Local team ropers compete for jackpot

A pair of contestants attempt to rope a calf during the Jackpot Roping event held at Clovis Rodeo Grounds, Saturday, April 14, 2018. (Valerie Shelton/Clovis Roundup)

As excitement for the upcoming 104th Clovis Rodeo builds, some local cowboys and cowgirls have embraced the competitive spirit of the sport by coming out to the rodeo grounds on Saturday, April 14, to compete in the annual Jackpot Roping.

Though many were disappointed that the Ranch Rodeo scheduled for the previous weekend was cancelled due to rain, team ropers were proud to come out into the sunshine-filled arena to kick off the Clovis Rodeo season.

Cowboys and cowgirls of all ages and skill levels from early teen amateurs to 80-year-old pros teamed up as header and heeler duos raced after and roped speedy calves as they were released from their shoots. Here, both skill level and sheer luck came into play as teams gave it their all in the effort to win shiny buckles and a generous jackpot sum.

Even Grand Marshal Earl Hall was out there competing in three of the four team roping categories atop his trusty horse, Shorty.

“I’ve been roping 62 years,” Hall said. “You reach a peak. Then, when you get to be my age, you trail off a bit. But I still do it, and I still win once in a while.”

A retired professional header from the rodeo circuit, Hall still competes in several jackpot and team roping competitions throughout the year, but the one in Clovis is his favorite.

“It’s the best because it’s in my hometown and I get to compete with all my friends. This year is extra special because I’m the grand marshal,” Hall said. “The Clovis Rodeo itself, I believe, is now the largest rodeo in the circuit and the jackpot roping is part of it. Many rodeos don’t do a jackpot roping in the course of their rodeo season but the Clovis [Rodeo] board of directors, which I used to be on, and all the volunteers make this all happen. Plus, there are many ropers here who are not professional but they get to come compete, and what makes it special is that they get to compete in their hometown.”

Former header-turned-heeler George Porter, who competed in the 7 Handicap Draw roping, said he has been a team roper for more than 45 years. Like Hall, Porter also counts the Clovis roping as one of his favorite events to compete in. It’s the friends he’s made in rodeo, he said, that keep him coming back to compete year after year.

“I think it’s the competitive field and the camaraderie with the people you are roping with that make this event,” Porter said. “I think this gets everybody enthused and looking forward to the Clovis Rodeo.”

Clovis Rodeo Association president Gary Bower said there were over 100 teams competing this year.

In the end, four teams, one in each of the four categories, reigned supreme and took home the grand prize.

In the 8.5 Pick or Draw roping, the team of header Troy Murray and heeler Erik Lundgren won first place. First place in the 7 Handicap Draw were header Frank Black and heeler Frank Perez. Taking first in the 60 and Over Roping category were header Jim Rodriguez and heeler Sammy Edmunson. In the 4.5 Pick or Draw category, the winning team was header Flint Sweet and heeler Butch Brum.

Bower said the large turnout and success of the Jackpot Roping bodes well for the upcoming Clovis Rodeo.

“We are getting some spectators out,” Bower said. “Big Hat Days kicks the season off along with either the Ranch Rodeo or the Jackpot Roping and that spans the month of April. It’s not a two-day rodeo anymore. Tickets for the four big days are going fast. The ticket office is busy and online sales are up, so it will be a packed four days again. We have two great concerts, Chris Janson on Thursday and Cam on Friday, PBR is Thursday and then we have the three days of rodeo. Flint Rasmussen, the official barrelman for PBR and popular funny man, will also be here again.”