Archive for July, 2012

postheadericon Bain is the Real Deal in winning Eagle title

EAGLE, Colo. – Brian Bain admits he likes to test his talents against rank bucking horses.

“I like bigger-, stronger-type horses,” said Bain, a 2011 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo bareback rider from Culver, Ore.

Brian Bain

Brian Bain

He got his wish with Carr Pro Rodeo’s Real Deal, and it worked just fine. The two great athletes matched moves for 88 points, helping Bain to the bareback riding title at the Eagle County Fair and Rodeo; he earned $2,964 for the feat and moved into the top 10 in the world standings.

“I’d never been on Real Deal before,” Bain said of the 12-year-old bay gelding, which was named the 2005 Bareback Horse of the Year in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. “That afternoon, I got a strong bucking horse in Cheyenne (Wyo.), so I got on two of those kinds of horses the same day.

“When I got to Eagle, I was a little nervous because I’d seen Real Deal and I knew all about him. It turns out that horse is just really good. I’d like to get on him every day if I could.”

He’d also like to ride in Eagle more often. An avid outdoorsman, the setting around the Eagle rodeo made the victory even better for Bain.

“That’s a good rodeo,” he said. “It’s a smaller rodeo overall, but everybody goes to it with it being so close to Cheyenne and having Pete Carr’s stock. It’s really a great rodeo and a neat place to see. I’d love to go hunting around there sometime.”

For now, though, Bain is hunting bucking horses. He’d like to continue riding good horses, something he knows is possible with Dallas-based Carr Pro Rodeo.

“Pete’s stock is great,” Bain said. “It’s some of the best in the world, and I love going to his rodeos. He has a lot of rodeos down south, and I tend to stay up north. Pete and I have talked before that I don’t go to enough of his rodeos. I wish I could; I think I just need to work on getting to more.”

It helps that Carr has some of the animals in the game. In addition to Real Deal, Carr horses have been recognized by the top cowboys in the game over the years. River Boat Annie was named the reserve world champion bareback horse in 2007 and continues to be selected to the NFR each year. In Eagle, Coloradoan Tyler Scales rode River Boat Annie for 85 points to finish in a tie for fourth place.

“Pete has a bunch of great horses,” Bain said. “I’ve been dying to get on Dirty Jacket. I’d also like to get on (MGM) Deuces Night one of these days … I’d just like to see what one of them would be like. Those are two world-class horses.

“You’d ride a bicycle a million miles to get on them.”

Eagle County Fair and Rodeo
Eagle, Colo., July 25-28
All-around cowboy:
Darnell Johnson, $2,188, team roping and tie-down roping.

Bareback riding: 1. Brian Bain, 88 points on Carr Pro Rodeo’s Real Deal, $2,964; 2. Bill Tutor, 87 points on Carr’s Dirty Jacket, $2,272; 3. Will Lowe, 86 points on Carr’s Miss Hollywood, $1,680; 4. (tie) Tyler Scales, on Carr’s River Boat Annie, and Tom McFarland, on Carr’s MGM Deuces Night, 85, $899 each; 6. Casey Colletti, 84 points on Carr’s Step Mom, $494; 7. Caine Riddle, 83 on Carr’s Island Girl, $396; 8. (tie) Seth Hardwick, on Carr’s Black Coffee, Caleb Bennett, on Carr’s Outa Sight, and Kaycee Feild, on Carr’s Sin Wagon, 82, $99 each.

Steer wrestling: First round: 1. Payden McIntyre, 5.2 seconds, $855; 2. (tie) Theo Federer and Blair Jones, 5.6, $534 each; 4. Hadley Jackson, 5.8, $214. Second round: 1. Tom Osborne, 4.5 seconds, $855; 2. Wyatt Johnson, 4.7, $641; 3. Hadley Berger, 4.8, $428; 4. Cole McNamee, 5.0, $214. Average: 1. Payden McIntyre, 10.5 seconds on two head, $855; 2. Tom Osborne, 12.1, $641; 3. Riley Krassin, 12.7, $428; 4. Kyle Broce, 13.0, $214.

