Drawing right calf can make all the difference in roping

Joshua Garrett of Gugdell Farms of Logan said 222 calves will be used in this weekend’s event. (Staff photo: Jesse Wolfersberger)

By Jesse Wolfersberger: Freedom Newspapers

Although it’s random, calf ropers know drawing the right calf can be the difference between a average run and a big payday.

At Joe’s Boot Shop Calf Roping this weekend at the Curry County Mounted Patrol Arena, every roper has his or her preference.

“You want to draw the boys,” said Wayne Needham, the event’s producer and a roper in the open division. “Because the girls are a lot wilder — just like with people.”

Unlike baseball, football or soccer, the object of attention in calf roping was not made in a factory or have “Rawlings” stitched on it. It’s a living, breathing animal, and each calf has its strengths, weaknesses and quirks.

“Good roping calves are hard to come by,” said Richard Renfro, a 20-year veteran from Rome, Texas. “You’ll have some cattle that slip in that are faster or slower, just like any other thing — like dogs or horses — some will just be faster. And those aren’t very fun.”

Kelly Torske, a 27-year-old breakaway roper from Portales, said her perfect roping calf would make things as easy as possible.

“I’d like one that would wait on you,” Torske laughed. “Then when you’d rope it, it would run on and make a good break. That’s my idea of a perfect breakaway calf.”

The calves for this year’s event are being provided by Gudgell farms in Logan.

Jason Garrett, a Gudgell employee, said there are 222 calves being used in this year’s event.

“That’s about average,” Garrett said. “A lot of them come from starter yards. Once they get straightened out, and they’re big enough, strong enough and healthy enough, they send them on.”

The career of a roping calf is short. Sometimes it’s over after one event.

“They get a few ropin’s per head,” Garrett said. “Then they’re usually done, and they’re kicked out to pasture.”

Like a football coach on his bye week, watching his next opponent’s quarterback, ropers scout the calves before their run, looking for any weaknesses and tendencies.

“You go out to the pen before always and check them out,” Needham said. “And if you know what calf you have in the second round, you watch that guy rope in the first round.

“You see what tricks they have. Everybody knows what calves you win the most money on, and if you draw that calf, you know you’ve got a better chance.”

Speed is a key attribute ropers look for.

“Most of them want a good, strong runner,” Garrett said. “but no one wants to get outran.”

Needham said ropers look at different things when they see the calves in the pen — gender, breed, behavior or hair length.

“You’ll look for one with a little longer hair,” Needham said. “The cattle that are not as healthy don’t shed off as slick, and the slicker calves are usually healthier.

“It’s kinda like people — you see one guy who’s in shape and one guy who’s out of shape — you’d rather do battle with the one that’s out of shape.”

Renfro said, as long as the calves are similar, the event will be won by the best roper, not the best calf.

“Make ’em all even,” Renfro said. “If they’re fast, make ’em all fast.”

Of course, no matter what a roper sees in the animals, he or she has no choice in who gets what calf.

“It doesn’t matter,” Renfro said. “Because they’re gonna draw you one.”

For some ropers, like 69-year-old Richard Gray from Smyer, Texas, even if they had a choice, they would pick one at random anyway.

“It don’t matter,” Gray said. “As long as it’s got four legs and a head, that’s all I care about.”