2013 Spicer Gripp Memorial Roping0
You step out of the trailer early one morning, a soft breeze touches your cheeks and you smile. It is that time of day when the temperature is at its lowest point. It is no longer night yet the sun has not risen. The sky is a light grey with hints of gold licking the horizon. You hear the faint sound of horses shuffling and the long whistle of a train in the distance. Deciding to go for a walk, you meander down towards the arena. A lone tractor is plowing, prepping the ground for the day. You wonder how long he has been at it. The sun creeps higher in the sky. Now the clouds are catching their first rays, but the sun is still hiding. Young men and women are empting the trash barrels, trying to stay clean while doing a job they aren’t completely familiar with. The horses are nickering for their breakfast and more people are ambling out into the first light of the day. The breeze dies down and the humidity left from last night’s storms clings to your skin. The rain is needed in this part of the country and there is no complaint. The clouds are now various shades of pink and purple and blue. The sun is stretching his legs and peeking over the horizon. Sitting alone in the grand stands, you watch and think. Spicer Gripp smiles, his picture extra large overlooking the arena named in his honor. The cattle trudge through the alley way and the yips and yells of cowboys pushing them float through the air. “Hey Dad, can I take the next set up?” calls a young boy mounted on a big grey. His boots are barely past the saddle skirt. The entry office opens and the announcer has arrived. A few cowboys are saddled and circling the arena, some ponying a second horse. They must be up early in the draw this morning. Someone delivers a cooler of ice and water to the stripping shoot. The sun is fully awake now and you know it will definitely be a hot one today. People are picking up speed or maybe there are just more of them up and moving around now. A lot goes into this production. Each person a strand of light and as they come together, working to accomplish a single goal, their light shines brighter than the sun which is now making his daily trek across the sky.
Such was the first weekend of August in Hereford, Texas. The Beef Capital of the World is a small spot on the map in the panhandle of Texas, but huge in the hearts of its residents. For the past nineteen years the town has come together to remember. Some say it is hard to forget, but it seems remembering may be more difficult. Remembering takes a lot of work. Each year Hereford pays tribute to Spicer Gripp and his legacy of caring. By organizing and producing a memorial event benefitting scholarships young people need, Hereford residents not only carry on Spicer’s dedication, they also teach the process to their children. Spicer did not mind hard work. He just smiled and did what needed to be done, especially when it came time to help a child or young person in need. If we forget that smile on Spicer’s face, his gentle concern for the young and impressionable, if we forget his passion for the land and the cowboy way of life, if we fail to instill proper ethics and values in our children and allow them to forage through life guided only by the television that now dominates so much of their lives, if we don’t work hard to remember then we will allow a legacy to die and the smile and the spirit will fade away, dust in the panhandle wind. Spicer never wanted fortune and fame. He only wanted to lend a helping hand. We must carry that spirit on. It could be a heavy burden to bear, but as the folks in a little town come together each reaching out, lifting, the load is shared and the smile shines on.
The Spicer Gripp Memorial Youth Foundation attracted the attention of another fine spirit this year, another hand if you will, to help lighten the load. Elizabeth Moser was a red haired beauty who traveled the continent. She worked in the war department and witnessed the first two detonations of the atomic bomb, but along the way her heart was captured by a cowboy in the Texas Panhandle. Elizabeth loved classical music and was a scholar of the Bible. Preachers and pastors would seek her out to help interpret God’s word. She always had a pickup full of dogs and a pet coyote as well. I am not sure if Elizabeth and Spicer ever crossed paths during their time here on earth, but from the stories told, it seems they shared the same views on life. Elizabeth was often heard saying, “Excuses are of no value.” Spicer would have smiled at that. This year the Elizabeth Moser Trust donated $25,000 to the Spicer Gripp Memorial Youth Foundation. The monies were added to the funds raised by the Foundation and a check was presented to West Texas a&M in the amount of $100,000. The money is for scholarships, a leg up, which will assist in the educational endeavors of those in need.