Team roping: 1. Calvin Brevik/Kory Bramwell, 4.7 seconds, $1,550 each; 2. Tyler Schnaufer/Shay Carroll, 5.1, $1,283; 3. Manny Egusquiza Jr./Brad Culpepper, 5.5, $1,015; 4. Garrett Tonozzi/Kinney Harrell, 5.6, $748; 5. Quisto Lopez/Ryon Tittel, 5.7, $481; 6. Willow Raley/Gary Rodarmel, 8.0, $267.

Saddle bronc riding: 1. Bradley Harter, 85 points on Carr Pro Rodeo’s Lonestar, $2,713; 2. (tie) Cody Martin, on Carr’s Trail Dust, Jacobs Crawley, on Carr’s Ginger Snap, and Jake Wright, on Carr’s Colt 44, 83, $1,537 each; 5. Sterling Crawley, 81 points on Carr’s Empty Pockets, $633; 6. (tie) Cole Elshere, on Carr’s High Lonesome, Ryan Elshere, on Carr’s Cool Runnings, and Chuck Schmidt, on Carr’s True Lies, 80, $362 each.

Tie-down roping: First round: 1. Darnell Johnson, 9.4 seconds, $700; 2. Calvin Brevik, 9.6, $525; 3. (tie) Eric Martin and Cody Gerard, 10.2, $263 each. Second round: 1. Juan Flores, 11.5 seconds, $700; 2. (tie) Darnell Johnson and Joe James, 11.9, $438 each; 4. (tie) Kyle Dutton and Joe Dickens, 12.3, $88 each. Average: 1. Darnell Johnson, 21.3 seconds on two head, $1,050; 2. Cody Gerard, 23.4, $788; 3. Eric Martin, 27.3, $525; 4. Britt Bath, 29.7, $263.

Barrel racing: 1. Dianne Luark, 17.66 seconds, $1,562; 2. Jennifer Noble, 17.82, $1,339; 3. Kim Schulze, 17.87, $1,116; 4. Brittany Fellows, 17.91, $967; 5. Heather Ratteree, 17.93, $744; 6. (tie) Sarah Kieckhefer and Lexi Bath, 17.96, $521 each; 8. Hayden Segelke, 18.12, $298; 9. Myra Masters, 18.20, $223; 10. Mandi Jo Fox, 18.25, $149.

Bull riding: 1. (tie) Trey Benton III, on Carr Pro Rodeo’s Black Ice, and J.W. Harris, on Carr’s Depths of Despair, 88 points, $2,820 each; 3. Scottie Knapp, 86 points on Carr’s Motown, $1,809; 4. Cody Samora, 84 points on Carr’s Comanche, $1,170; 5. Tim Bingham, 83 points  on Carr’s Time Out, $745; 6. (tie) Josh Koschel, on Carr’s Itch N Scratch, and Tony Mendes, on Carr’s The Mexican, 81, $479 each; 8. Dalton Votaw, 78 points on Carr’s Backlash, $319.

postheadericon Carr bulls attractive to rodeo’s top cowboys

SILVERTON, Texas – A great bull ride is equal parts bucking beast, equal parts athletic cowboy.

When it comes together, fans walk away from the arena mesmerized, and they’ll talk about it for weeks to come. That’s what fans expect when they get to Silverton’s Buck Wild Days Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 16-Saturday, Aug. 18.

Bull rider Luke Haught tries his skills with Carr Pro Rodeo's Private Eyes during the West of the Pecos (Texas) Rodeo in late June. Carr's top-flight bulls will be a big draw at the Silverton (Texas) Buck Wild Days Rodeo, set for Aug. 16-18. (ROBBY FREEMAN PHOTO)

Bull rider Luke Haught tries his skills with Carr Pro Rodeo’s Private Eyes during the West of the Pecos (Texas) Rodeo in late June. Carr’s top-flight bulls will be a big draw at the Silverton (Texas) Buck Wild Days Rodeo, set for Aug. 16-18. (ROBBY FREEMAN PHOTO)

Jacob O’Mara knows what it takes to be a great bull rider. The Louisiana cowboy qualified for this first Wrangler National Finals Rodeo last year; just a month ago, he won the Navajo Nation Fourth of July PRCA Rodeo in Window Rock, Ariz. He knows he can expect to get on great bulls in the Navajo Nation; Lovington, N.M.; and Silverton.

