Awhile back, watching a rodeo on television from Kansas City, I spotted Roy Cooper making another of his famous long-eight runs. The time was 8.8 seconds and, as it was explained on the tube, that was worth fourth place.
Paul Tierney had executed an 8.5 for first, Jerry Jetton was in for second with 8.6, and John W. Jones had a run of 8.7 third.
"How close can you get!" I exclaimed to my wife. "Did you see Roy? How smooth he is!"
"That was not Roy," Diana repeated. "It was Clay . . . The announcer announced the roper as Clay. You must not have been listening."
She was right. The roper had been 23-year-old Clay Tom Cooper, Roy's little brother, from Monument, N.M. True, I had misunderstood the announcer.
But the main thing that confused me was the similarity of style and form. Before my eyes (on the screen), Clay Tom Cooper had moved out of the box, had roped and tossed his slack, had dismounted on the run, had flanked the calf, had tied three legs with short wraps and had done all this exactly the way his older brother does it, the same way that has earned Roy Cooper five world championships.
The following day I inspected some back issues of Rodeo Sports News, official publication of the PRCA, to see if Clay was in any of the results. Sure enough, he had a smattering of money times: a 21.9 at Fort Smith (on two head) for fifth; a 10.2 at North Fort Worth for third; another 10.2 at Coffeyville for another third; and a 10.4 at Lawton for split fourth.
Then I contacted his father. If there was another Cooper about to take off on a meteoric calf roping voyage, wanted to know about it.
Here's what I learned: Though Clay has been roping in junior and college-class competition for a dozen years actually since he was about 10 this is his first season as a professional. He has all the talent and moves of his brother (and his cousin, Jimmie, the current all-around world champion), but he lacks consistency.