Numerous events were held in conjunction with the Spicer Gripp Memorial Roping. Each event raising funds needed to educate the next generation. The support of the cowboys and cowgirls was and will always be a fundamental aspect in the production of the Memorial. Spicer smiled at each and every one of them from his place above the arena. The Open Steer Roping was first on the agenda. Sixty cowboys entered the roping sponsored by BJM Sales and Service. Twelve came back to the short go. One won. Four checks were paid in each of the three full rounds, the short go, and the average. The total payout was $60,000 making the Spicer Gripp Open Steer Roping one of the richest of the year. Each round paid $4,364 for first, $3,273 for second, $2,182 for third, and $1,091 for fourth. The four fastest cowboys in the short go earned $2,183, $1,635, $1,091, and $546 for their respective placing. The average winners took home $8,720 and a beautiful Montana Silversmith buckle for first, $6,545 for second, $4,365 for third, and $2,185 for fourth in the average. World Champion cowboy, Trevor Brazile was the second man out on Wednesday. Hot off a round win in Dodge City, Trevor tied his first steer in 12.67 seconds for first in round one of the Spicer Gripp. Although he did not place in the remaining rounds he was consistent and finished fourth in the average with a total time of 54.55 seconds. Vin Fisher also traveled to Hereford from Dodge City. Vin won a little money in Dodge, but he cleaned up in Hereford. Vin won second in the first round with a time of 12.77 seconds, first in the short go with a time of 11.31 seconds, and his total time of 51.54 seconds on four head earned him first in the average. Vin Fisher took home $14,176 and the title of 2013 Spicer Gripp Champion Steer Roper. There were many more checks collected though. Roger Branch was third and Brent Lewis was fourth in the first round. Roger and Brent’s times were 12.91 seconds and 13.10 seconds respectively. Both Scott Snedecor and Marty Jones made a beautiful runs in the second round. Scott’s time of 11.25 seconds was two hundredths of a second faster than Marty’s time putting Scott in first for the round. Arizona cowboy, Chance Kelton made his initial appearance at the pay window during the second round. Chance’s time on his second steer was 11.90 seconds and it earned him third in the round. Lawson Plemons’ earned fourth in the second round with a time of 12.14 seconds and then Lawson tied his third steer in 11.65 seconds for second in a very tough third round. A lot of the guys had gone out of the average and Lawson was not the only cowboy wanting a piece of the round money. Bryce Davis was one of those guys. Bryce had some hard luck until the third round. That is when Bryce’s luck changed and he won the third round with a time of 10.35 seconds. Jason Evans collected his only check of the day for third in the third round. Jason tied his third steer in 12.21 seconds. Jarrett Blessing was another cowboy who roped well, but only made one appearance at the pay window. Jarrett’s fourth in the third round, his time on the third steer was 12.39 seconds. It seems both Marty and Chance liked their checks in the second round. After taking a little break in the third round, they both came back to place second and third in the short round. Marty’s time on his last steer was 12.94 seconds and Chance’s time was 13.20 seconds. This also put Marty second in the average with a total time of 51.80 seconds and Chance’s total time of 52.35 seconds placed him in third in the average.