Why?

Carr Pro Rodeo brings the bucking beasts.

“I’ve always tried to get the best animals I can get, whether they’re bulls, horses, calves or steers,” said Pete Carr, owner of the livestock company. “Everybody thinks I’m a horse guy, and I am; but I want to be known as a bull guy, too.”

O’Mara knew he had something special when he was preparing to ride Carr’s Morning After, a young bull he’d never seen buck. And while none of his traveling buddies knew anything about the bull, O’Mara had an idea there was something electric in the young animal.

“They told me they were going to save me for last,” said O’Mara, 20, of Prairieville, La. “That’s when I first thought this bull might have something to him. I knew they were trying to sell the show with the best stuff, so I figured it’d be great.”

The result? O’Mara and Morning After matched moves for 89 points to win Window Rock, earning the young cowboy $4,119.

“That bull was great; he just went out a couple (jumps), then turned back,” O’Mara said, describing how the animal began more of a spinning motion. “Anything you can score 89 points on is pretty good.”

For years, bull riders have seen Carr as a stock contractor that works hard to improve his herd. This year, Carr even admits he stepped up his game a little more.

“The bulls are awesome,” said Chandler Bownds, the 2011 rookie of the year from Lubbock, Texas. “Pete brought in some great subcontractors to juice up his great pen of bulls, and there were a bunch of bulls that bucked really hard.”

Carr does what it takes to reach out to bull riders, from talking about great animal athletes to bringing in sub-contractors to rodeos so the cowboys get the best chance possible to win money. Jarrod Craig of Hillsboro, Texas, rode the bull Itch N Scratch for 87 points to share the win with Chris Roundy of Panguitch, Utah; Roundy rode Carr’s The Mexican, and each cowboy earned $3,097.

“That bull bucks hard,” Craig said of Itch N Scratch.

Roundy had similar comments for The Mexican.

“He was really good,” Roundy said. “I had seen him a bunch of times before, so I knew what he was going to do. That helped, but he was definitely good.”

The Carr bulls have been gaining plenty of acclaim throughout this rodeo season. Trey Benton III won the Mercedes, Texas, rodeo in mid-March after scoring 91 points on Missing Parts.

“He was really good,” said Benton, of Rock Island, Texas. “He just stumbled at the five-second mark, but I think he was even more after he stumbled. He got after it.

“You have to have a good bull to score 91, and Pete’s got one there.”

Carr knows he’s got some special athletes that will be part of the excitement in Lovington, just as they have been at rodeos leading up to the August extravaganza.

“I’ve got some good ones in addition to Missing Parts,” Carr said. “I’ve got some great bulls in The Mexican, Black Ice, Black Powder, Morning After and Hot & Ready that went to a lot of the winter rodeos. I have some more outstanding bulls that I haven’t bucked just yet, but I think all of them have a lot of potential.”

postheadericon Wheelers celebrate 50 years of showing livestock

LOVINGTON, N.M. – When Jimmy Wheeler walks into the barn at the Lea County Fair and Rodeo this year, it won’t be much different than the first time.

Oh, sure, the times have changed. There are more modern conveniences than he experienced that first year. But the reality is, he’ll be inside that show barn, holding on to a twinge of nervousness as he watches the action.

You see, 2012 marks the 50th year a Wheeler has shown livestock at the local fair. This year, it will be his grandchildren, 19-year-old Blain Wheeler and 17-year-old Kylie Wheeler, and his great-granddaughter, 10-year-old Addison Marquez. They’ll be showing cattle, but that’s something in which the family has taken great pride since Dickie Wheeler first showed a steer in Lovington in 1963.

“It’s a family oriented project that actually builds families,” Jimmy Wheeler said of showing livestock.

That it is. Dickie remembers 1963 quite well. He also remembers what motivated him.

“It’s always been in our family history,” Dickie said. “My dad showed steers when he was young. When I was old enough, he got me showing. My kids … they all showed the whole time they were growing up.”

