Thursday, December 5, 2013

A Given Sunday [Leo's NFR 2013 Picks]

A Given Sunday

As we open the chute on another class of NFR competitors, I’m excited to see what unfolds.  Like all armchair quarterbacks who throw in their two cents on how a game is going to go down, I’m going to pitch mine.  And, like all sports analysts who make game predictions based on their season-evaluations, leaving no stone unturned, so they can have all the answers why they know how a game will go, I will suppose with great scrutiny my NFR-champion hunch for the 2013 team roping. 
Ninety-nine point nine percent of the time we are astonished at a game’s outcome because it didn’t pan out the way we expected, the way it looked like it should have on paper.  This is because nobody ever factors in the drama.  Drama like happened with the Cardinal’s quarterback, Kurt Warner, in the 2008 super bowl.  The “Cinderella” Cardinals were a wildcard that snuck into the super bowl to face the NFL season’s pack of killers, Pittsburg Steelers.  On paper the Cardinals were out-matched and on the field they were outplayed practically the whole game.  It was a David-and-Goliath match when one man’s outstanding-ness brought the big dogs to their knees.  Kurt Warner’s heart-driven talent was exposed for the first time, and Super Bowl fans were mesmerized by the miraculous happenings.  Accurately firing darts/lasers, to his precise target (Cardinal’s wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald) with no hesitation, Kurt drove his team to an amazing comeback nobody predicted.  Through sheer composure he worked it like poetry in motion and set a record for highest passing yards total in the history of super bowls.   
The Cardinals were on top with only a minute left in the game, when the big, southern-community Rottweiler—I mean, Roethlisburger, came off the porch.  Big Ben” was the Goliath of NFL quarterbacks who bombed a bone to his wide receiver, Santonio Holmes, who miraculously caught the ball in the farthest east-corner, 1 slim inch inside the end zone, to score the final touchdown.  It was unbelievable.  An unbelievable play that you had to watch over and over, (to this day) to be convinced happened.  Talk about drama!  Who can predict that stuff?          
In regards to team roping, if you were to tell me “Clay and Jake are leading.  I’d say, “There it is.  The writing is on the wall.  It’s obvious they’ll be the World’s Champions.  They rope the best.  They are the best.  It is what it is.”  But, how many times does the obvious ever happen?  If it were that easy, would anybody go to the show?  Would anybody even be interested?  Kansas City (Chiefs), Denver (Broncos), New England (Patriots) are clearly the best of the best AFL football teams at this time.  All three teams are deserving of the title, yet two of the teams won’t be going to the Super Bowl because they only take one.  As with any sport, on the day that determines the best, on that “given Sunday”, contestants have to contest to their fullest best, and since ultimately it’s a challenge between human beings, we have to factor in the circumstantial:emotional reactions ratio which can change the complexion of everything.
With that in mind, I’ll first acknowledge this year’s team-roping NFR obvious, Tryan/Corkhill & Driggers/Graves.  I expect a two-team, neck-&-neck, race to the end between these two.  Championship odds are in either team’s favor; statistically they’re sitting head-&-shoulders out in the lead.  All four are experienced NFR guys, so if they get tapped off there’ll be no catching them. 
However, close contenders: teams Beers/Cooper, or Rogers/Petska can pull one out on any given day.  Rogers/Petska are an obvious threat if they’re hot and Cory’s on his game.  Should Cory refrain from throwing and roping that fast leg, and Eric stick without waving it off like he sometimes does, this team will ignite an upset.  What happens with Eric though, is he gets so quick, it comes off quick.  Composure will be to this team’s benefit. 
Of course, the exception could be Sartain/Skelton.  Nick Sartain is a World-Champion veteran, as is his partner, the-champ Rich Skelton.  Factoring the circumstantial:emotional reactions ratio, if this team can subdue their personal issues and stay focused on business, they are the next best chance.  Rich is a past-champion, been-there-done-that player, and with a little luck he and Nick can be the “Big Ben” (Rosslingberger) of this year’s NFR.  It’d be no surprise to me if this team has that “given Sunday”. 
What I’m anxious to see, is this year’s potential “drama” team: Begay/De la Cruz.  If this team pulls through, it will be the drama of the dramas.  Like I mentioned with Kansas City, Denver, and New England, I’m now talking about the best ropers of our day competing against the best.   While Ceasar is an aggressive, hungrier-than-a-desert-coyote, can’t-wait-to-throw-his-loop beast, fully primed, pumped and firing on all cylinders, Derek is totally not.  Unfortunately, Derek is a broken, wounded soldier heading (literally) into battle on one leg.  Sure, one could assume roping with a broken leg possible, but we’re talking about modern-day NFR combat.  Today’s style of extreme arena team roping requires extreme competition-riding skills as well.  Though Derek is young, talented and full of heart, I expect this is going to hurt all the way around. 
Since the fat lady ain’t even in the building yet I anticipate great game changers.  All teams are capable of having a “given Sunday”, so let’s go boys!  Bring on the blood, the tears, the drama and your mama.  I’m amped for another year’s 10-day, team-roping spectacular.

