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MONDAY, June 29, 2014

New Mexicans ready for Cowboy Christmas

Ram pickups pulling elaborate horse trailers and toting world-class ropers and steer wrestlers have left Pecos, Texas, and Reno, Nev., and are making their ways to locales all across North America.

They’re meeting other rigs and customized vans toting bull riders, saddle bronc riders and bareback riders.

Taos Muncy

Taos Muncy

This is Cowboy Christmas, the busiest time of the ProRodeo season. It features numerous rodeos located all across the United States and Canada, and each stop offers something for every contestant who makes a living in the sport.

The major stops include Prescott, Ariz.; Window Rock, Ariz.; Cody, Wyo.; Greeley, Colo.; Springdale, Ark.; Molalla, Ore.; St. Paul, Ore.; Livingston, Mont.; and Red Lodge, Mont., just to name a few. The commonality between them is the enticement of large paydays and many miles in between.

“The Fourth is really tough because you’re going on little to no sleep and spend most of your time getting from one place to another,” said Taos Muncy, a two-time world champion saddle bronc rider and one of the key members of the Tate Branch Auto Group team of ProRodeo cowboys. “A lot of things can happen, good and bad. I’ve had terrible Fourths where I’ve won nothing. That’s real humbling.”

Jake Cooper

Jake Cooper

As a roughstock cowboy, Muncy and his traveling posse don’t have to haul their own horses. The timed-event cowboys do. No matter the traveling arrangements, the logistics of getting from one place to another can be nightmarish.

It’s something all cowboys must face, including others on the “Riding for the Brand” team: tie-down roping brothers Clif and Clint Cooper and their legendary father, Roy Cooper; steer roper Marty Jones; and team roping twins Jake and Jim Ross Cooper. All have ties to southeastern New Mexico, just like the Tate Branch Auto Group, which has dealerships in Carlsbad, Artesia and Hobbs.

Jim Ross Cooper

Jim Ross Cooper

Though New Mexico is always home, the Tate Branch Auto Group Cowboys will spend the next few weeks on the rodeo trail. They all rodeo for a living and need every dollar they can win, but there’s much more to it. Dollars equal championship points, and the contestant in each event with the most earnings at the conclusion of the season wins the world champion’s gold buckle.

Oftentimes, timed-event hands will have more than one rig on the road during the hectic portion of the season to make sure they capitalize on as many opportunities as possible. That also showcases their talent in riding more than one horse at a time. But having more than one customized vehicle on the road is also helpful to Muncy and his traveling crew.

Clint Cooper

Clint Cooper

Right now, for example, he is in the van owned by traveling partner Tyrel Larsen, while Muncy’s is in northern Colorado. They’ll fly around to several places before returning to Greeley for the Stampede, then moving on to other rodeos.

“For me, the heavy part of the summer run is from the end of June to the end of July,” he said. “I’ll go straight through the next few weeks then on to Calgary (Alberta). I’ll be going every single day from now until the 13th of July, getting on one to two broncs a day.”

That’s just how hectic things can get over a short period of time. When it works out, it’s phenomenal. Muncy has won more than $30,000 over a few days centered around the Fourth of July holiday.

Clif Cooper

Clif Cooper

The Corona, N.M., cowboy has been among the top five in the world standings for much of the 2015 season. A recent dry spell has given him even more incentive to make things happen over the next few days.

“Everything was going really good until last weekend,” said Muncy, who won the college title in 2007, then followed that with world titles in 2007 and 2011. “I went to four rodeos and just had a lot of bad luck. It was just one of those weekends, but those things can turn around. When you’re on fire, you better keep entering and go with the flow. It can turn around quick. You’ve got to be able to handle the highs and the lows.”

That’s the way the rodeo rolls. It’s why the Tate Branch Auto Group cowboys lean on the support they get from the dealerships and the rest of the team involved.

“You just have to stay positive and go with the flow,” Muncy said. “Sometimes you have to show up late and get on, but when you get there, you try hard and give it your best. That’s all you can ask.”

That’s how more gold buckles are crafted.

 

TUESDAY, June 2, 2015

Cooper loves New Mexico home

When Jake Cooper isn’t roping around his Stephenville, Texas, place, he can be found on the ProRodeo trail as one of the elite team ropers in the game.

But that’s not necessarily his home.

“Monument (N.M.) will always be my home and my hometown,” said Cooper, one of three children born to Jimmie and Shryl Cooper. “We live in Stephenville because it’s more central for rodeos, and I’d say half the top 15 guys live around there.

“If you want to be the best, you have to be around the best.”

Jake Cooper

Jake Cooper

Both are certainly the case. This season, Cooper is among the top five headers in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association world standings, competing primarily with heeler Tyler McKnight of Wells, Texas. It’s a return to the top of the game for Cooper, who last qualified for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in 2007 while competing with his twin brother, Jim Ross.