So when Addison walks into the ring during this year’s fair, set for Aug. 3-11, she will represent four generations of Wheelers who have shown livestock, three of which have done so in Lea County over the last five decades.

“There’s a lot of responsibility learned there,” said Larry Wheeler, Jimmy’s baby boy and the father of Blain and Kylie. “When they’re younger, it’s a family project. When they’re younger, you have to do more with the kids and for the kids, but as they get older, you turn more responsibility over to them.”

And the cycle continues. Jimmy Wheeler instilled that with his four children, which included daughters Connie and Jan.

“It’s just a great teacher,” Jimmy said. “It’s the greatest thing that family can do. That’s just the way it is. The kids always liked it. Every afternoon at 5 o’clock, we knew where they were. We had the steers tied up, and the kids were out there taking care of them.”

That type of commitment comes with a little sacrifice, too.

“The commitment is primarily monetarily, because it’s going to take some of your disposable income you might have,” said Wayne Cox, the Lea County Extension agent. “The other is the time commitment it takes from other activities.

“I think the big thing everybody gets out of it is very valuable, like the aspect of the sheer responsibility that something is dependent on you, other than the way it seems society is going. We don’t eat until the animals area fed. We take care of the animals first, because they are dependent on you.”

Cox, too, has been very involved in showing livestock. He knows its importance and what it takes to have a great animal led around the ring.

“You have to treat them as if they’re a finely tuned athlete getting ready for the Olympics,” Cox said. “If you want to be competitive, we just treat them as if they’re athletes.”

The Wheelers have seen plenty of success over the past half century doing just that. Jimmy said youngsters get a chance to be on both sides of any competitive scenario.

“They learn you win some, you lose some,” he said. “They learn how to work the finances. Lea County’s sale is wonderful; it’s got the best support of any county I’ve ever heard of.”

Of course, it helps to always be competitive. Over the years, the Wheelers have reeled in 11 grand champions and 10 reserve grand champions at the county fair.

“We’ve bought calves over the years, but for the most part, we’ve raised our own,” Larry said. “I’ve told my kids from an early age that we were competing against some high-dollar steers. If we can raise our own and compete at that level, then I’m happy with that.”

There’s a lot of pride in what the Wheelers do in the show ring, but it’s nothing compared to the work it takes leading up to the annual fair. That’s something the family hopes remains for decades to come.

“We’ve been around this a long time, and it’s a big thing to us,” Dickie Wheeler said. “We’ve always really enjoyed the fair. I still do.

“It’s coming up, and I’m looking forward to it.”

postheadericon Cowboys know quality is wrapped in Dirty Jacket

LOVINGTON, N.M. – On a warm July evening in the Navajo Nation, Austin Foss got to see first-hand what all the fuss is about with Carr Pro Rodeo’s Dirty Jacket.

It paid off quite handsomely for Foss, of Terrebonne, Ore., who posted an 89-point ride on Dirty Jacket to win the rodeo in Window Rock, Ariz., and collect nearly $4,000 in the process.

Austin Foss

Austin Foss

“He was a pretty fun horse to get on,” Foss said of the 8-year-old bay gelding. “He’s the horse everybody wants to get on, and for good reason.”

Now the 20-year-old cowboy would love another shot at Dirty Jacket, and he might just get it during the Lea County Fair and Rodeo, set for Wednesday, Aug. 8-Saturday, Aug. 11, at Jake McClure Arena.

“It had just rained in Window Rock, and the arena was a bit damp,” Foss said. “He did his job, and I did mine, and it worked out for 89 points. He got in the air and definitely bucked. I was pretty happy, but then after I left the arena, I thought, ‘Man, one more point, and I would’ve been 90.’ That would’ve been great.”

The ride was just a week removed from Clint Cannon’s 90-point marking on Dirty Jacket in Pecos, Texas, a ride Foss got to see up close and personal – he and Cannon have been traveling down the rodeo trail together this year.

When I saw that I had Dirty Jacket, I thought, ‘This could be the one that could help me break out of that slump,’ ” said Cannon, a three-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier from Waller, Texas. “I made an awesome ride, and the horse bucked.