Many of the Open Steer ropers also competed in the Senior Steer Roping which was sponsored by QDG and Panhandle Express this year. Twenty-nine ropers competed for a piece of the $10,900 in total payout. Dane Noyce did not have any luck in the Open Steer Roping so he went home, regrouped, and came back strong in the Senior Steer Roping. Dane placed first in round one with a time of 12.89 seconds earning him a check in the amount of $907. Dane also earned $679 for second in the third round for his time of 14.19 seconds. Gib Bell started out the day with a time of 13.30 seconds on his first steer which put the $679 check in his pocket for second in the go. Gib’s time of 14.04 on his second steer was good enough for third in second round and he collected another $453. Gib came back Sunday for the short go and he was on again. He tied his final steer in 17.03 seconds earning $280 for the round and making his total time on four head 62.86 seconds. That added $1,361 to his total and a buckle for first in the average. Randy Wells earned his only check of $453 for third in the first round. Randy’s time was 16.92 seconds. Larry Stewart grabbed the final check in the first round for his 17.95 second run. JD Yates was first in the second round of the Senior Steer Roping. JD’s time was 13.46 seconds. Bobby Brock did not get to see the pay window in the first round, but he did not let that happen again. Bobby earned $679 for stopping the clock at 14.01 seconds on his second steer. Bobby came back in third round and his 15.92 second time on his third steer earned the $227 check for fourth. Then Bobby took home two more checks in the short go. Bobby’s time on his final steer was 21.35 seconds, enough for fourth in the short go and also made his total time on four head 69.39 seconds putting him second in the average which paid $1,021. Mike Thompson earned $227 in the second round for fourth. Brad Mohon had been absent from the list of guys going to the pay window until the third round of the Senior Steer Roping. Brad made a 13.97 second run on his third steer which placed him first in the round. Roger Branch earned a nice check in the first round of the Open Steer Roping, but his luck dried up a bit after that. Roger was roping consistently, just not quite quickly enough. That changed in third round and short go of the Senior Steer Roping. Roger’s time of 15.30 earned him the third place check of $453 in round three. His time of 19.95 seconds in the short go put another $210 in his pocket for second in the short go. Roger’s total time on four steers was 72.76 which placed him third in the average which paid $680. Jim Davis waited until the end to grab a couple of the last checks. Jim’s time of 20.11 seconds on his final steer was worthy of third in the go and his total time 74.83 seconds on four head placed him fourth in the average. Jim earned $140 for the go and $340 for the average.
After the senior ropers moseyed out of the arena, the girls rode in. This year there were ninety-one teams competing in the Coolhorse All Girl Team Roping. Four places were paid in the first go, two in the short go, and five teams earned checks in the average. The total payout was $25,250. The competition was fierce. Colorado cowgirl Rylea Fabrizio along with Kelly Jones Hicks split $2,020 for first in round one. They set the pace with a time of 7.52 seconds. Barrie Smith and Jimmie Jo Montero’s 7.57 second run were fast enough for second in the round. Barrie and Jimmie Jo split $1,514. Kaitlin Gustave was heading for Macy Devenport. Kaitlin and Macy stopped the clock in 7.82 seconds earning them the $1,010 check for third in the round. Beverly Robbins made the great state of Alabama proud by teaming up with another southern girl, Ashley Mills. Beverly and Ashley were fourth in the first round and split a check for $504, but they stayed solid. These ladies had a total time of 44.21 seconds on four head and won the average on Sunday. They each received Montana Silversmith buckles and $2,653. Annette Stahl was heeling for both Barrie Smith and Lari Dee Guy in the short round on Sunday and she won with both of them – twice. Barrie and Annette were 7.92 seconds on their short go steer and their total time on four steers was 48.39 seconds. This won both Barrie and Annette $758 for first in the short go and $2,209 each for second in the average. Lari Dee and Annette had a time of 9.84 seconds on their final steer making their total on four head 51.60 seconds. They each received $505 for second in the short go and $1,767 for third in the average. Kelsey Mosby and Jessie Calkins’ total time on four head was 55.58 seconds. Kelsey and Jessie split $2,650 for fourth in the average. Finally, Katy Anthony and Jayme Roach bested eighty-six other teams to split $1,768 for fifth in the average.
While the Senior Steer Ropers and the ladies of team roping were competing in the arena on Friday there was another little contest going on out at the golf course. Twenty-two teams took over the local golf course Friday competing for the $2,000 in prize money. The team of Mauldin, Marsh, McKean and McGee had the top score and took home the bragging rights.