That’s all I know…
Rope Smart!
The Lion

Friday, November 15, 2013


I try to stay in touch with my pro-roper friends and keep abreast of how they are doing through the course of the year.  I also make my own observation of how things are going for them, and I try to analyze it all with a new-age perception, so I can be “instructor-mental” (coach-like) in a more positive, supportive way.  Today’s pro- and open-level team roping competition is so fierce, the ranking latter is a turbulent climb, so to be more constructive and assisting to their situation, I have to mentally put myself in their position and direct from a whole new perspective.   
I’ve been a perpetual student of the team-roping game since I swung my first loop, and while my aim is always at progression, my motive is always the same.  Raised as a working hand for large cattle companies under the direction of my father, I learned right quick that it was better, easier, and more fun to get off the ground and work a horseback—a privileged position earned, not handed.  Dad was a militant leader and a stickler for proper mechanics regarding riding, roping and handling cattle.  If you were promoted to horseback, especially as a kid amongst the men, one slight slip-up, be it roping a leg, missing a headshot (anything other than two horns was a miss) or a dally, catching too far from the fire, etc., demoted you back to ground crew, and that was that.  There was no mucking around.  Dad was impatient, demanding and adamant about good cowboy ethics which have been ingrained in me for life.  And though it wasn’t much fun for a kid, his military discipline got me to the pay-window (at the rodeos) on a regular basis fulfilling my main motive. 

Today’s professional team roping has evolved into what I call “arena-style”.  Based on catching rather than trapping the strategy seems more rope than any other factor.  The extreme ideas, though amazing when successful, have always impressed me as high-risk flamboyance in regards to average winning that borders on careless disgrace.  However, last month at the USTRC finals in Oklahoma I caught firsthand, eye-to-eye sight of what really goes on in the deep open-roping waters, and it was an unbelievable awakening.  The clouds pealed back, and I saw into the heavens of arena team roping.  As the angels sung I watched the speed, the long shots, the ducks and dives; every header taking a down-town shot, be it right from the box or at the back end of the arena, reaching and cracking horns and by the threads of their tassel dallies lock the steer on a long length of rope in a tight, ideal handle for their modern-day, progressive healers, all with confident flair.  The boys from the phenomenal district served up their refined variety of extreme arena team roping a la mode, and it was exquisite. 

Yes, there were heartbreaking consequences as horses ducked out and ropes were lost, and all the usual mayhem.  Definitely, it’s frustrating to watch pro after pro make a hasty miss in the heat of battle, because we expect their professional perfection, and team roping is about “roping”, not missing.  However, instead of using hindsight to change the horizon, instead of being that derogatory person of “back in the day” trying to stifle the modern idea to get things back to original standard, I say, “O.K. boys, I get it!  I’ve seen the light.”  Let’er rip into the era of modern technology.  Bring this extreme idea to the level of supremeness I see coming.  

Like the 3-point shot, extreme arena roping is the way of today, and as with all progression, things are taking solid form.  I see substantial methods evolving.  Watch the kids today, tomorrow’s world’s champions, rope their dummy.   Every modern-day roper-kid has a “Drag Steer”, the ingenious, ideal, portable, ground-dummy perfect for practicing runs, and they emulate today’s pros blatantly working on shots that are unbelievable.  Though the habits these kids form on the ground may not be conducive to effective team-roping horsemanship, their intentions are right.  They’re honing their extreme shots, reaching for that “Drag Steer” (#dragsteer) and keeping it on a long length of rope with a quick turn and pull for their heelers who jump in and snag two every time in a blink.  When I see those kids of tomorrow, the future top 15, as well as today’s top 15, it’s staggering how great they rope.  I compliment the Kaleb Driggers(es), Derek Begay(s)—Arron Tsinigine, Trevor Brazil, Brock Hansons, Clay Tryan, and the growing list of top headers who fight for that top echelon, roping the extreme and setting the bar of maximum excellence.  