“He bucks every time I’ve been on him. He’s one of those horses you can win on every time if you ride him right. What’s great about that horse is just how electric he is. When the gate swings open, I think he kicked the back of the bucking chute three times before he got to the end of the gate. He’s just so showy and electric. He bails out of there and just keeps cracking them.”

Foss’ win in Window Rock marked the fourth time this season a cowboy has won a rodeo after riding Dirty Jacket. Reigning world champion Kaycee Feild of Payson, Utah, scored 89 points in the short go-round en route to winning in Fort Worth, Texas; Wes Stevenson of Lubbock, Texas, won in San Angelo, Texas, after scoring 87 points in the short round; and Jeremy Mouton of Scott, La., posted an 84 to win in Bridgeport, Texas.

“When he leaves the chute, he’s trying to kick the flankman off the back of the chute,” said Kaycee Feild, the reigning bareback riding world champion who won the Fort Worth Stock Show Rodeo after riding Dirty Jacket for 89 points in the championship round. “He’s so fast, and he bucks so hard.

“There’s no way you can muscle up on him. You’ve got to be fast and aggressive, or he will get you out of shape and might get you bucked off.”

Pete Carr, owner of Carr Pro Rodeo, has a dozen animals selected to the finals each year, a couple of which are bucked in the fifth and 10th rounds. Carr owns some of the greatest bucking animals in ProRodeo, including Real Deal, the 2005 Bareback Riding Horse of the Year, and Riverboat Annie, the 2007 reserve world champion bareback horse.

“This is the best I’ve seen Dirty Jacket,” Carr said. “He’s been phenomenal.”

He’s been pretty good since he first started bucking in May 2008.

In addition to Feild’s win in Fort Worth, three other cowboys earned titles on the horse so far this year: Wes Stevenson of Lubbock, Texas, won in San Angelo, Texas, after matching moves with Dirty Jacket for 87 points in the short round; Jeremy Mouton of Scott, La., posted an 84 on him to win in Bridgeport, Texas; and Austin Foss of Terrebonne, Ore., scored 89 to win in Window Rock, Ariz.

“That horse has just gotten better,” said Stevenson, a seven-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier. “I think he may have stepped it up from what we’ve seen.”

Dirty Jacket is always electric, which is why the top bareback riders in the game have selected him to buck in the elite rounds at the NFR each of the last three years – the TV pen features the “showiest” bucking horses, and the moniker comes from the days when only the final round of the NFR was televised. The “TV pen” animals buck in the fifth and 10th rounds, which provide a great touch to the halfway point of the championship and the season’s final go-round.

“That horse is in his prime,” Stevenson said. “He could be having one of the better years he’s had, and that’s saying a lot. The first time he was bucked was four years ago in Guymon (Okla.), and they won the rodeo on him.”

postheadericon Promoting any way possible

Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to work with some talented people. Here’s a video produced by a company now called Advantage Pro, whose technicians did an awesome job with this particular spot for the 2006 Guymon (Okla.) Pioneer Days Rodeo. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I enjoy reflecting on it.

Oh, and that young man holding the bronc reign near the end of the sport is Shade Etbauer, the youngest son of two-time world champion Robert Etbauer. The background image was that of Shade’s uncle, Billy, who won the last of his five world titles in 2004. Both the older Etbauers were inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame just a couple weeks ago; Shade Etbauer won the Little Britches Rodeo Association’s saddle bronc riding national title this past weekend.

 

postheadericon Saying goodbye again

Broc Cresta

Broc Cresta

I was in Jefferson City, Mo., Saturday on a little family get-away before I take a two-week rodeo trip to Dodge City, Kan., and Lovington, N.M.

Nine of us were enjoying time together in the state’s capitol when the texts about Broc Cresta’s death began coming in. The 25-year-old cowboy, who had qualified for the last two Wrangler National Finals Rodeos, died of unknown causes in his living quarters at the Cheyenne (Wyo.) Frontier Days Rodeo.

I didn’t know Broc, though I wish I had. We visited for about five minutes during the Timed Event Championship this past March, but that was my only opportunity to get to know the young man.