Saturday was a big day at the arena in Hereford. Spectators took their place in the stands to watch forty-nine calf ropers compete for a piece of the $51,750 total payout in the MVP-ADT Open Calf Roping. There were three full rounds paying four deep. The cowboy who place first in each round earned $3,764. Second place paid $2,823, and the third and fourth place checks were $1,882 and $941. The top twelve fastest times on three head came back to the short go on Sunday. Again four places were paid in the short round, $1,880 for the fastest time on the final calf, $1,411 for second, $940 for third, and $470 for fourth. On top of all that, the average winner received $7,528. Second in the average took home $5,646. Third in the average won $3,764, and fourth received a check in the amount of $1,881. Beau Marshall ended up first in round one with a time of 9.19 seconds. Hunter Herrin tied up his first calf in 9.31 seconds for second in the go. Hunter also tied his third calf in exactly 9.31 seconds for third in that round. Cody Owens’ time of 9.68 seconds was enough for third in the first round, and Justin Maass was fourth in the first round with a time of 9.83 seconds. Justin’s time of 9.56 seconds on his second calf also won him second in the second round. Local favorite Quay Howard was first in the second round, tying his calf in 8.83 seconds. Casey Crow’s time of 9.91 seconds on his second calf of the day earned him the check for third, and Caleb Smidt placed fourth in the second round with a time of 10.08 seconds. The times were faster in the third round of the calf roping. Just like in the Steer Roping a lot of the cowboys had gone out of the average and they wanted those round checks. Cody Ohl tied his third calf in 8.75 seconds for the win in the round. Reese Riemer’s time of 8.99 seconds put the round check for second in his pocket. Billy Bob Brown was fourth in the third go with a time of 9.35 seconds. Ryan Watkins roped well all day Saturday, but not good enough to win a check. That changed on Sunday. Ryan tied his final calf in 8.86 seconds which won the round and made his total time on four 43.58 seconds. Ryan finished fourth in the average. Tuf Cooper was another cowboy who was consistent on Saturday, but not fast enough to see the pay window. Jerome Schneeberger had been sitting second in the short go with his time of 10.86 seconds, but then Tuf also made a nice run in the short go and his time of 9.11 seconds earned him second in the final go and bumped Jerome to third. Then Tuf had to wait for Cody Ohl to make his final run to see who took home first in the average. One little kick from Cody’s calf sealed the deal. Cody’s time on his final run was 11.04 seconds. It was good enough for fourth in the round and made his total time on four head 42.62 seconds, but the bobble cost Cody Ohl the win. Cody took home the check for second in the average while Tuf headed to the winner’s circle. Caleb Smidt had a total time of 43.17 seconds which put him third in the average, and Ryan Watkins picked up the check for fourth in the average. Ryan’s total time was 43.58 seconds.
This year’s Pro Am Team Roping was one of the toughest on record. The amateur ropers traveled from as far as Florida and Utah to compete with the best ropers in the business and to support the Spicer Gripp Memorial Youth Foundation. Numerous prizes were presented to the top teams in two divisions, teams with amateurs heading and those with amateurs heeling. This year the prize line included Saddles, Montana Silversmith buckles and watches, spurs, breast collars, Yeti coolers, and rope bags. At the end of the day Landon Koehn won first heading for Buddy Hawkins and Denton Jones won first heeling with Jake Barnes. Both Landon and Denton were newcomers to the Spicer Gripp this year and they should take pride in their support of the Spicer Gripp Memorial Youth Foundation.
Another group of people had set up camp in the area surrounding the Spicer Gripp arena over the course of the day. They were competing in their own grueling contests. Twenty-one teams cooked all day Saturday. The award for the Best Steak went to long time supporters of the Spicer Gripp, the team from Top of Texas. A team by the name of Rub It Like You Love It won Best Ribs while Swinging Meat’s brisket was the favorite. The People’s Choice award went to Big Jim’s BBQ. The team from Huddleston Performance Horses was consistent favorites in all categories and they were named Grand Champion of the Beef Capital of the World Bar B Que Cook Off.