For me, understanding this evolution and even incorporating it in my own roping, means I first have to accept it and not be the old-man veteran of the sport clinging to my regimented theories and discipline, for the sake of ingenuity.  When it dawned on me, in OKC, that I was witnessing the brink of a revolution, I realized I was seeing a great change to my sport, the event that I feel very personable about and am often credited for revolutionizing and bringing to the rodeo arena.  To get to watch what I started be taken to such a high level, where every single heeler has that “Leo Camarillo” dip without thought or effort just absolutely perfected is endearing and incredible.  To see what I started evolve through Clay Obrien, and all the others who have copied it on down to today’s Travis Graves(es), and Cesar de la Cruz(es) is mind-blowing.  Everyone has that style and it is so perfected to even better than I could imagine it being done.  They make me feel, in all my accomplishments I didn’t work at it hard enough, and at one time I was the only one doing it.  Yet, I could have been doing it so much better.

Today’s pros have brought competing to a level where you’ve got to be day-money minded, fast-time driven every single time you go, not to win, but to just place, down to however many moneys pay.  When a rodeo has a good day, you’ll see competitors (like they do) have to rope every steer in the six-second area to win a 5-steer average.  It’s not just for first place.  Six seconds is to whatever place gets paid.  As many as eight places will hash out tenths of seconds.  Unfortunately the guy that strategizes conservatively to win or place in the average may no longer happen.  Nevertheless, vets like me and others from back in the day need to take notice of their methods because there is an exceptional new way of competitive roping that when done right can work for all of us.  As an extreme competitor of the past, I applaud how the pros are competing today.  They have taken arena team roping to the highest level yet—the greatest arena ropers doing the greatest arena roping of all time.

That’s all I know …
Rope Smart!
The Lion    

Wednesday, July 31, 2013


While attending the Salinas, California Rodeo this year (2013), I got to thinking about the way it was back in the day.  First of all, Salinas has always been one of two significant rodeos that mark the half-way point in the season; Cheyenne (WY) is the other.  Secondly, back in the day, only 10 percent of pro rodeos had team roping, (Salinas being one) while all had calf roping.  If you were leading the pack for a team roping World’s Championship, and you won the team roping at Salinas, more than likely everybody chasing you gave up because Salinas gave you a straight, downhill pull at the title.  A good example is my brother Jerold who won his first title in 1969 partly due to his win at Salinas.  Tee Woolman and I had the same result in 1980, winning Salinas and subsequently, Tee’s first World Title.  The same held true for Cheyenne in calf roping.  If one of the calf roping leaders won Cheyenne, it gave him a downhill go at the calf roping World Title.  Examples of calf roping titlist, just off the top of my head, were Oliver and Johnson.  One of the 7 or 8 times Dean Oliver won The World, he was initially in a heated battle for the crown going into Cheyenne.  His Cheyenne victory catapulted him through the rest of the year to become champ.  Mike Johnson is another who in the prime of his calf roping career benefited from his Cheyenne win to get to the National Finals.  Both rodeos had, and still have, a significant effect on World Titles because they pay so much money.  To this day, weather trying to clinch a championship or just make it to the Finals, Salinas and Cheyenne are the two major tickets every competitive cowboy wants to claim.

However, as I look at it today, trying to keep up with who’s who and who’s doing what I’m floored by the amount of money, effort and talent it takes to cut the mustard.  In ’75 or ’76 I set a winnings record when I won the World in Team Roping with 30-thousand dollars, a figure I vividly remember they all said would be a record for all time.  Back in the day it seemed an amazing feat as I had actually lapped the field with that figure.  The nearest guy to me was 15-thousand.   Now, just qualifying for the National Finals in most all events, a guy needs to win 30- or 35-thousand, even 36-thousand just to make it into 15th position.  At this point (July 2013),  only half the year is gone and 30-plus thousand is in 15th position for both the team and calf roping events.  That is phenomenal.