“It feels great to be in a position like this,” said Jake Cooper, one of seven cowboys that are part of the Tate Branch Auto Group “Riding for the Brand” team. “I haven’t roped good the last few years, and I had some struggles with some horses. It’s really early in the season to get too excited, but I feel great about the start and feel great about the year.”

He should. His hope is to stay among the top 15 through the rest of the regular season and earn a spot in the NFR field. After eight years away from ProRodeo’s grand finale, he would welcome the change.

Of course, it helps to have sponsorship arrangements like he has with Tate Branch Auto Group, which has southeastern New Mexico dealerships in Carlsbad, Artesia and Hobbs.

“It makes it so much easier on us out here on the road with help like that,” said Cooper, who joins Jim Ross; tie-down roping brothers Clif and Clint Cooper and their legendary father, Roy Cooper; steer roper Marty Jones; and two-time world champion saddle bronc rider Taos Muncy. “I got to know Tate a little bit because Jim’s had the relationship for a couple of years. It’s a great opportunity for us to be involved with a guy like Tate, who supports rodeo and what we do.

“Not only does it make the financial burden less, but having a guy that’s easy to talk to and is a spiritual guy like my dad is great, too. This really has the feeling of family.”

Branch takes a familial approach to the arrangements with the cowboys, all of whom have New Mexico ties. Jake Cooper, Jim Ross Cooper, Clint Cooper, Roy Cooper and Jones have specific ties to Lea County in the state’s most southeastern corner, while Muncy is from Corona; Clif Cooper is the lone Texas-raised cowboy in the bunch, but he has other ties to Lea County through Roy’s family.

“Having grown up around rodeo, I know what kind of sacrifices these guys make to compete at the top level,” said Joby Houghtaling, the Tate Branch Auto Group’s director of operations. “We’re very excited to support these guys, the sport of rodeo and the lifestyle they live. We want them to know they’re part of our family.”

That seems to be a common theme for many of the “Riding for the Brand” cowboys, but it’s especially true for Jake Cooper. Less than a decade ago, he and Jim Ross became the first set of twins to compete together in team roping at the NFR. Of course, they’re just carrying on a heritage passed down from their father, 1980 all-around world champion Jimmie Cooper, a ProRodeo Hall of Fame inductee.

“This is a lifestyle for me,” Jake Cooper said. “Guys ask me all the time how long I’m going to do this. This is all I’ve ever done. Since I was 12 years old, it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. It’s a way of life for me, not really a job.

“I’m 30 now. I’ve grown up. Dad told me it was a hard life out here. You’ve got to love it, and I do. He used to tell me when I was a kid that he loved to rope with me.”

In early May, Jake Cooper returned to Monument and spent a week with his family. He and his dad roped together much of that time.

“There’s nothing that makes me happier than roping with him and spending time with him,” Jake Cooper said. “It’s great that he can still compete and do stuff along with us.”

As he prepares for the busy summer run, Jake Cooper knows the struggles that come with competing in rodeo full time. Only the top teams at each rodeo will earn a check, so it’s vital that he and McKnight battle through any adversity and excel at the right times if he plans to return to the NFR in 2015.

If he qualifies for Las Vegas in December, he will rope for the largest purse in the history of the sport’s championship event, with go-round winners earning more than $26,000 each night for 10 star-filled days in the Nevada desert. Just making it to Sin City would put him in position to claim that elusive, yet coveted world championship.

“It’s a little early to be talking about a gold buckle,” he said. “That’s been my goal since I was a kid. That’s every guy’s goal, especially growing up with my dad having one. It’s almost like that World Series ring; it’s that instant respect you get from every rodeo cowboy.

“It’s going to take a lot more hard work. Hopefully if all the right things fall in place, we’ll get to do it.”


THURSDAY, May 7, 2015

Tate Branch, Ted Harbin and Joby Houghtaling pose with Ted Harbin and his Rodeo Media Relations/TwisTed Rodeo Dodge Durango at the Hobbs, N.M., dealership. (LYNETTE HARBIN PHOTO)

Tate Branch, Ted Harbin and Joby Houghtaling pose with Ted Harbin and his Rodeo Media Relations/TwisTed Rodeo Dodge Durango at the Hobbs, N.M., dealership. (LYNETTE HARBIN PHOTO)

When I developed Rodeo Media Relations, I had been covering the sport for the largest newspaper in Oklahoma.

I had purchased a new SUV in 2002, and it quickly became my rodeo wagon. I drove many miles across the red dirt-lined highways to tell cowboy tales to the periodical’s readers. That vehicle became an identifiable piece of me more than a decade ago.