That few minutes, though, revealed an energetic, excited cowboy who seemed to love what he does. He was a tremendous all-around hand who was going to be a real contender for the Timed Event title for many years. Based on posts I’ve seen on various social media sites, he was much more than a rodeo hand.

Broc Cresta was a rising star in and out of the arena. He will be missed.

postheadericon Carr bulls gaining acclaim among top bull riders

LOVINGTON, N.M. – Jacob O’Mara found Morning After to be more tonic than toxic.

It happened July 6 in Window Rock, Ariz., when O’Mara prepared to test his skills on the young Carr Pro Rodeo bull. He’d never seen the bull buck, nor had any of his buddies, but O’Mara grasped a sense of good things before he even nodded his head.

Chris Roundy rides the Carr Pro Rodeo bull The Mexican for 87 points to share the title at the West of the Pecos (Texas) Rodeo in late June. The Mexican is just one of a number of great Carr bulls that will be in Lovington, N.M., for the Lea County Fair and Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Aug. 7-11. (ROBBY FREEMAN PHOTO)

Chris Roundy rides the Carr Pro Rodeo bull The Mexican for 87 points to share the title at the West of the Pecos (Texas) Rodeo in late June. The Mexican is just one of a number of great Carr bulls that will be in Lovington, N.M., for the Lea County Fair and Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Aug. 7-11. (ROBBY FREEMAN PHOTO)

“They told me they were going to save me for last,” said O’Mara, 20, a 2011 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier from Prairieville, La. “That’s when I first thought this bull might have something to him. I knew they were trying to sell the show with the best stuff, so I figured it’d be great.”

The result? O’Mara and Morning After matched moves for 89 points to win the Navajo Nation Fourth of July PRCA Rodeo, earning the young cowboy $4,119.

“That bull was great; he just went out a couple (jumps), then turned back,” O’Mara said, describing how the animal began more of a spinning motion. “Anything you can score 89 points on is pretty good.”

It’s one of the many great Carr Pro Rodeo bulls that will be featured at the Lea County Fair and Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 8-Saturday, Aug. 11, at Jake McClure Arena. A number of those bulls will be part of the Lea County Xtreme Bulls tour event set for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 7.

“I’ve always tried to get the best animals I can get, whether they’re bulls, horses, calves or steers,” said Pete Carr, owner of the Dallas-based livestock company. “Everybody thinks I’m a horse guy, and I am; but I want to be known as a bull guy, too.”

Cowboys are seeing that, too.

“The bulls are awesome,” said Chandler Bownds, the 2011 rookie of the year from Lubbock, Texas. “Pete brought in some great subcontractors to juice up his great pen of bulls, and there were a bunch of bulls that bucked really hard.”

Carr does what it takes to reach out to bull riders, from talking about great animal athletes to bringing in sub-contractors to rodeos so the cowboys get the best chance possible to win money. Jarrod Craig of Hillsboro, Texas, rode the bull Itch N Scratch for 87 points to share the win with Chris Roundy of Panguitch, Utah; Roundy rode Carr’s The Mexican, and each cowboy earned $3,097.

“That bull bucks hard,” Craig said of Itch N Scratch. “He had a good trip, and it worked out.”

The Carr bulls have been gaining plenty of acclaim throughout this rodeo season. Trey Benton III won the Mercedes, Texas, rodeo in mid-March after scoring 91 points on Missing Parts.

“He was really good,” said Benton, of Rock Island, Texas. “He just stumbled at the five-second mark, but I think he was even more after he stumbled. He got after it.

“You have to have a good bull to score 91, and Pete’s got one there.”

Carr knows he’s got some special athletes that will be part of the excitement in Lovington, just as they have been at rodeos leading up to the August extravaganza.

“I’ve got some good ones in addition to Missing Parts,” Carr said. “I’ve got some great bulls in The Mexican, Black Ice, Black Powder, Morning After and Hot & Ready that went to a lot of the winter rodeos. I have some more outstanding bulls that I haven’t bucked just yet, but I think all of them have a lot of potential.”

postheadericon Cooper provides hometown flair to rodeo

LOVINGTON, N.M. – For Clint Cooper, it’s very simple.