Thirdly, yesterday’s team-roping competitors were limited to just a few significant rodeos.  They weren’t inundated with rodeo-availability, so it imposed a little recovery period.  A guy could go to Salinas, and if things didn’t go well, he could go home, regroup, and get a part-time job while waiting for another significant rodeo to come along.  By the same token, it was unfortunate if you didn’t have all your rodeoing in by Cheyenne and Salinas, because the summer was slim pick’ns.  There really wasn’t much to look forward to, even in the fall.  Albuquerque, NM used to be big for team roping in the winding down of the summer, as was Bishop, CA and Lancaster, CA over Labor Day, but they weren’t fun for multi-event team ropers because you had to sacrifice the BIG 4 (Ellensburg, WA; Walla Wall, WA; Lewiston, ID; Pendleton, OR).  The Big 4 didn’t have team roping.  Labor-day majors offered small runs for calf ropers, but other than that, calf ropers and team ropers had to hold out for an old faithful known as “The Cow Palace“ AKA “The Grand National“ held the end of October in San Francisco, CA.  It was the last hurrah, the last major hit of the year (which no longer exists), that could give a pretty big shot in the arm.

To sum it up, every rodeo now has team roping, and they all have calf roping.  Today‘s ropers can strive and thrive 24/7, and they do (or die).  All have this enduring energy to go day in and out fighting to the finish.  I’m amazed at how it now works.  I see teams like Ceasar de la Cruz and Derek Begay win the Salinas Rodeo, and I expect it to boost them up in the standings and put them in contention for a championship yet, not even close.  They didn’t even get in to the top 15.  (Ceasar is sitting 17th; Derek sitting 18th)  For some winners it might just push them far enough in to the top 15th spot with no promise of anything.  The same with Cheyenne.  A significant win there no longer means that it’s the end of the day or end of the year for anybody.  You’ve got to run it out, go all summer long, nickel and dime’n, to here and yonder to make them rodeos all work.  I understand there’s a limited qualification of rodeos that a guy can even go to.  Still, a savvy competitor must keep his ducks in a row, and never weaken.  Just winning the big ladies (Cheyny and Sali), guarantees nada no more, senior.  The championship-driven cowboy is no longer awarded the luxury of downtime.  Going home and getting a part-time job or pulling up in Vegas with the intention of waiting on December is a convenience of the past.  Today’s heavy hitter has to get it on and win or go home. 

That’s all I know…

Rope Smart!

The lion 

Monday, June 17, 2013

By Leo Camarillo

My memory of Prescott Rodeo “back in the day” is a major rodeo, amid a chaotic weekend that a team roper never wanted to miss.  Old-rodeo traditions and authentic western flair flavored its team roping, (then, “Team Tying) which had a uniqueness about it that is still alive today.  It’s rocky-scape rodeo grounds were originally a race track.  We’d compete in the slack in the morning and have to finish by a certain time so they could get the track ready for the horse races in the afternoon.  You can still see some of the old track out in the parking lot as you walk up to the arena.  From certain spots you can stand back and visualize how the old track used to come out from where the roping chutes are now and go up to the side of the grandstands.  It went around the rodeo arena and parking lot.  After the horse races, they’d put the whole arena back into rodeo shape, so they could hold the rodeo at night.  In the old set-up, the roping chutes were extremely narrow and set more to the left than they are now making the arena much more constricted to rope in because that left fence was right there real quick.  Both header and heeler came from the calf-roping side, as done today, challenging “the fittest” cowboy talent.  When we asked why they come out that way, the Prescott boys answered, “Tradition.”  

Prescott has always been kind of a southerly rodeo and hard to get to over the forth of July.  Generally, cowboys (Rough-stock riders) work rodeos to the north, such as and they don’t include Prescott.  Rough-stock riders work rodeos like Calgary and The Gateways with Cody WY,  Red Lodge, Livingston MT, Greely (CO), St Paul, and Molalla, OR because they are all clumped up in that area.  Location and duration (Prescott runs for a week, and you get 2 head of livestock) are the reasons most cowboys sacrifice Prescott. 

My brothers and I, worked Prescott and Pecos (TX) faithfully.  In fact, when I think of Prescott, I always remember Pecos too.  They were like salt & pepper in my career days.  A good pair that together made for a pretty good run, and the distance between was not all that difficult to manage.  Every year we worked Prescott with Pecos, and the funny thing was both laid claim to being the oldest rodeo of all time.  I found it ironic going from one rodeo to the other with both boasting the same slogan:  “We are the oldest Rodeo.”  Yet, of the two, I enjoyed Prescott most with its whispering pines, babbling brooks, and down-to-earth fans.  I always seemed to do well there.  It just kind of fit me.  I worked all three events.  One time me and the boys even entered the cow milking, and won.  That was fun.  I seemed to have a lot of luck in Prescott.

