where do you draw the line? It seems they’re trying to make it better for the losers or the guys who don’t want to practice or progress, or the guys who don’t wanna--
J: I just think it’s going the wrong way. You know, when they have a dummy roping for the kids, they get 3 points if they rope two horns; they get 2 points if they rope a half a head; and they get one point if they rope a neck. You know, that’s the way things ought’a be going. They can’t be going the opposite way.
L: I agree. You know, you can tie your rope on, you only get 5 seconds for breaking a barrier, and you only get 3 seconds now for a hind leg. Whatever happened to promoting what’s right and trying to get better at what we’re doing rather than, you know, give away straight times to those who don’t actually make a straight time?
J: Yep! And what it’s coming to now is all the low number ropers don’t take time to professional-ize their roping skills, where they can rope two horns and two feet. They say,” Well I can't rope two feet like those other guys can, but you know, I can just throw my rope in there and dally, and I can dam-sure catch one foot; so, ya, let’s make it three seconds because I can’t rope that good to catch two feet,” and that’s bullsh*%.
L: Ya, and that’s the other thing, they don’t even have to dally. They can just tie on and throw it down there like they got a hook on their rope, and forget about it.
J: Yep, throw it down there and don’t even get a dally. And now when the header sees his heeler dally he un-dallies. Headers don’t even have to face their horse around because the flag goes down as soon as the heeler dallies.
L: Ya! Nobody says anything about that. At half the jackpots now, you don’t even have to face your head horse. When your heeler comes tight, you got time.
J: Right, cuz their trying to save the steers and all this other stuff. So now, you don’t have to face your horse, and you can catch one foot. If you break the barrier and rope one foot that’s only 8 seconds where before, if you just broke the barrier but caught 2 feet it was ten.
L: (laughing) Ya.
J: Now they give you a TWO SECONDS BREAK if you break the barrier and rope one foot. Instead of a broken barrier and one foot being 15 seconds, it’s only 8.
L: Ya. And the other thing is they’ve taken the horsemanship out of it. You don’t even have to face your horse, which is all part of it—riding your horse to face him around; cuz half the time them guys can’t face their horse, so you know you’ve got a chance if you’re a better rider and spend a little bit more time with their horse, so you know you’ve got a chance if you’re a better rider and spend a little bit more time with your horse to try to make him do things, you know? You log him, you make him understand how to turn and back up and so forth, so he’ll work better for you, but now you don’t have to worry about it. Just turn your steer off and drop your rope. If your heeler’s hooked you probably won the roping.
J: Ya.
L: What bothers me about the whole thing is now you don’t have to go to a roping school to learn how to rope or go to anybody to learn how to rope. You don’t even HAVE to learn how to rope. All the rules and skill requirements are out the window. You can just get on a horse and buy a rope, go through the motions of it and call yourself a roper.
J: Ya and you can buy a 35-foot or 40-foot rope and cut it in half,
J & L: (laughing) then you got two.
L: Two ropes for the price of one.
J& L: laughing…
L: You can almost go do that with a horse. Instead of buying a horse that looks good and knows what he’s doing and is worth the money, you can go buy two for the price of one. Get two donkeys that you don’t have to do anything on.
J: And the other thing, when we get into Perry’s roping over there…you know, if it wasn’t for me…the USTRC is trying to change Perry’s rules over there with no barrier, and 5 seconds for a broken barrier and now the newest deal—3 seconds for a hind foot. You know I had 15 guys call me last year and say, “Hey, listen, I heard Perry was going to make 5 seconds for a broken barrier, and I said, “Aah, bullsh*&! We ain’t doing that. I’m running that roping and we’re gonna have a barrier, and if you break it it’s gonna be a 10 second fine. That’s the way it is, and as long as I’m running the thing, that’s the way it’s gonna be.
L: And the same goes for roping a leg. If you rope one leg it’s a 5-second penalty.
J: Yep, that’s it.
L: And do they get three loops or two loops?
J: They get two.
L: That’s the way it should be.
J: Ya.