“Even though I was born in Texas, I’m a Lea County boy,” said Cooper, a four-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier who graduated from Lovington High School. “I think it’s more than Jake McClure’s arena. I know my dad and my uncles all roped in that arena, and I’ve been blessed to have roped in that arena, so there’s a lot of history there in Lovington. It’s awesome.”

Clint Cooper

Clint Cooper

Cooper will return to his roots for the Lea County Fair and Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 8-Saturday, Aug. 11 at Jake McClure Arena. He is one of the elite tie-down ropers in the game, just like McClure in the 1930s and his father, Roy “Super Looper” Cooper, in the 1980s.

You see, rodeo is a big deal in the Cooper family, from his grandfather, Tuffy, to his father, an eight-time world titlist, to his half-brothers, Clif and Tuf, both NFR qualifiers – in fact, Tuf is the reigning world champion tie-down roper. There are also cousins who have excelled in the sport, and they, too, make Lea County their homes – world champion Jimmie Cooper and his twin sons, Jim Ross and Jake; all three have played on the biggest stage in the sport, the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

“It’s great if you love it, and I love it,” Clint Cooper said. “It’s got lots of ups and downs, especially with the traveling, but I’m fortunate to have my family on the road with me.”

He’s talking about his wife, the former Amber Rodie, and their sons, Casen, 4, and Canden, 10 months. Amber, too, is from Lovington, and her father, Don Rodie, was a longtime football coach at Lovington High School. He is now coaching in Jacksboro, Texas, near Clint and Amber’s home in Decatur, Texas.

“It’s awesome to come back to your roots,” Clint said, referring to the annual fair and rodeo that has driven nearly 100,000 people to the community of about 10,000 in just 10 August days in 2011. “All the people’s support is great. It’s just like any time, you get to come back and see people you know. For me, I get to visit with my grandparents there, my mom and my stepdad. It’s good to see everybody in the family.”

It’s also a time he gets to reflect on the local support he receives, and it’s not just family. Tate Branch Dodge Chrysler Jeep in Hobbs, N.M., provides him vehicle needs to chase his rodeo dreams, while McVay Drilling has been a major piece of the puzzle to help with all the expenses that come down the rodeo trail.

“Even though I’m from there and go all over the world, that’s where my biggest supporters are right there in Lea County,” he said. “They’ve believed in me from the start.”

The son of a rodeo legend, Clint Cooper’s got his start at birth in January 1982. Over the course of his career, Cooper has had plenty of supporters, from sponsors or even those who supported him through youth rodeo and high school basketball.

“I think Clint brings great rodeo tradition to our rodeo,” said Dean Jackson, chairman of the Lea County Fair Board. “When you think of the Coopers, you think of Tuffy and Betty Gale, but Clint did graduate from Lovington, and his mom still lives in Hobbs. Everybody wants to see the hometown boy do good.

“I’m happy for Tuf and Clif, but when Clint wins a rodeo, it means a little more.”

That sentiment can be found all over Lea County.

“He follows the Cooper family tradition,” said Greg Massey, the chairman of the rodeo committee. “It goes back to his granddad, Tuffy Cooper. The Cooper family has been known for their talent in roping, and the county’s honored to have them part of our legacy. We’re very proud that they come back to Lea County and compete every year.”

That’s almost a given for Cooper and his brothers. While it’s home, Lovington also is a hot destination for ProRodeo’s top contestants. The Lea County Fair and Rodeo is part of the Wrangler Million Dollar Tour, so it’s a big stop for the sport’s greatest stars.

“It’s awesome that it’s a big rodeo,” Clint Cooper said. “It’s always been a big rodeo and an honor to Jake McClure. But especially now, everybody’s going to be there. Now that it’s a tour rodeo, it’s awesome.

“I’ve been there every year since I could go to it, and to see how much it’s grown since 2009 when it joined the tour, with the concerts and the people they’re attracting there, it’s crazy. The people aren’t just coming from right around there; they’re coming from all over.”

It’s quite a reflection of the people of Lea County, especially those who volunteer their time to benefit the fair and rodeo.

