“Yes Sir. Thank you Sir.”
That’s a true gentleman talking. Actually, a humble teenage cowboy on the phone about noon driving from calf roping the night before at Indianola, Iowa, to the Thursday evening rodeo in Lennox, Iowa.
Locating him behind the wheel of his pickup pulling trailer loaded with his flaxen mane and tailed nine -year-old sorrel gelding, Dude, or first string horse, Junior, is about the only way to meet logistics with the Alma, Kansas, cowboy who just turned 17 in May. Besides his horse, Cooper Martin had his little sister, Caxton, and her horse along with a rodeo contestant friend from Louisiana.
They’d competed at Afton Monday, next Centerville Tuesday, Indianola, and were short time from Lennox, all in Iowa, then set for Pawnee City in Nebraska, Friday, and back to the home state: Paola and Iola.
“We should get home Sunday sometime, regroup and head out again,” said Martin, noting there was a run of Iowa, Missouri and Kansas rodeos in the next week, although he was still uncertain what his exact plans would be.
Yet, the most congenial, obviously very talented teenager cowboy quickly rattled off what his days and hours had been just before. “I’ve been drawing good and taking care of business. Won Afton, was second at Centerville and Indianola,” verified Martin, reflecting each run precisely as if it’d just been completed.
Now this is a 17-year-old competing against adults, some of the very best professional calf ropers in the Midwest, in United Rodeo Association (URA) sanctioned competitions.
“It gets a little crazy,” Martin admitted.
Truly, the month of July could be described exactly that way for the son of ranchers Chris and Candi Martin.
“We got home from the National High School Rodeo Finals in Rock Springs, Wyoming, Sunday evening, and then headed out the next morning,” tallied Martin.
While mileage was long for the return trip to the Kansas Flint Hills from the Western high mountain state, it didn’t seem such a long distance at all for the Wabaunsee County ranch family that left right after the finals awards presentation Saturday.
Martin had just claimed title as the National High School Finals Rodeo National Champion in tie-down calf roping.
“Everything just came together; I drew good calves, my horse worked quite well and, of course, there was some luck involved. It just all worked out,” Martin nonchalantly evaluated his success story.
However, picking up speed in conversation, the national champion cowboy recalled that he’d been first in the first go-round tying his calf in 8.78 seconds, came back to win fifth in the second-round, just one hundredth of a second slower: 8.79 seconds.
Competition became even more stringent in the short go-round with only the top 20 cowboys from the first two rounds competing. “I was third in the short round with my 8.55 seconds run; a cowboy from Louisiana won that round with a 7.99. But, my 26.12 seconds on three head won the average,” Martin calculated.
Accompanying the title were significant tangibles. “I got a saddle, a buckle, five pairs of jeans, a leather jacket, a large 3-foot-by-five-foot painting and other things,” he commented.
There were go-round and average payback checks, too, but most significant, other than the title itself, is the college scholarships. “I’m not certain exactly how much they’ll total, but with stipends that are being offered by a couple of rodeo teams, I hope my college education expenses should be about covered,” Martin said.
But, that’s a long time off, or a year away for certain, because the national champion will just be a high school senior when he continues his home schooling later next month.
“I’ve had several colleges show interest in me being on their rodeo teams. I’m going down to Tarleton State in Stephenville, Texas, during August, and check it out. They have a good program, and one of the top rodeo teams in the country,” Martin said.
At the recent national high school finals, Martin also competed in the team roping with Ricky Yaussi of Udall as his partner.
“We had some bad luck, but still ended up 11th for the finals average with 39.32 seconds on three head,” he stated.
Checks were also collected by Martin in jackpot tie-down roping events between rodeo performances.
Martin qualified to compete at the National High School Finals Rodeo by being the top tie-down calf roper in the Kansas High School Association after competing in 14 qualifying rodeos last fall and this spring. He was also the recognized as the all-around champion high school cowboy for the state of Kansas.
The national high school champion has also been the top URA tie-down roper the past two years, with most of competition contemporaries twice or more his age.
As impressive as all of this is, it’s not always shiny in the world of rodeo. “Right before the national finals, I’d been at the International Finals Youth Rodeo in Shawnee, Oklahoma, and wasn’t able to win what I’d wanted. That probably put more pressure on me to do better at the high school finals rodeo,” Martin said.
Roping is lifestyle for the teenager, who has diligent practice objectives, and is already one of the very best tie-down ropers in the world as verified by his contention in the new All American Million Dollar Rodeo competition initiated earlier this year.
“I won second in the first round at the semi-finals rodeo in Mesquite, Texas, but didn’t make it in the next round to qualify. However, fortunately, I won an ‘exception’ back to Mesquite, so I will be going to the All American Rodeo next year, too,” Martin said.
Besides being an outstanding roper, cowboys must be well mounted to reach the level of success achieved by this champion, but Martin has had some setbacks there.
“My good horse called Taxi that I’d been roping on broke his back leg somehow when we had him turned out after the American Finals. I was really in a dilemma about what I was going to do. I’ve really been fortunate to find a pair of replacements in Dude, a nine-year-old prospect, I bought from Jackie Moore, and Junior, a 12-year-old chestnut, I bought from Cade Leeper,” Martin said.
Another URA tie-down roping title this year is Martin’s goal. “It all depends on the next several weeks, because I hadn’t been to many URA rodeos this year until now,” he evaluated.
Lots of calves, and even considerably more miles are in the plans for Martin as he looks ahead. “I’ll be competing in the Kansas high school circuit again this year, hope to qualify for the national finals and get along as well as I’ve done this summer,” he said.
Then, predictably will be a college rodeo career. “I may compete in the PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) on a permit during college, get my card after I finish school and hopefully be a world champion someday,” Martin speculated.