Ted Harbin TwisTED Rodeo

Ted Harbin
TwisTED Rodeo

Enter Tate Branch Auto Group of southeastern New Mexico, which has dealerships in Artesia, Carlsbad and Hobbs. Rodeo Media Relations and TwisTed Rodeo have a new rodeo wagon, and it’s even more identifiable to what we do in promoting the sport of rodeo and its people.

The 2014 Dodge Durango is outfitted with an amazing wrap that proudly displays all the great things Tate Branch Auto Group has to offer. For instance, any rodeo association member should check out the savings possible through any of the Tate Branch dealerships. On top of that is Warranty Forever, a Tate Branch Auto Group exclusive warranty that covers the drive train of any vehicle purchased at one of our dealerships that has less than 75,000 miles.

The Tate Branch Auto Group “Riding for the Brand” team includes some of the greatest cowboys in the game, most of whom have New Mexico ties – two-time world champion saddle bronc rider Taos Muncy; tie-down roping brothers Clint and Clif Cooper; their father, eight-time world champ Roy Cooper; steer roper Marty Jones; and team roping twins Jake and Jim Ross Cooper.

That’s a boatload of talent, and I’m proud to be part of the “Riding for the Brand” team. I’m excited to have them tag along the rodeo trail with me as I continue to tell cowboy tales.

 

 FRIDAY, April 24, 2015

Two-time world champion Taos Muncy rides Pete Carr's Gold Coast during the 2013 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. The New Mexico cowboy is a vital part of the Tate Branch Auto Group "Riding for the Brand" team and carries his strong New Mexico ties with him around the rodeo circuit. (PRCA PRORODEO PHOTO BY MIKE COPEMAN)

Two-time world champion Taos Muncy rides Pete Carr’s Gold Coast during the 2013 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. The New Mexico cowboy is a vital part of the Tate Branch Auto Group “Riding for the Brand” team and carries his strong New Mexico ties with him around the rodeo circuit. (PRCA PRORODEO PHOTO BY MIKE COPEMAN)

For Taos Muncy, the comforts of his New Mexico home are hard to pass up.

Born, raised and still residing near Corona southeast of Albuquerque, Muncy is a ProRodeo cowboy who makes his living on the rodeo trail.

He’s a two-time world champion saddle bronc rider who has qualified seven times for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo over the last eight years – the only year he missed the finale in Las Vegas was because of an injury in 2008. Traveling the country in search of rodeo gold is his dream job, but being on the family ranch for an extended time is, too.

“Time goes too fast, so you’ve got to enjoy your family as much as possible,” said Muncy, who lives on the ranch with his wife, Marissa, and their daughter, Marley, 3, not far from his parents, Blaine and Johnnie. “My family’s pretty tight. That’s the one good thing about rodeoing; I might be gone for 10 days tops, but when I’m home, I’m with them.

“In rodeo, we’re all one big family. It’s a great lifestyle.”

Taos Muncy

Taos Muncy

Muncy also is part of another team, “Riding for the Brand” of Tate Branch Auto Group, which has dealerships in Carlsbad, Artesia and Hobbs. It’s a great New Mexico bond, which also includes other ProRodeo greats: eight-time world champion tie-down roper Roy “Super Looper” Cooper and two of his sons, Clif and Clint; team ropers Jake and Jim Ross Cooper; and steer roper Marty Jones – all have ties to New Mexico.

“Tate is a big New Mexico rodeo fan, and that’s really neat,” Muncy said. “It’s an awesome team to be part of.”

He is “Riding for the Brand” proudly. As the No. 4 bronc rider in the world standings, he’s off to a hot start to the 2015 season. His goal, as always, is to win his third world championship. In order to do that, though, he needs to finish the regular season among the top 15 to secure his eighth NFR qualification.

In Las Vegas, though, cowboys and cowgirls will battle for an unprecedented purse, with more than $26,000 paying out to go-round winners all 10 nights.

“The season’s going pretty danged good,” said Muncy, who has earned more than $30,000 so far this season. “I haven’t set the world on fire, but it seems like I’ve been real consistent. I’ve been placing and winning checks. As long as I’m making money, I’m happy.”

Money is vital. In addition to paying bills and covering rodeo expenses, money also equals championship points. The contestants in each event who earn the most money at season’s end are crowned world champions.

“I’m tickled,” he said. “My goal every year is to win the world (title), but if I stay in the top five all year, I’m really happy. I’d like a fighting chance when I get to the finals.”

That’s the benefit of having great sponsorship agreements. In his association with Tate Branch Auto Group, Muncy has more than a relationship with a New Mexico business. He has a true partnership and, like anyone who uses the southeastern New Mexico auto group, can take advantage of all the incentives available.

“Taos is a great champion and a great representative for New Mexico, and we’re excited to have him among our ‘Riding for the Brand’ team,” said Joby Houghtaling, the director of operations of the Tate Branch Auto Group. “He can utilize Warranty Forever, a Tate Branch Auto Group exclusive warranty that covers the drive train of any vehicle purchased at one of our dealerships that has less than 75,000 miles.

