After 23 years away, Barber returns as circuit champ
DEADWOOD, S.D. – Anybody who’s ever thought they were too old to try something or that too much time had passed to tap into an early-life passion needs to go talk to steer roper – no, make that Badlands Circuit Finals Steer Roping Champion – Wayne Barber.
A landscaper by trade, Barber decided on Memorial Day to renew his PRCA permit for the first time since 1990 and he was there at the top of the leaderboard at Days of ’76 Arena just a couple of days before Labor Day with a time of 88.7 seconds on five head.
“I can finally check this off my bucket list,” Barber said. “For 23 years I’ve been $3.81 short of qualifying to buy my PRCA card. It was always, ‘next year, next year,’ and this year I just decided it was time. Past time. I’ve got Type 1 diabetes, so I figured I need to do this now, while I am still able.
“I was already roping every day in my head – team roping, tie-down roping, steer roping. The love of the sport never left me. About four years ago, I finally got an arena built and started training my horse, Donkey. When it got to be spring this year, I decided it was time to renew.”
Barber, 47, met that first big goal – surpassing the $1,000 mark in earnings so he could buy his card – by placing in the permit section of Nebraska’s Big Rodeo in Burwell and met goal No. 2 by being able to compete in the Badlands Circuit Finals Steer Roping.
He exceeded even his own best estimates of what could be done there when he was the only steer roper among 18 who was able to rope and tie all five steers to earn the championship buckle and $3,136. (He was also one of just 10 guys among 84 who had qualified runs in all three rounds of the Deadwood Days of ’76 Rodeo in July).
There was a certain added thrill to getting the win in the circuit finals because ProRodeo Hall of Fame inductee Paul Tierney was the guy in second place with a time of 66.1 seconds on four head.
“I went to one of Paul’s roping schools when I was in eighth grade,” Barber said, “It was a thrill just to be competing against him and to actually finish ahead of him … that was amazing.”
Barber has a longstanding connection to Deadwood dating back to the 1990s, when he spent more than seven years working at the casinos there and was later involved in casino management for the local tribes.
He and his wife, DeeAnn, operate The New Leaf, a flower shop/tanning salon and landscaping business back home in Chadron, Neb. Their 27-year-old son, Jesse, has been covering for dad on the landscaping side when he has roping trips to make and also for the last month, while Barber has been engaged in a major project on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.
“I’m doing the landscaping for the Tribal Veterans Cemetery (near Kyle, S.D.),” Barber said. “I’ve been camping out here for about a month and I have another month to go. It’s a great honor to be able to work on something like this for the veterans.”
And while he’s there working, he’s still roping in his head every day and thinking about what’s next.
“Hey, there’s no age limit for the (PRCA/Resistol) Rookie of the Year Award, is there?” Barber said. “Because I’d like to buy my card next month and go after that in 2014.”