Roping 40 steers a day seven days a week 52 weeks a year has paid off.
While the philosophy “practice makes perfect” is an admirable one, it’s never quite a reality for even the best. And, this humble young cowboy admits that despite dedicated effort he’s not faultless either.
“Now, I catch with about 75 percent of the loops I throw at heels in team roping competition. I still miss too many. That’s for sure. But, it does depend on the day, and the cattle. Lots of things come into a winning run,” evaluated 16-year-old Jake Anderson in a most mature perspective.
All one has to do is check results from any competition, even the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, and still world champion team ropers are not “perfect.” They sometimes miss too, even when world titles are at stake.
However, success at a couple recent team roping events made competitors from every level do a double take of this White City High School cowboy.
“Yeh, I got a little cash at the last two roping’s. But, I still got in a little trouble on a couple of steers, or I could have won some more,” Anderson critiqued honestly.
“I heeled for Guy Winters Sr. of Abilene at the Rylee Miller-Gene Base Memorial Roping in Lyons on Memorial Day, and we won the four-head Number Nine. That paid $500,” tallied the cowboy who’ll be a junior this fall.
“At the USTRC (United States Team Roping Championship) Regional Finals Series Sunday in Mulvane, Tanner Jackman of Baldwin City headed for me, and we won the three-head Number Eight with 27 seconds including a (broken) barrier. That paid five grand,” counted the cowboy while taking a dinner break from helping with chores and field work on his family’s Morris County ranch.
“That’s the biggest check I’ve won. It made my day,” he admitted. “The money is nice, and so are the buckles. But, the best deal about it all is that now I’m qualified for the USTRC Finals in Oklahoma City during October. It’ll be the first time for me at that big event which always attracts the best ropers in the world.”
Rationalizing his dedicated roping practice regiment, Anderson clarified, “Oh, we don’t actually get to run that many steers, but just about now that school’s out. We practice nearly every day. If it’s too muddy at home, we go over to Tad Larson’s indoor arena. It’s handy,” Anderson said.
While he can rope either end of a steer, Anderson specializes as a heeler. “I ‘spin’ some steers for Rick when we practice, but now I mostly just heel in competition,” he said.
Recognizing the importance of the practice pen, Anderson is well aware of how essential proper coaching is for a young cowboy still perfecting proper techniques for the highly demanding skill involving so very many variables.
“I’m fortunate that my parents, Junior and Terry Anderson, have been helping me ever since I was old enough to ride. They have rodeoed all of their lives, and my older sisters Becky and Bailey are also ropers. They’ve always rodeoed, were on college teams and still compete successfully. My sisters have helped me in every way, and I really appreciate them.”
Added to the immediate family foursome, the young roper insisted, “Rick (Anderson) is my uncle and my practice partner. He’s been winning at rodeos throughout the Midwest for more than 50 years. We rope together nearly every day, and if I make a mistake, Rick will see it, and help me correct it for the next run.
“And, his wife, my aunt Jeanne (Anderson) is a National Finals Rodeo barrel racing qualifier. She’s an outstanding horse woman, and is always helping and giving me important pointers, especially on my horsemanship,” Anderson credited most appreciatively.
As if all daily hours with a rope in hand, backed by an elite coaching staff, doesn’t attribute amply to cowboy teenager’s success, an additional essential ingredient is the right horse.
“I’m really fortunate to be able to ride Bubba, a 16-year-old roan Quarter Horse gelding owned by Rick. He’s an all-around gelding that my sisters used to win a lot of goat tying competitions on. Bubba puts me in the right spot every time, so if I miss, it’s my fault,” said Anderson. However, the family has several additional backup and practice horses. “We only rope eight or 10 steers a day on our good horses, and then rope another 30 or so on our other horses. We are starting some colts now, too, and spend a lot of time roping the Hot Heels mechanical practice steer on them,” the cowboy explained.
Yet, there’s one more essential element in this equation. “We keep a pen of practice steers, about 40 head all of the time. We just got 16 fresh steers to replace the bigger cattle,” explained Anderson.
Now, it’s a team event. Besides roping with his uncle Rick, who can rope either end, but typically also specializes as a heeler, Anderson teams with a number of other cowboy ropers from throughout the Midwest.
“When headers ask me to heel for them, I always try to do my best, and I feel bad if I miss,” Anderson said.
Teamed with Reed Murray of Belvue as his header, Anderson has competed in the Kansas High School Rodeo Association for two seasons.
“We’re in the top ten of the yearend team roping standings, and we’ll be competing at the Kansas High School Rodeo Finals in Topeka, June 12-14,” Anderson said. “We had a couple of bad rodeos this season, so we don’t stand much of a chance to make the high school national finals this year. But, we have two more years, and as we keep improving, hopefully we’ll make it next time.”
With alfalfa swathed in the windrow, Anderson was to be helping bale hay soon. “The brome’s ready to be swathed right away, and we have to get it wrapped up, too,” said Anderson. “The farm work has to be done, but we still always make sure we practice roping every day.”
No shortage of team roping events throughout the Midwest. “We go to most of the rodeos and team roping jackpots around, and we’ve been to a couple of the big truck roping’s lately. I’d like to win one of them,” said Anderson, who looks to entering United Rodeo Association (URA) events in the future.
“Rick, Jeanne and my sisters all compete in the URA and have been to the finals a lot of times, so I’d like to rope in the URA as well,” Anderson noted.
Having successfully entered local horse show barrel racing competitions, Anderson also participated in calf roping at one point. “I’m putting all of my practice and concentration in team roping now. I had thought about doing some steer wrestling, but that’s on hold, at least for now, in order to keep more focused on my heeling,” related the leader in 4-H club work and other school activities as well.
An avid hunter, Anderson said, “I’m not doing much of that either. I usually get a deer, and I’ll have my permit again this fall. Other than that, I just plan to rope.” Even, a dream of going on a mountain lion hunt will have to wait for a while, he confessed.
So, what’s the future for this young champion cowboy? “I’m going to keep practicing, do my best to win some more, hopefully make the national high school finals. Then, I’d like to get a scholarship to be on the rodeo team at a junior college, and make the college national finals,” Anderson said.
While he didn’t express interest in furthering education past that, Anderson’s two year college rodeo successes could be a determining factor for the following couple of years.
However, Anderson is most certain about his lifetime career plans. “I’ll come back here and eventually take over the ranch from my dad and uncle. Rick and Jeanne have had successful rodeo careers while being partners in the family ranch,” Jake Anderson continued. “So, I plan to follow that way too, team roping in rodeos and jackpots, making some extra spending money like I have the past couple of weeks.
“I’ll keep practicing,” the young roping champion summarized.