By BRUCE CLINTON, originally published in the September-October, 1941

The lariat has been in use as a “catch-rope” since as far back as 500 B.C., when it was used by Sagartian soldiers as a weapon of war when these hardy souls would rope an enemy by the leg, arm or neck and then hold him until he could be destroyed.

Now when any person depends entirely upon his rope as an instrument of war for his own per­sonal protection, then said person could not, by any stretch of the imagination, be classed as an amateur, pure and simple. And if Sagartian sol­diers did put their trust into the lariat as a de­fensive weapon, then they were considerable better than a bunch of plumb “green hands” when it came to handling a “catch-rope.”

It doesn’t matter just how clever the above parties might have been in the manipulation of their ropes as we are wondering just how some of them would make out if they were to ride into a rodeo arena of today and try their luck at spilling a few fast loops at a number of fast and wildly­-running Brahma and black Angus calves.

It is this writer’s opinion, shared by others, that said Sagartian soldiers would need something more than a mere “catch-rope” for self protection if they were to get mixed up with some of the above mentioned calves which the rodeo boys are working with today. Because, Brahma and Angus calves don’t just fight a roper; they meet him on even footing and then spot him the first four punches! And, it requires much skill and not a small portion of just plain guts for any cowboy to catch and hog-tie one of them in anything less than twenty seconds. Yet there are whole herds of them being roped and tied in less time than twenty seconds each day at some rodeo by the professional boys, the best ropers in the world.

American contest ropers have become the world’s best through constant practice at and par­ticipation in the whirlwind competition of the rodeo arena.

Naming some of the top-notch contest steer ropers of the past twenty-five years we will list the late Tommy Grimes. His winnings in the steer roping event at Pendleton alone makes him one of the truly outstanding ropers on record. Tom­my’s record at Pendleton shows that he won three firsts, two seconds, and one third at a contest featuring really good ropers.

Eddy McCarty of Chugwater, Wyoming, also has a good record as a steer roper, having won a first at Cheyenne and two-firsts and three seconds at Pendleton.

Naming the outstanding steer roper of the Cheyenne Frontier Day’s contest since its inception, and one of the greatest ropers of all-time, we give you that Oklahoma cowboy, Fred Lowery.

Three calf roping flashback pictures
1–Levi Frazier roping from Bob. 2–Leonard Block making a catch from Pet. 3–John Bowman really stopping one with Kelly.

Between the years of 1916 and 1929, Fred rode out to win the Cheyenne steer roping event no less than six times, a feat unequaled by any roper at any contest in the world. And, when one stops to consider the competition at The Daddy of ‘Em All, then Lowery’s record takes on even greater sig­nificance for the greatest contest ropers in the country trek to Cheyenne each year. And in 1916, ’21, ’24, ’25, ’27 and ’29 did, by the official record out rope and out tie all opponents, proving once again that the best ropers do come from the great Southwest.

Contest steer roping is a game that calls for great skill in man and his mount as well as much cold nerve, and contest steer roping is a dangerous sport for the “green” roper and the “green” mount. In fact, not a few seasoned rodeo troupers has suffered broken legs, arms and collar bones, and some few of them have even met death in the arena when getting mixed up with some wild steer on the end of their rope.

But, all contest ropers love the sport as sport, and they participate knowing that most anything is liable to happen when they leave the barrier in a wild dash after some long-horn.

A story is told in the rodeo arenas of one roper which should prove the spirit of these men. This particular contestant is Leonard Ward, a former World’s Champion, and· the story concerns his attending a large rodeo held in Australia. The management asked Leonard to give an exhibition of wild steer roping as done in the United States and, Leonard, being a big-hearted American cow­boy, agreed. So, the exhibition was arranged and the announcement was received with great interest by the large crowd of spectators.

Leonard began looking for a roping mount but could find none but native Australian horses, none of which had ever jerked a steer down as we do it in this country. But such a minor thing failed to stop Leonard. He mounted his native pony and rode behind the barrier. Then a big, wild steer was turned out and this American buckaroo a good one, too, really “took to his bovine.”

After a short run, Leonard made a pretty catch, flipped his slack rope over the steer’s back and
rode by the animal in order to throw him. There was a very sudden jerk and down went steer, horse AND Leonard. The horse rolled completely over our American cowboy and he was knocked almost senseless while the large crowd sat com­pletely spellbound. Finally, after the dust cleared away, Leonard staggered to his feet, picked up his fallen hat, made a sweeping bow to the grand stand and said, “Ladies and gentlemen—that’s the way we do it in America!”