L: Well I don’t know who’s —obviously the losers are the majority, so they got the biggest pull, and I’m sure that they harassed the guys that run the whole deal, and those guys try to make it better, you know, instigating more people to get involved, but it just doesn’t seem right to keep bending the rules so much. It’s to the point they keep bending the rules so much that they’re breaking them. Enough is enough. They’ve tried to cut back on everything to make it worthwhile. They give better trophies, more money and everything else, and pretty quick you don’t have to be a roper or horseman to qualify.
J: Nope. And I think the professionalism in roping, if they keep doing this, is gonna go down. It ought’a go back to where…You know, I remember years ago that roping were HP and that jerk from Vasalia, or some place, won that roping?
L: Ya.
J: You know it was two horns and two feet. If you didn’t catch two horns or you didn’t catch two feet you went out. You were through. It was a no-time. A broken barrier was a no-time and that was—sh*%, that had to be twenty years ago. If they had just stayed with their guns right then; we seen it coming. If they would have stayed with their guns…I mean…what kind of good ropers we would have had today.
L: Ya.
J: I mean TWO HORNS, TWO FEET!... Broken barrier? that’s it. You’re out!
L: And that seems like the American way. Get better or go home! Instead of making the basket lower, or the course hole bigger, or trying to change the integrity of each sport, you know,
J: Uh-huh
L: the idea is to keep the challenge and raise the skill, not change the challenge and lower the skill. Work and get better at it.
J: Yep.
L: What happen to that idea?
J: Well, I don’t know, what’s next week gonna be? Put magnets on the steers’ ears and magnets on their ropes so they can guarantee two feet, or what? What’s it gonna come to?
L: I think it’s coming to put’n the ropes on. I predict the header’s gonna be able to put his rope on and go out there and turn him just like we do when we’re training them young horses.
J: Ya.
L: And a…that’s all they’ll have to do. The only roping skill that’s gonna be involved is, a…NONE. Just take a loop and throw it at the hind-end and if you catch something, you got it. You’re straight time. It’ll be like spear chucking rather than roping.
J: Well, like you said, I don’t know who keeps coming up with these gaw-dam rules, but they don’t seem to be making any sense. It’s taking the professionalism out of roping, as far as I can tell.
L: Well, not even the professionalism. It’s taken the whole idea out of it. I can’t find a better comparison than taking a game of golf and suggesting we put a bucket down there for a hole in place of the regulation size. Like saying, “We’re gonna change the game of golf cuz we’ve got a lot of golfers involved who get irritated with the challenge of a putt. Since they support this course financially what we’re gonna do is make that little hole in the green the size of a bucket. That way we’ll get more hole-in-ones and everybody will have fun. And we understand there are a lot of guys out there who want to play but don’t have the ability, so we’ll make the challenges easier for them so they’ll patronize us.”
J: (Laughing) Ya and that way, those guys, when they chip they can make it, and when they tee off on the par 3s they can make it.
L: Ya, now they can make a put from 40 feet away cuz the hole’s as big as a bucket. They won’t have to read the greens or nothing. Just ping it down there. What would that do to the professional golfers? They couldn’t do that for the professional golfers. That would change golf so bad, that you know…what are we doing? And that’s just an example of what they’re doing to team roping. What happened to the integrity of the sport?
J: aaaaa….
L: I’d sure like to find out who the team roping gods are that are changing the rules, and what their idea is for changing them and question where in the hell they think it’s going; because it seems to me like it’s going downhill or going to the dump rather than being progressive. I’m sure that if you were competing at the National Finals Rodeo and just caught a steer any which way you could with all these new pu#$%-rules the people wouldn’t appreciate that challenge.