As time went on, our rodeos broadened.  We threw in Greely, and Rifle, The Gateways, Cody, Red Lodge, Livingston, and Lander, all them northerns.  Still, we always came back and worked Prescott, because we were team ropers.  Prescott had a good team tying.  It was a major rodeo for team ropers.  You couldn’t exclude it.  It was also big for Arizonians.  It was their style of team roping--“team tying”.  AZ team ropers who didn’t go out to California to try to gain points for the NFR, stayed home to work Prescott. 

The most poignant impact on me regarding Prescott Rodeo my PRCA rookie year was Chuck Sheppard.  Chuck, the-great-and-powerful, was a significant old-timer, a World’s Champion, Board-of-Directors Mr. PRCA, All Around Champ of the World phenomenon, that I had heard so much about.  I knew of him mostly because they had a saddle named after him, and everybody spoke so highly of him, and still do.  Chuck was the deal who knew the deal.  He was a significant part of the Prescott Rodeo hoopla and a stickler for carrying on it’s 4th of July traditions.  Prescott was where Chuck Sheppard called home, kept his ranch, and he was a spot on dignitary of Prescott.  He was the one that looked after everybody and everybody looked up to.  Any information about the rodeo, where to go around Prescott, or about Arizona in general came from Chuck.

As I’ve said, Back in the day Prescott was a tied roping, and since my brothers and I were “dally‘ team ropers, it suited us best to ride other people’s horses.  Horses who knew the play.  As fate would have it, our first time to Prescott, we borrowed horses that were staying on Chuck’s ranch.  That’s where we got to keep them.  Because we were in and out of Prescott going to other rodeos in between, all weekend, we kept our horses with Chuck, and he looked after them for us like we were his sons.  I held a lot of respect and gratitude for that true cowboy, my true friend, Mr. Chuck Sheppard, and I think about him every time I’m there.

I still see different old-time pros show up to Prescott periodically, and I’ve met many of my heroes there, i.e. Chuck Sheppard, Everett Bowman, Buckshot Sorrels.  Different pros that have come and gone in the past still tend to show up for Prescott. 

Prescott--definitely, always one of my favorites, though hard to get to every year, we were dang-sure willing to make it work.  We were determined to make it one way or another.”  One year we were working other rodeos and I refused to turn out at Prescott.  We were in Folsom, California and had to get back to Prescott to end our weekend.  The only way we were gong to make Prescott was in a jet, yet it was pretty-near impossible to work it in on a commercial jet.  We knew we had to rent a private jet.  As luck would have it, the guy running the rodeo in Folsom had a jet.  We talked to him about our situation, scrambled enough guys together to make the trip with us to help buy the gas and pay the pilot.  Ill never forget that week.  First we were in Folsom, forty-five minutes later we were in Prescott, and 45 minutes after that we were in Pecos, then back to Prescott, and then back to Folsom.  Bahda-bing, bahda-bang, it was one of the most slick, efficient weekends I can remember. 

Another 4th of July at Prescott, I come down with pneumonia.  I was trying to cope with my sickness and compete, but things got worse, so my traveling partner (my brother) put me in the hospital.  I had a couple of days to try to recover.  My brothers and partners would come to check on me periodically.  When it finally came time for me to compete, the boys wouldn’t take no for an answer.  They brought my clothes, helped me put them on.  They hauled me to the rodeo and propped me up at the back of the chutes.  I could hardly stand up.  My head just hung down, I could hardly lift it.  When it was my turn, they lead my horse up there.  I could hardly get on.  The boys nursed me like I was a drunk, and I felt like I was drunk.  I went out there and could hardly swing my rope.  I could hardly see the steer.  I threw my rope at the ground.  Obviously no good, so they slung me back in the hospital. 

About a week later, I finally came to my senses, but the rodeo was over, and everybody was gone.  I can remember wondering, “Is this the reality of rodeo?  If you can’t do any good, they just leave you on the side of the road?”  Two weeks went by before the hospital would let me go home.  I’ll never forget it.  Now, whenever I see the Prescott hospital, I get that connected, familiar feeling one gets like when he revisits his old high school.

