Grandfather enrichments |

Grandfather enrichments

Speakin’ of lariat ropes comin’ up short… cyberspace somehow shortchanged us a couple weeks ago when this column didn’t show up in your TSLN. I wrote it and emailed it before headin’ to Texas… some of the distant friends I send it to received it, but Aaron didn’t get a copy in the office.

In the old days of publishing the “print gremlins” were notorious for messing things up, but they’re no doubt all dead and buried by now so these must be cyber bandits or some such outlaw. Anyhow now that I’ve passed the buck you all correctly understand that it “wasn’t my fault.”

Our Fort Worth trip was fun as always, renewing old acquaintances and seeing a lot of good country. Even some of the traditionally droughty areas looked good… some were muddy and had just experienced high water… but the horse and cattle market didn’t seem to be better wherever we traveled.

Gretchen Sammis and Ruby Gobble on the historic Chase Ranch at Cimarron, New Mexico didn’t get to Fort Worth for the Hall of Fame reunion so we dropped in for a visit coming home. They had just shipped calves and felt the bite of a sizable deficit from last year’s prices, plus had endured another dry summer. However, if skunks know anything about weather, their winter might be different.

Those little critters were digging and clawing their way into and under any crevice around the outbuildings in broad daylight – actin’ desperate to find a place to din up, even though the weather was warm and lovely. Gretchen said the bear and elk devoured the entire crop from her apple orchard (which produced World’s Fair champion fruit more than a century ago!) before it even started to ripen… so it could be they’re all gearing up for a tough winter.

I recently talked about the many heroes who’ve crossed the Great Divide of late… Larry Kane of Big Sandy, Montana was another who rode off to higher range last month. I didn’t get to many RCA rodeos in the years Larry rode broncs as tough as anyone and made the NFR four times, but I did see a few of his classic rides – and sure enjoyed watching him pick up a lot of big prorodeos a few years later.

In spite of his small stature Larry rode big, tough horses and was a top pickup man, going back to the NFR three times in that capacity. He was a welcome sight to roughstock cowboys at Beutler Brothers and Cervi rodeos for nearly a decade.

A cowboy ’till the end, he was cowboying for Hirschy Ranches in Montana’s Big Hole Basin country when the Boss called him home. Larry’s reputation as a top outside cowboy equaled or surpassed his arena reputation; with experienced cowboys like Sonny Linger calling him one of the best and toughest ever. Our sympathy goes out to Larry’s wife, son, grandsons and extended family in this untimely loss – he was only 69. Memorials can be sent to the new Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame at Wolf Point, or to St. Margaret Mary’s Catholic Church in Big Sandy.

Speakin’ of Prorodeo… the way October has flown by, the Golden Anniversary of the National Finals Steer Roping is roaring toward us like a steam locomotive on a steep downgrade. The Lea County Event Center at Hobbs, New Mexico hosts the big roping November 14th and 15th. That’s a Friday and Saturday and you can check it out at or call (800) 952-2210 for tickets. Lea County has produced a rich crop of top cowboys, many of them steer ropers, so it’s a fitting location for this world-class event. Tri-State Country ropers currently in the top 20 include J.D. Yates of Pueblo, Colorado at 13th; J.R. Olson formerly of Sheridan, Wyoming and now of Greeley, Colorado sitting 19th; and Jess Tierney of Hermosa, South Dakota in 20th.

Mentioning the great cowboys out of Lea County, New Mexico makes me think of our dear friend Tuffy Cooper who’s the “class clown” annually at the National Cowboy Symposium & Celebration, never letting Father Time slow him down. He’s poppin’ buttons over his grandson and namesake who’s headed for the NFR at 18 – fulfilling one of his life’s ambitions – “to be 18 and make the NFR the first year I could.”

Young Tuf Cooper swept the competition aside at the recent Ariat Playoffs rodeo in Omaha, to pad his pockets by nearly $17,000. Looks like he’s doin’ a fine job of walkin’ in daddy Roy Cooper’s bootprints… hope he can hang eight gold buckles on his belt, too.

Rodeo just could be hereditary. ProRodeo Sports News editor Neal Reid commented, “There were five sons of past world champions competing in the River City Roundup at the Qwest Center (Tuf Cooper, Kaycee Field, Royce Ford, Cash Myers and Les Shepperson), and it’s exciting to see that the father’s talent has been passed down to their sons in so many cases.”

Being a young fellow, Neal failed to mention the talented grandfathers who enriched that gene pool to begin with, as well as breaking trails into rodeo and then training up the first generation of World Champ’s. We tip our ol’ Tri-State Stetson to Tuffy Cooper, and all the other proud and talented grandpa’s who’ll soon be watchin’ grandkids ride in the 2008 WNFR! They couldn’t have done it without ya’!

Knowing these “grandpa’s” so well is a dead giveaway I’m getting’ awfully long in the tooth, but I just haft’a mention one more friend who falls into that category – Mel Potter. The “cranberry merchant” follows another family tradition as one of the largest producers of top crops for Ocean Spray in Wisconsin; a business his grandfather began in 1880.

Mel cut the first Potter trail into rodeo, and was a contestant in the original NFR, one of the most successful rodeo producers for decades, and reared a champion barrel racing daughter. His favorite activity now is team roping with his grandson Roy Alexander in the Great Lakes Circuit. Mel’s bionic shoulder seems to be workin’ real well, and the 73 candles on his birthday cake haven’t dimmed his enthusiasm for roping – which he says has “always been part of my life.”

Looks like that’s brought us plumb to the end of our ol’ lariat rope for this week…

© 2008 Rhonda Stearns

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