LOVINGTON, N.M. – Jake McClure grew up roping about anything he could.
Like a number of talented cowboys, McClure grew up in Lea County – eventually, he was followed by Troy Fort, Sonny Davis, Roy Cooper and Jimmie Cooper as world champions from the southeastern most corner of New Mexico who are now enshrined in the ProRodeo Hall of Fame – and he carried a rope with him just about everywhere he went the first few years of his life.
Born in 1903, McClure set off on the rodeo trail at the age of 16, traveling the world and earning his keep as one of the handiest ropers in the game. In 1930, he earned the world championship and was one of the most dominant cowboys of his era. Sadly, though, he died in 1940, and his resume became the types of stories found in novels.
His legacy continues today in Lovington, where the rodeo arena bears his name. Jake McClure Arena is home to one of the most prestigious events in the sport, the Lea County Fair and Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 7-Saturday, Aug. 10. It’s part of the Wrangler Million Dollar Tour and also features the Lea County Xtreme Bulls event at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 6.
“We have an outstanding history of the best cowboys in rodeo,” said Greg Massey, chairman of the Lea County Fair Board’s rodeo committee. “When you look at the people from here who have done well in rodeo, you can see it means a lot to us to put on a great event.”
That includes some of the brightest stars in the game, from Lovington native Clint Cooper, a four-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier in tie-down roping, to the Monument, N.M., twins Jim Ross and Jake Cooper, a couple of NFR-qualifying team ropers – Jake qualified with his brother in 2007, and Jim returned to ProRodeo’s grand championship each of the past two seasons while roping with Charly Crawford (2012) and Brandon Beers.
But they’ll just be a few of the numerous stars that will make their way to Lovington for the annual championship.
Just taking a look at previous champions at the Lea County Fair and Rodeo is like reading a who’s who list of ProRodeo’s greatest stars: Trevor Brazile, Kaycee Feild, Will Lowe, J.P. Wickett, Scott Kormos, Scott Kormos, Kanin Asay, Wesley Silcox, Dean Gorsuch, Clay Tryan, Chandler Bownds and Guy Allen.
Sure, it takes elite athletes who know how to perform at this level, but there are plenty of others who will chase their rodeo dreams in Lovington. That’s why it’s such an important piece of the ProRodeo puzzle.
“I think we have the best stock contractor in rodeo, so we’ll have some excellent bucking horses and bulls to go along with the best cowboys,” Massey said. “We’ve had a very good rodeo for several years, but this one might be better yet.”