To date, no one has been able to say just exactly what that large crowd thought about the way in which Leonard showed them how to rope a wild steer in the “American manner.” However, we don’t doubt but what they think American cow­boys a rather salty bunch. And, they are!

Leonard knew perfectly well just what he was letting himself in for when he agreed to perform such an act while riding an absolutely “green” mount, but he was filled with that old American cowboy spirit of sport for sport’s sake and, al­though the event didn’t go off as per true form, Leonard Ward managed to get the job done.

Naming some of the top-notch calf ropers of the recent past, we will list the late Jake McClure of Lovington, New Mexico. This smallish cowboy had, beyond a doubt, the greatest “speed rope” and he used the smallest loop the rodeo circuit has ever known. Jake didn’t claim to be the world’s best calf roper but, he would quickly and quietly match the fellow who did make such a claim. And, he seldom lost a contest.

Just a small portion of Jake’s record shows that he won over all comers at the Calgary Stampede, two firsts and two seconds at the Pendleton Round­up, two firsts in the calf roping and one first in the steer roping at Cheyenne, and a first at Madi­son Square Garden in 1938 when he roped and tied eleven calves in 269 and 2/5 seconds.

At Denver in 1933, Jake roped his way to first money when he caught and tied five big calves in 82 seconds.

His favorite roping mounts were Legs and Silver, the latter once being presented with the Prince of Wales trophy for being the best working calf roping horse in the country. Both horses, like their master, have passed on. And we only hope that the great little champion from down New Mexico way was fortunate enough to draw one of them for a mount when he left for the last roundup.

Bob Crosby of Roswell, New Mexico, has been one of the greatest if not the greatest all-around contest ropers of all-time. He has never came up with the R.A.A. championship but his record at Cheyenne and Pendleton prove his greatness against the toughest of competition. At Pendleton, Bob has three firsts, two seconds and one third in the wild steer roping, and two firsts and one sec­ond in the calf roping; with two firsts in the steer roping and one first in the calf roping at Cheyenne. And, the steer roping events held at the above two shows were, until recently, the only two contests of any importance in this country. So, winning at both of them with any degree of consistency makes any roper a great roper, regardless of whether he might ever come up with the championship as awarded by the R.A.A. Although Bob has never come up with the R.A.A. championship he has been accepted as the world’s champion steer roper by all rodeo contestants and all rodeo fans for the past twelve or fifteen years. And, the reason we will advance for his not having won the official R.A.A. award is that his cattle and horse ranching activities, centered at Roswell, New Mexico, have limited his time for contesting at any but the larger rodeos. Therefore, there are other ropers who win more points by contesting at most all shows, small or otherwise, during the entire season, and points count when going after the R.A.A. championship.

On May 4 of this year 5000 excited rodeo fans watched Bob Crosby defend his title in a match roping contest, sponsored by the Carlsbad Rodeos & Races, Inc., against Carl Arnold. Each man roped and tied twelve big range steers, with Crosby being declared the winner by a margin of only 3 1/4 seconds.

Crosby’s total time in the twelve steers was 575:8 seconds agains Arnold’s total time of 579:6 seconds. Although Carl was beate on the last steer, he led Crosby by 44 seconds during most of the match. However, hard luck overtook him when he left the barrier for his last steer and when he broke a horn, making it necessary for him to use two loops before the animal could be thrown and tied.

It was a hard contest for Carl to lose and he quickly asked for and got a rematch with the same amount of $1,000 to be wagered by each roper. The rematch was arranged by the Lion’s Club of Roswell where the contest was held on June 29.

While 6000 roping fans jammed the rodeo grounds, two of the world’s best ropers fought it out. On his second steer, Bob Crosby took the lead and held it until he reached his tenth steer and when he was injured seriously.

Bob missed his first loop on this steer and he had to use a second one, Catching the animal around the neck, Crosby’s mount, Junebug, was jerked to the ground where he fell on Bob’s leg and rolled completely over his body. Bob’s head struck the hard ground with terrific force and he was knocked senseless for several hours.

Carl Arnold was requested to rope his tenth steer to win the championship which he did in the good time of 22 seconds. Carl’s comment after the contest was, “I’d rather see Bob out of the hospital than have the championship.”

Yes, calf roping is an art, and the men and horses who participate in the game are true artists because they are highly skilled.


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