“We are happy to be involved in rodeo, and we offer discounts to members of all the rodeo associations, whether they’re in the PRCA, the WPRA, college or whatever. We’re committed to rodeo and the cowboys and cowgirls in the sport.”

That works great for any rodeo contestant, like Muncy. He’s spending time at home taking care of duties on the ranch that must be done. He returns to action Friday, May 1, at his ol’ college stomping grounds in Guymon, Okla. He attended Oklahoma Panhandle State University in Goodwell, just 10 miles from the Guymon rodeo arena.

In fact, he claimed the 2007 National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association saddle bronc riding championship while part of the Panhandle State rodeo team. Later that year, he won his first PRCA world championship, becoming just the third cowboy in the history of the game to win a college title and the gold buckle in the same discipline in the same season, joining bull rider Matt Austin and all-around cowboy Ty Murray.

“Guymon is pretty much a hometown rodeo for me, because Corona doesn’t have a ProRodeo and the closest ProRodeo to my hometown is two hours away,” Muncy said. “I still get nervous when I ride there, because I know they’re all watching me … all those great cowboys I looked up to and wanted to be like.”

The Oklahoma Panhandle has a grand history in the game, with 12 world championships earned by cowboys who have ties to the region once known as “No Man’s Land.”

“All those guys helped me quite a bit,” he said. “I could ride broncs, but I wasn’t good enough to do it at this level until I got there and worked with those guys.”

When he’s done with the Guymon rodeo, he’ll return to Corona and handle the tasks around the ranch before committing to the big summer run. Now 27 years old, he understands the importance of taking care of business every time he prepares to ride.

“I don’t do a lot of extra stuff to stay in shape, but I try to stay active,” Muncy said. “I stay plenty active when I’m around the place, because I’m usually running around here pretty good. If there’s stuff on my riding that I need to work on, I’ll dang sure get on my spur board or get on practice horses to keep tuned up.

“When we get to the summer run, especially over the Fourth of July, it helps me a lot when you’re getting on broncs every day. That’s when you feel the best. When you’re riding broncs, you’re using muscles you don’t ever use any other time.”

It all adds up to him living a lifetime of dreams.

“I’ve wanted to be a cowboy as long as I can remember, since I was probably 2 or 3,” he said. “I figured out you could ride animals and get paid. I always thought it would be cool to get on broncs or bulls or calves or sheep. I played football and basketball and other stuff, but all I’ve ever wanted to do was be a cowboy.”

He’s pretty good at it.

 

MONDAY, March 23, 2015

 

Roy Cooper poses with his wrapped Tate Branch Auto Group pickup he will use as he travels the country with rodeo and by "Riding for the Brand" during his appearances and while commentating on Ride TV.

Roy Cooper poses with his wrapped Tate Branch Auto Group pickup he will use as he travels the country with rodeo and by “Riding for the Brand” during his appearances and while commentating on Ride TV.

Roy Cooper is a Hall-of-Fame cowboy and an eight-time world champion.

He also is “Riding for the Brand” as part of the Tate Branch Auto Group team, and he will carry that brand with him to numerous rodeos throughout the year and as a broadcaster on Ride TV, where he will be broadcasting from Western sports events from across the country.

Roy Cooper

Roy Cooper

Born in Hobbs, N.M., and raised on rodeo and ranching, Cooper won his first two Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association title in 1976, finishing that season as the top tie-down roper in the game and the Rookie of the Year. He followed that with five more gold buckles in that discipline and added the most coveted crown in the game in 1983 as the World Champion All-Around Cowboy.

That same season, he won the steer roping title, establishing himself as one of the greatest all-around ropers to have ever played the game, polishing off a Triple Crown season in which he won three titles in a given season. He owns 32 qualifications to the National Finals, most of which came in tie-down roping. In 1981, he also appeared at the NFR, heeling for World Champion H.P. Evetts.

Cooper has been inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame, the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame and the Rodeo Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. He also is the father of three sons: Clint, a five-time NFR qualifier who grew up in Lovington, N.M.; Clif, a four-time NFR qualifier; and Tuf, a seven-time NFR qualifier and a three-time and the reigning world champion tie-down roper. Both Clint and Clif are part of the Tate Branch Auto Group team.

For his promotional work with “Riding for the Brand,” Cooper has received a newly wrapped Ram Truck, courtesy of Tate Branch Auto Group in the New Mexico communities of Hobbs, Artesia and Carlsbad.

“We are extremely excited to have Roy Cooper join our team of cowboys and cowgirls who are ‘Riding for the Brand,’ ” said Joby Houghtaling, the director of operations of the Tate Branch Auto Group. “Roy is a living rodeo legend who will be fun to watch covering rodeos and other events across this great nation of ours on Ride TV.”

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