Under the Wire
What I don’t know
October 28, 2020
A lot of my days have been spent either with a rope in my hand or thinking about having a rope in my hand. During countless hours in the practice pen and on the rodeo road, I have acquired a tremendous amount of knowledge concerning all aspects of roping and related subjects. Most of it today is completely worthless.
The sport of rodeo and associated roping events have evolved ... tremendously. I, on the other hand, have evolved ... slightly. When I began roping calves years ago we got off the left side of the horse. Sometimes we ducked under the rope and flanked the calves but many a roping was won by going straight down the rope, legging the calf, stepping across and tying him. Just when I got good at that, everybody began getting off the right. When I learned that (sort of), it became get off the right holding your slack (loose rope, for non-cowboy type readers). I added my own touch, putting my hand through a coil when doing it. At this point, let’s just say the learning curve flattened out considerably, along with my profile on the ground in front of my horse. The surgeon who put my hand back in place suggested I take up golf, tennis or checkers.
Concurrent with my calf roping efforts, I was mastering the sport of team tying. For all you team ropers, this is the event that preceded today’s team roping. I became an accomplished header, diving in to place the square knot tie on the stretched out steer’s heels. We spent hours practicing the “two slap” tie that signaled the clock “I’m done, folks.” The journey from your heading horse turned loose to log off on his own to the steer became extremely exciting when the heeler also tied hard and fast, turned to ride off, not straight back as he was supposed to but at a 45 degree angle. The steer then took on the look of a giant windshield wiper as the ropes stretched tight and straight. The 750-pound steer (no sissy 350 pounders then) would come flying across the ground, boot top high about 40 miles per hour. I always seemed to be concentrating too much on something else and seldom saw him coming in time to jump over. I did learn not to wear a belt buckle or sunglasses when I headed. These items, or anything in your shirt pocket would usually be forced up your nose as you laid on your back with the critter passing over you. Heelers learned to always wear glasses, since badly bleeding headers would seldom hit a man wearing glasses.
Just when I finally learned to watch out for flying steers, one day a guy from Texas showed up at a team tying jackpot. His saddle had the tallest horn any of us had ever seen and was covered with strips of inner tube. I figured he must have even worse tires on his horse trailer than mine and needed to keep repair materials close at hand. Instead he introduced us to roping without even having your rope tied on. “Dallying” he called it. Said it was all the rage in the South. Since we all acknowledged any God who was in charge of roping dwelled in the South, we took his word for it.
After trying to “dally” without that messy rubber on our horns, soon everyone was sporting four-inch saddle horns covered with BF Goodrich castoffs. The cowboys began to carry more rope burns than their horses, nylon went from referring to women's underwear to a rope and once again the world changed on me.
I always made a little extra rodeo cash by building trailer hitches to mount on the elusive frames of the cars cowboys used to pull their trailers around the country. That’s right, I said cars. We needed to use cars so we had a place to sleep. The back seat was home-away-from-home. One day a Texan, maybe that same one I mentioned earlier, pulled in with a pickup, camper and trailer behind. There went my extra income.
Oh, I’ve kept up as best I could. I learned to use speed dial on my cell phone to enter rodeos and can tell you my choice of a 33 or 36 thread polygrass rope and I like a 7/16 scant medium hard lay blue nylon blend ... Oh, never mind. It’s probably all changed by now. The list of useless things I know seems to get longer while my list of helpful information gets shorter.