One time, we were off rodeoing, and I had already won the first go-round of the calf roping at Prescott.  We were in Greely (CO) trying to come back to make that night performance at Prescott.  We caught a commercial out of Denver to Phoenix, then rented a car to drive up there.  We touched down in Phoenix about 6:00 p.m.  The rodeo in Prescott started at 7:30 p.m.  Calf roping was the second event.  You were supposed to be able to drive Phoenix to Prescott in an hour and a half easy, which we did.  As we pealed in there, I jumped out and hopped over the fence.  My buddies had my horse ready for me, so I swung up on him as they were announcing my name and was just riding in the box as they turned my calf out.  Of course they were surprised to see me.  They brought the calf back and fortunately for me, I won the calf roping.  If you want to talk about photo finishes, I felt that was the epitome.  Winning the calf roping at Prescott that year made my 4th of July scuttle all worth while.

There was another year about like that same scenario, I was off working rodeos in Colorado, but I didn’t draw up in Prescott like I wanted to in all my events.  Prescott had me sprawled out so to speak.  I was up in the first perf  bull dogging, so I flew by myself in a private from Colorado to Prescott and made another photo finish.  However, when I got there, they had switched the bull dogging event with the calf roping slot because some bull doggers wanted to hustle out to go where I had just come from for those rodeos. 

I nonchalantly sauntered into the rodeo getting ready to bull dog, when I found out they’d already had it.  The events had been run out of order, and because I wasn‘t there when they switched they turned me out.  I immediately made my appeal, questioning their policy.  I pointed out how unethical it is to switch a scheduled event and go against what it says in the program, because competitors orchestrate/coordinate multiple rodeos based on designated event schedules.  Mind you, back in the day, it wasn’t uncommon for folks to show favoritism to cowboys when they felt like it wasn’t going to upset the apple cart, so to speak.  They assumed it wouldn’t bother anyone in Prescott, but then I came in.  Of course, they apologetically said no problem and agreed to bring my steer back after the rodeo, which they did.  I ran him and ended up winning the day money.  I then went off to a hotel room, got me something to eat, got me a good night sleep, and waited for the rest of my crew to come in, because I was up the next morning in the team and calf roping slack. 

Next morning, I nonchalantly sauntered into the slack and was greeted with, “Hey, Leo, we decided to take your time away and disqualify you from the bulldogging.”  I went right to investigating why and spent quite some time trying to plead my case, to no avail.  Even though I felt I was right, even if the president of the united states said I was right, they were adamant about a rule they’d dug up that said if you turn out in one event you’re out of the rodeo completely.  Because they ran the event without me, they considered me a turnout.  After that fiasco, the PRCA amended the rule.  It was too late to do me any good, but because of that little scuffle, they decided it wasn’t fair to turn a guy out of all events for missing one.  Had I fallen off my horse instead of winning the day money probably nothing would have ever been said, but being as I was winning the bull dogging, they felt it was a good rule to follow at the time. 

Well, I sat that year out (which was a real bummer) and just watched my brothers and partners rope.  My cousin Reg stepped up and took my place heeling for my header HP Evetts.  I had my world famous heel horse, Stick, down there which I lent to Reg.  When Reg mounted Stick to heel for H, he looked at me queer, so I asked, “What?”  

He told me my right stirrup was shorter than my left.  I knew that.  I kept my stirrups off-set on that horse.  I explained how I had to ride him like that because he pulls my groin muscle when he comes in if I don’t off set’em. 

Reg looked at me like I was an idiot.  “I’m a cowboy,” Reg said.  “Set them back to normal.”  

I agreed to put them however he wanted them, but warned one time, “I’m telling you what he does.”   Reg just looked at me with a snicker, confirming his thoughts of me being an idiot. 

‘Low and behold’ and ‘GOOD GOLLY-WALLY!’ ol’ H reached and stuck one right there, and my horse Stick came in as sharp as usual, before Reg was actually ready.  Reg was never a real heeler, but he took his best shot and…unfortunately missed.  He came back looking at me with this painful grin on his face.  I asked, “Are you alright?” 

He puffed out a grimacing,‘Ya, I think I’m alright.  I think I pulled my groin.” 

I couldn’t hold it.  I had the best laugh and of course said, “I told you so.”  It was about the only cheerful spot I remember in Prescott rodeo that year.      

