With all the variables that go into calf roping, it’s a wonder how any cowboy gets the job done.
Lee Graves, a 23-year-old roper from Williams Lake, British Columbia, took it one step further. He rode a borrowed horse to turn in a 9.4-second run Saturday night before a boisterous, turn-away crowd of 5,201 at the Coliseum.
The time was the second-fastest in the three-year history of the Boot Corral Wrangler ProRodeo Classic. Today’s 2:30 performance will be the last rodeo in the Coliseum, with the new arena scheduled to open next fall.
“It’s kind of a team deal,” Graves said. “You’ve got to ride a good mount.”
He had seen Buz Peth’s horse in action and knew the Bow, Wash., cowboy was coming to town. He asked Peth for a ride, offering the traditional 25 percent of his winnings.
A little practice Friday night had Graves ready to go.
“That’s just something you’ve got to be able to do,” Graves said. “The horse has to be able to rate cattle (judge the speed), stop when you rope the calf and back up to keep the rope tight.”
Then, he said, the calf factors in about 45 percent.
“He has to not run a whole lot and cooperate in taking the tie. It’s all in the draw; you have to draw a critter that cooperates,” Graves said.
The cowboy must get a loop over the head of a speeding calf, jumping from his horse before it’s completely stopped. He then must catch the 200-plus-pound calf, flank it (pick it up cleanly and drop it on its side) and tie three legs together.
“In rodeo, everybody here can win,” Graves said. “The biggest key is thinking positive and keeping a good attitude, a winning attitude.”
It was contagious among the ropers, even if they weren’t as smooth as Graves. Eight of 10 managed a time, six more than the previous night, when the best was more than 16 seconds.
The attitude also carried into the other events, with new leaders in steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding and bull riding.
The best time in steer wrestling is 3.4 seconds, turned in by Shawn Sullivan of Moses Lake. He made his run in the morning during slack, the extra session to accommodate the overflow entries. During the performance, former National Finals Rodeo qualifier Todd Garrison of Glen, Mont., had a 3.6-second run.
The bull-riding leader is now Richard Stapleman of Benton City, Wash., who had a 79 on Gunsmoke. Only two of 15 bull riders stayed aboard for 8 seconds.
Gary Alger of Pendleton, Ore., scored 74 points on Integrity to take the saddle-bronc lead.
Team ropers had good times, but the partner in charge of catching the back legs only got one in all six qualified catches, adding a 5-second penalty. Billy Gallagher of Merrill, Ore., and Steve Johnson of Canby, Ore., had a 6.4-second run plus a penalty when Johnson caught only one hind leg.
“The ground is a little wet and the steers are not hopping as hard; it’s not a consistent jump,” Johnson said. “They have to hop up enough to lay the rope between their front and back feet.”
Gallagher roped the steer’s head and got a good “spin,” turning it away from Johnson so he had a good shot at the heels. But Johnson wasn’t at quite the right angle to compensate for the dirt.
“I need to be a jump higher to shoot the rope through at an angle,” he said. “When the ground is heavy the rope won’t slide. You lose the momentum of the throw.”
Now that ranching responsibilities have cut down on Garrison’s travels to the big winter rodeos in the south, he enjoyed the rousing reception from the crowd.
“It’s a thrill to come to a place like this,” he said. “The fans get behind you. It’s an adrenaline rush. I’ll never be able to quite give it up.”