The Art of Calf Roping

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The Art of Calf Roping It’s 2:00 a.m. Sunday morning. Jake and I are headed down the longest stretch of road in Texas. We have just pulled out of El Paso and are on the way to Fredericksburg to participate in the Frontier Days Rodeo. We were fortunate to have put together a decent run on our last draw and win enough day-money to keep us going for a while. Jake and I are rodeo-bums, to be specific, calf ropers. I am the one who tries to throw the loop of a rope around a calf’s neck and Jake is my partner, the best roping horse a cowboy ever mounted. By the way, how many understand the art of calf roping? I thought so. Let me walk through the steps of what it takes to put together that perfect run, not that I can do it that often. Contestants arrive at the arena an hour before the performance to draw the calf each will be roping. A large pen of calves is assembled, each calf branded with a different number. Corresponding numbers are placed in a hat and each cowboy draws his calf for the first go-around. There is always some cowboy who knows what rodeo string these particular calves are from and can discuss some trait of nearly all of them. For example, " number 16 breaks hard and heads straight to the far end of the arena. Number 8 will break hard but tends to veer sharply right on nearly every run. Number 21 breaks slow and many a good horse has run right past him". Having studied the calf, the run put together in my head several times, I am ready to rodeo. Jake is anxiously waiting and ready to be saddled. Mounting up, I pat Jake gently on the neck and we make several trips through the parking lot to get warmed up. The announcer calls my number and I walk Jake into the arena and check the calf in the chute to be sure he is the one we are to rope. I back Jake into the roping box and the judge stretches and secures the barrier. (The barrier is a small piece of rope pulled tight across the exit of the box designed to give the calf a 10- foot head start. If the horse leaves early and breaks the barrier, 10 seconds are added to the completion of the run).

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