One year I had a match roping.  The way it all started was, we were all there for the second go round.  We showed up at seven o’clock, slack started at 8.  You could tell it was going be a hot son-of-a-bitch.  I was borrowing a calf and  bull dog horse, and had my own team roping horse.  That morning I was dogging around the chutes looking at the draw and what not, when my friend Ron Poindexter approached me to tell me he’d got me in a match calf roping.  I couldn’t believe my ears, so I asked him to repeat what he said.  After I heard it the second time, I told him I don’t mind matching anybody, but I don’t’ have a horse.  Ron offered me his horse.  He explained how after he had breakfast he bumped into “Diamond Bill” Roar in the restroom.  They got to bull shitting, and one thing led to another and soon Ron was bragging about having a guy here that nobody can beat in the calf roping.  Well, that got ol’ Bill itching to put up some money.  Bill proposed a match.  He said, “I’ll put money on a guy that I know can’t be beat.”  His guy’s name was Jerry Koil.  So Ron set me up against Jerry. 

The buzz went like fire around the rodeo, and soon Harry Vold, the stock contractor, got involved.  Harry loves that kind of stuff.  He cut out 8 or 10 calves for us to match on and it went where I roped 4, then Jerry roped 4, then I roped his, and he roped mine.  I’m proud to say I beat poor Jerry like a drum.  I had Ron’s fairly decent calf horse under me, and all kinds of confidence, mine and my comrades.  All my traveling buddies put all the money they had on me because they knew nobody was going to beat me.  They were fanning me, bringing me water, bringing my horse when the time was ready.  I felt like a boxer getting into the ring.  They all had money invested and won big, yet to this day, I don’t remember if I made a single dime.  

Now, every time I go to Prescott the first thing Harry (who is still the contractor) always says to me is, ‘Hey, do you remember the match roping?”  What I remember most was that everybody wanted to get money out of Diamond Bill, because he was like  the Dallas Cowboys’ big Jerry Jones.  Diamond Bill had a reputation for having a lot of money, and it seemed like he expected everything he touched would turn to gold.  Unfortunately, for him, the buck stopped when he bet against me. 

Years ago, on my way to Prescott I had HP Evetts, Ace Berry and myself in a private plane coming out of Rifle Co,  It wasn’t a good trip from the start.  I lined up a friend to fly me to Prescott who at the last minute couldn’t make it, so he sent one of his student pilots in his place.  And it was a woman.  The first thing that happened trying to leave Rifle was that we had a hard time getting up off the ground.  When we finally got up in the air, the plane wouldn’t go very fast.  It felt like we were dragging an anchor.  We struggled along a ways until finally she said, “I’m going to have to land in Grand Junction, (CO) because this plane isn’t flying very good.”  As we approached Grand Junction, she prepared to land and figured out that she’d forgot to put the landing gear up on our previous ascent.  That explained why the plane wouldn’t fly so well.  So, we took off again.  The second time seemed a charm.  We were flying along pretty good, when quick enough she says, “We need some fuel, so we’re gong to land in Flagstaff.”  Down we went again.  We landed, took on some fuel, we all went and used the restroom and got back in the plane.  It’s important you understand that Flagstaff is over 7,000 feet elevation.  When the weather is really hot, like it was, and you’re at that high elevation, the air is really thin.  When we took off, the plane never got off the run way.  It did one of those wing-to-wing teeter-totter deals trying to get it stopped, then we skated off the end of the runway. She burned one of them brodies out there in the dirt trying to turn around and get back on the runway.  Once we were back, we all got out for some air, and I called my friend (the original pilot) Bob, out in Sedona and told him his student had wrecked his plane.  Bob assured me not to worry, he’d be right there to get us.  He showed up 20 minutes later and HP and I boarded the next plane and headed off to Prescott.  Ace, ol’ boy, he’d had enough, and was off renting a car to drive the rest of the way.  He made the rodeo in one piece, but the whole episode soured poor Ace on flying.  He was never the same about flying, and I’m pretty certain he never flew a private again. 

Of all the places I’ve lived, I am proud to call myself an Arizonian.  I have been a full-time resident of Arizona since 2006.  The points of my different Arizona residences since then make the shape of a star on the map.  I have experienced the north, south, east, and west.  I brought my family here to the Prescott area, and we settled in Chino Valley a few years back.  I feel this area is truly home to me.  Between all my rodeo photo finishes and all the things that have happened to me in Prescott, good and bad, raising my family here, cultivating my many friendships, I have a sweet spot in my heart for this great area.  Prescott’s got it all.  I am honored to claim Prescott my home and have the Prescott rodeo my hometown arena. 

