Roping 70 steers a day can pay big dividends.
It certainly reaped awards, including the most coveted one, for Kansas cowboy Rocky Patterson.
After stringent practice tripping between five and six dozen steers daily, with three or four horses used in rotation, the Pratt roper went to the National Finals Steer Roping in Guthrie, Okla., on lucky Friday, Nov. 13, and left Saturday night, Nov. 14, as the new world champion.
The first-time gold buckle winner in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association didn’t have a flawless 10 runs, but he put ’em down and tied ’em up when it mattered most.
Throughout the Clem McSpadden Finals, in honor of the deceased renowned rodeo announcer, Patterson was nip and tuck in the overall standings with world leader and defending world champion Scott Snedecor.
After finishing second in each of the first two rounds and placing in five of the first six, Patterson was making his challenger sweat. But, after not placing in the seventh, missing his eighth steer, and again out of the money on number nine, Patterson’s hopes were dwindling.
That’s when the advance practice paid off, as Patterson came back to win the 10th round, putting him third in the average, and second in money winnings at the finals.
However, point keepers still had Snedecor as the world champion, until the dollars were recounted, and Rocky Patterson, a 15-time NSR qualifier, was officially crowned as the trophy saddle winner.
“I was shocked,” analyzed Patterson, who pocketed $31,283 at Guthrie, with 2009 total earnings of $79,492.
“I’m just numb,â€ Patterson nervously claimed in the Lazy E Arena spotlight. “I started roping steers about 20 years ago, and ever since then I’ve dreamed of this moment.”
Two weeks after collecting the title, excitement was still apparent as the 44-year-old cowboy talked about the thrill of the accomplishment and what it took to achieve that enviable position.
Rodeo and roping have been a part of his entire life. “We had an arena at our place between Anthony and Kiowa when I was growing up,” Patterson recalled. “My dad, Phil, who just passed away this spring, roped when I was young, and I roped a lot with my brothers, Randy and Ronnie.”
After collecting Kansas High School Rodeo Association awards in calf roping, team roping and steer wrestling, Patterson competed in the National High School Rodeo Association Finals.
While attending Allen County Junior College, Patterson qualified individually for the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association Finals.
That earned him a place on the Panhandle State University Rodeo Team in Goodwell, Okla. “We won several regional championships and did well at the finals,” recalled Patterson, who met his wife, Shelly, while competing at a Texas rodeo.
Following college, Patterson became an agriculture instructor at Pratt Community College. “That was about the time I started roping steers. I’d always wanted to,” he stated.
Now, Patterson has a cow herd and manages cattle grazing pastures. “That and roping is mostly what I do,” he commented.
“I went to about 36 professional rodeos in a dozen or so states this year in addition to a handful of the invitational steer ropings,” Patterson pointed out. “It’s so expensive to travel now that I often try to haul with other contestants, when it’s possible.”
Horses are the key element to being successful in the arena, Patterson emphasized. “I will occasionally fly to a rodeo, but not very often, because I like to ride my own horses,” he noted.
A couple of horses were ridden during his championship campaign this year, but the 15- year-old bay called Pops was credited as being a major asset in his success. “I had ridden him before, and then I bought him. I used him entirely at the finals,” credited Patterson, who has a number of rope horses.
“I’ve sold a few top horses, but it takes a lot of horses to practice with and to have one available if another horse gets hurt,” Patterson remarked.
Of course, cattle are essential, and Patterson always has a couple dozen or more ready to use at practice time. “I sure needed that many steers and several horses as I was getting ready for the finals,” he added.
Steer roping occupies most of his time, but Patterson does team rope with his sons, Cole, 14, and Caden, 10.
“They like to rope, but now they’re playing sports in school so that takes away from their roping some” Patterson granted. “I think the boys will probably compete in high school rodeos, though.”
Strong family affection for high school rodeo action is apparent as Patterson’s mom, Marcella, is well known in state and national circles, having served as point keeper for the state group many years.
With his first world champion’s buckle fastened on his belt, Patterson’s adrenalin for steer roping has not slowed. “I plan to go just as hard as I have been,” he vowed.
Longevity of steer ropers was compared to golfers. “I think I have several years of competitiveness left in me,” Patterson evaluated. “It’ll be hard to ever quit roping.”