J: That’s for sure.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Lost Legend

The Lost Legend

When the sport of rodeo developed Mexico moved in on the stock-scene with their Corrientes cattle. The border stayed closed most of the time to control cattle-disease outbreaks and quarantines, opening periodically to allow trade of regulation Cattle. At these different times of the year Mexican cattle ranchers would bring their cattle up in groves to the US and cross a large number of herds into the country to be put on feed and raised as beef. These early-day crossings were like the commercial fisherman’s first netting. Cattle came in all shapes and sizes and mixed among the beef prospects were rodeo prospects. Mexican ranchers, intent on selling lock-stock-and-barrel, didn’t weed out the few rodeo-types to sell strictly beef prospects, and there was no benefit for a rodeo buyer to go in and cut his selection for exclusive purchase. Nor did it benefit the beef buyer to cut his pick. The ganadero (Mexican Cattle Rancher) was hip to American Rodeo’s demand for horns as well as the American Beef grower’s despise of horns and consequently jacked the price on selective sales. Buyers were encouraged to purchase the entire herd to get the best price, which they did.
As a result, ranches would stock a thousand head of cattle, and of the lot only half might be suitable for sport. If stock contractors did not take advantage of those horned cattle (by putting in his request to the rancher or making a purchase) in a timely fashion ranchers would whack! their horns off. That was devastating to me. I’d visit ranches involved in the crime and see piles of horns stacked like elephant tusks. In my eyes, the rancher’s act was akin to poachers knocking down the big old elephant and robbing him of his precious ivory tooth, but tragically the cattle’s ivory wasn’t worth anything detached, just bone-yard material. Looking back on this now days makes me absolutely sick because it’s very rare to find little cattle with great big horns like they were back then.
Nevertheless, Corrientes (Changos) were plentiful and about a dime a dozen. As buyers began selecting and cutting cattle specifically for rodeo they came up with a numbering system to qualify or designate a steer’s “rodeo” worthiness. A number 1 indicated pure, first rate Corrientes of sizable/true horn growth with a little bit of age on him—not too old or young, ball-parking a 400-lbs frame; 2s were a tad younger and a hair smaller with no bull-dogging horns; 3s were marginal, off-color junk cattle that usually had a little ear (Brahma cross) and little up-&-down cow-horns that weren’t too big or too long. Anything less than 3 was deemed a “Potential.” Potentials were basically chaquitos or little Chongs averaging 250-300 lbs with the start of a neat little horn base. They attracted buyers who saw their potential to grow into a 1 after a year’s worth of feed. Today we rope 3s and potentials, that’s all, as 1s and 2s are obsolete. When you hear a pen described as, “mostly 3s” or “potentials”, it’s to your advantage to understand the cattle-buyer’s language.
Phil Stadtler, the original cattle-buying master, was responsible for crossing the border and furnishing cattle to American ranchers and rodeo stock contractors. Through due diligence, he established a good, mutually-respectful rapport with cattle traders throughout Mexico. (I highly recommend reading Phil’s adventurous autobiography, “I Made A Lot Of Tracks”). Rodeo Stock Contractors would call Phil and put an order in for “X” amount of bull dogging steers or “X” amount of head for the Cheyenne Rodeo, and Phil could supply the demand.
Dan Fisher (Fisher Cattle Company) was another guru who’d journey down into Mexico and deal with the ganaderos—dickering, compromising, and offering an extra peso or two more for that quality Corrientes. Dan has always gone one step further to acquire that uniqueness of horns and lean body frame in hopes of enhancing the quality of rodeo cattle in this country.
One last (but certainly not least) cattle-buyer “icon” I’d like to mention, is THE BIG VIKING, Fred Lucero who seems to have fallen in the steps of Phil Stadtler as the biggest dealer of Corrientes. Fred is one of the few real deals who can go down into Mexico, mix it up and talk the talk with the vaqueros and ganaderos.
These three buyers are successful beef-businessmen who went an extra mile for rodeo. They have done their honest best to provide American Rodeo with ideal sport cattle, and I’m sure they, like I do, mourn the passing “good ole days” of authentic Corrientes quality and abundance. As usual the idea of conservation is after the fact. Gone is their opportunity to fish in a sea of never-ending fish, but like the fish hatcheries Americans are making an effort to reproduce/farm their own version of Corrientes which is a positive step for modern-day rodeo. And, I have no doubt the American Corrientes has its own unique qualities. However, as with any replica, it will be hard to match our “Original Maker’s” vintage Corrientes.

That’s all I know…

Rope Smart!