“My family members have been on the board for years, and I know everybody on the board and the sacrifices they’ve gone through to do this for us,” Cooper said. “We’ve always had a carnival there, but now we’ve got the concerts of this magnitude coming it. Everything’s just bigger and better than it’s ever been.

“It’s so much more than you’d think, and it’s harder than you think. They’ve done a great job for Lea County.”

postheadericon ‘Redemption time’

Thumbing through old issues of ProRodeo Sports News has become a fascinating hobby of mine recently. Yeah, I’m nostalgic, and I’m not afraid to admit it.

Just the other day, I remember that I was quoted in one of the stories published in the May 16, 2001, issue. There, on Page 14 in Troy Schwindt’s story about

Mark Gomes

Mark Gomes

Mark Gomes’ victory in Guymon, Okla., are the two words I recited to Schwindt moments after Gomes said them to me.

“ ‘Redemption time,’ he told one reporter,” Schwindt wrote. Yep, I was that one reporter.

I remember where it happened on the east side of Henry C. Hitch Pioneer Arena that Sunday afternoon in early May. Gomes had drawn Harry Vold Rodeo Co.’s Sheep Tick, the same horse that had smashed him in the chutes in Cheyenne, Wyo., breaking Gomes’ pelvis in three spots.

The wreck happened in July 2000, just a few months before the Arizona-raised cowboy tested his talents – and his fears – on the bucking horse. The revenge ride was just two and a half years from Gomes’ world championship, earned in 1998 after he won the average championship at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

That was my first year covering Pioneer Days Rodeo, and I wrote about the Kansas cowboy’s big win. He and Sheep Tick danced across the dirt for a then-Hitch Arena record 87-point ride, and the move bolstered Gomes’ opportunity to make the NFR again after missing the 2000 championship because of the injury.

The PSN story included a photo of Gomes with his sons, Conor and Colton, the latter of whom was an infant when Gomes won the world title in 1998.

Much has changed since that May afternoon in 2001. Mark Gomes no longer rides rank bareback horses, and Conor Gomes will be a senior in high school starting this fall.

But I still like reading nostalgic stories, even telling a few along the way.

postheadericon Norris’ support keeps Fennell atop his game

NEOSHO, Mo. – D.V. Fennell knows what it takes to win.

From a high level of competitiveness to having the right friends in the right places, Fennell has been getting it done on the rodeo trail. A two-time qualifier to

D.V. Fennell

D.V. Fennell

the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, the Oklahoma cowboy leads the bareback riding standings in the International Professional Rodeo Association, the American Cowboys Rodeo Association and the Cowboy Rodeo Association.

“I’m not traveling quite as hard as I once did, but I figure if I’m going to ride bucking horses, then, shoot, I’d better do it to the very best of my ability,” said Fennell, a long-time Neosho resident. “The way I look at it is if I’m going to nod my head, I may as well try to win the rodeo.”

He’s done that more often than not. In fact, Fennell has competed in about 30 rodeos this season. Of those, he’s won bareback riding titles at more than two-thirds.

“I actually won three rodeos in a row this weekend,” Fennell said Sunday, July 22. “I actually had an equipment problem, but my buddy, Eric, helped me out a ton with that.”

Fennell is talking about Neosho State Farm Insurance agent Eric Norris, who is Fennell’s primary sponsor. When Fennell returned from a recent rodeo trip that was hampered by a worn bareback rigging, a replacement awaited him.

“Eric made sure I had that when I got home,” Fennell said. “He’s been a great friend, and I am very thankful that he’s been on board with me, not only with my insurance, but with my rodeo career, too.”

In fact, Norris and several others who follow the sport have made their presence felt at rodeos across this land. They will be out in full force when Fennell competes Aug. 9 at the event in Carthage, Mo.

“The fans have been awesome everywhere we go,” Fennell said. “I love riding bucking horses, but the fans are why I love to do this. I appreciate each and every one of them.”

Whether he’s riding in a small rodeo in eastern Oklahoma or in Las Vegas, Fennell wears the Norris’ State Farm brand wherever he rides.

“I can’t say enough about Eric, because he’s stuck by me no matter what trouble I’ve had,” Fennell said. “He understands the nature of the game, and he’s OK with it. That’s a real friend.”