I feel privileged to be your grand marshal this years.  It’s an honor and a great pleasure to fill this prestigious roll.  It makes me believe, maybe I did do something worth while at this rodeo.  I wonder if Chuck (Sheppard) would have ever guessed I’d someday be Prescott’s grand marshal?

Thank you JC Trujillo for being my longtime friend.  Thank you and the Prescott rodeo committee and everyone else who makes this all possible, those who work so tirelessly through the year and throughout the rodeo week--including my beloved gate keepers who share a mutual frustration with me--Thank you all for making this the best OLDEST, rodeo in the world.

That’s all I know…

The lion

Saturday, March 2, 2013


How’d you like to run a 3-minute mile and just before you cross the finish line Usain Bolt goes by you?  You sprinted your ass off, fighting in mini “Katrina” conditions, to make record speed, yet win a lowly 2nd place.  Well, that’s what happened to team Clay Tryan and Travis Graves, the other day at the “Mike Cervi” memorial roping in Casa Grande, AZ. 

Flirting with snow flurries and pelting hail (roping conditions in sunny Arizona were not exactly turf paradise) Tryan and Graves were watertight, finishing around 30 on 5.  Then suddenly, zipping right passed them came fearless Rodgers and flawless Petska, in an amazing 29 on 5, proving themselves to be the perfect storm that day.   

Definitely the crème de la crème, with no consideration of the environmental threats, Cory Petska and Eric Rodgers roped (as usual) phenomenally, like they were in a climate-controlled office, burning by all their alleged opponents who all believe they are the next generation to make up the top echelon of today’s pros.  Though I keep expecting changes in the leader board because there is so much volatile talent out there, it seems no matter how you pour it, no matter where you go, in remarkable fashion the same old cream continues to settle on the top. 

Why does the cream always rise to the top?  Why do the Lebron Jameses, Michael Jordans, Magic Johnsons, Joe Montanas, Tom Bradys, Jade Corkels and Chad Masterses of the day, always excel at a steeper angle?  Why do certain athletes relentlessly dominate, every time they compete?  One would reason, “talent”, of course, but I’ve seen unbelievable talent in many a backyard that can‘t win a guy a cup of coffee once he crosses the gate.  How about Corey Petska?   The fastest heeler today, being left out of the finals last year?  That was a disappointment, and I believe it was because he didn’t go hard enough.  For whatever reasons--I don’t think he could connect with the right team roping relationship (the other can of worms regarding team roping success), be it partner chemistry, or who knows--Corey just didn’t show the drive it takes to govern a finals hole.  He is a fireball and quite possibly the best today, yet his case validates the vast challenging-factors of a team roper’s success.

Bottom line, domineering athletes have a relentless way of taking their performance to peak level in exigent times.  They don’t entertain intimidation, be it weather, cocky opponents, opposing predictions, personal problems, etc.  On game day, it’s all a melding stimulus that stokes their passion for excellence.

Sitting at the “Cervi”, old and froze and wondering why anyone would even compete on a day like that, a raging stage-4 storm, I vaguely remembered back in the day when I cherished the challenge to do it all in the mud, the blood, and beer.  Give it to me.  I literally thrived on that youthful challenge,  And I expected today’s young veterans to claim the same yet, through the angled sleet, in disbelief I saw some of them (ie. my son of the past, one I raised and fed on such conditions, [high-stake Jake], as well as one of my latest young heroes [Tortuga]), like horses, turn their ass to the wind and whimper, “No mas.” 

I guess there comes a time when you decide, “I don’t need this,” but that includes it all, because if you’re not tackling what’s on the plate, someone else is--VORACIOUSLY.  Facing the fiddler is the secret that makes the difference in top talent, specifically, the crème de la crème.  When the going gets tough and you don’t, others will, and I’ll bet anybody anything that at the end of the day, those boys who bow out, back away, and don’t climb the wall of discomfort, won’t be at the finals. 

On a final note, I have to hand it to the “Cervi” producers George Aroes and Reed Flake for having the best, hand-picked steers I’ve seen at a competition in a long time.  Those Corrientes were like peas in a pod.  I couldn’t stop licking my chops.

That’s all I know.

Until next time…

Rope Smart!

The Lion