The crowd gathered early on Sunday morning. After paying tribute to the Lord they stayed to watch or rope in the Spicer Gripp Open Team Roping sponsored by Whiteface Ford. I may be mistaken, but I did some quick research and have yet to find another Open Team Roping where only 63 teams compete for $124,500. There are a lot of big ropings around the country and many are paying well into the six figure range, however, most of them have one hundred to five hundreds teams roping for the money. The Spicer Gripp Open Team Roping paid two places in the first round. Fast time in the short round won $750 a man, fast time overall paid $750 a man, and five places were paid in the average. Spencer Mitchell was teamed up with Dakota Kirchenschlager. With Spencer heading and Dakota heeling, the team won the first round with a time of 6.54 and each took home $1,500. Nick Sartain and Rich Skelton were second in the round. Nick and Rich’s time of 6.99 earned them each $750. The fastest time of the roping was in the short go. Clay Tryan and Jade Corkill made a 6.11 second run on their final steer allowing them to pick up both the fast time overall check and the check for fast time in the short go. There were some big names in rodeo on the short go list for the Open Team Roping as well as some really good ropers that have never been to the PRCA National Finals Rodeo. Ty Trammel and Nano Garza were second high team back. They had watched Brandon Beers and Jim Ross Cooper make a 7.10 second run. Brandon and Jim Ross had a total time of 53.98 seconds. Ty and Nano watched Chance Kiehne and Kurt Jones make a 9.61 second run. Chance and Kurt came into the short go just four hundreds of a second ahead of Brandon and Jim Ross, but Chance and Kurt’s total time on six head was 56.25 seconds and they would end up placing behind Beers and Cooper. Trevor Brazile and Patrick Smith legged in the short go. The 12.39 second run made their total 58.41 seconds. Trevor and Patrick would end up fifth in the average. Ty Trammel and Nano Garza assessed the situation and made a clean business run. The two stopped the clock in 8.78 seconds. Their total on six steers was 53.70 seconds, just faster than the current leaders. Then Ty and Nano watched one more team. Aaron Macy and Wesley Thorp were high team back. Seventeen year old Wesley was heeling on a paint horse owned by his eighteen year old partner’s dad, Mike Macy. They were not intimidated. The men, women and children in the grand stands, the ropers, the chute crew, the announcer –everyone held their breath as the boys left the box. Aaron slick horned the steer, turned him off and then Wesley threw his rope. When the flag dropped Wesley had two feet and the timer read 7.4 seconds. Aaron and Wesley’s time on six steers was 50.62 seconds. They were the youngest team to ever win the Spicer Gripp Open Team Roping. Aaron and Wesley split $35,100. Ty and Nano were elated to win second in the average, splitting $29,250. Brandon Beers and Jim Ross Cooper smiled as they each picked up $11,700 for third in the average. Chance Kiehne and Kurt Jones split the $17,550 for fourth in the average. Finally, Trevor Brazile and Patrick Smith each graciously accepted the $5,850 presented to them for fifth in the average.
Between the short gos of each event, a couple of match calf ropings kept the crowd entertained. Justin Maass faced off against Hunter Herrin and Junior calf ropers, Miles Brown and Jake Price competed for scholarship money. Before the outcome of the match ropings was decided, a few other names of winners were announced. Raffle tickets were sold for both a Mule ATV and a stock trailer during the weeks leading up to the Spicer Gripp Memorial Roping. Trey Hutches of Canyon, Texas drove home the Mule and Paul Jackson of Vega, Texas was the winner of the stock trailer. The American Quarter Horse Association presented awards recognizing the top Calf Roping, Steer Roping, Heading, and Heeling horses. Brandon Beers rode the Top Head Horse and Patrick Smith roped on the Top Heel Horse. Cody Ohl’s horse was recognized as the Top Calf Roping horse of the weekend, and Chance Kelton’s palomino was the Top Steer Roping horse. Chance’s son, Ketch, won the Dummy Roping saddle after a tough competition on Saturday. Justin Maass finished up ahead of Hunter in the Cinch Match Calf Roping and Miles Brown out roped Jake Price in the Junior Match Calf Roping. The final event of the Spicer Gripp Memorial Roping was a new addition. Five teams of two cowboys entered the Double Mugging. After two full rounds of western action the final winners of the 2013 Spicer Gripp Memorial Roping, Rodey Wilson and Jesse Valdez were each presented with a $1,250 check for the winner take all payout.
As the banners were taken down, Spicer continued to smile. The sun set over the arena named in his honor. His likeness may need a bit of sprucing up. It has faded a bit in the Texas Sun. All the little lights who work hard remembering will get to work. Spicer will be back next year, his bright smile shining on. Join him and the town of Hereford. That smile is contagious.
Story courtesy of Spicer Gripp Memorial Foundation. Photo courtesy of Lonewolf Photography.