by Jim Bainbridge | Aug 07, 2014
By Ted Harbin/for the Lea County Fair and Rodeo
LOVINGTON, N.M. – In his seven years in ProRodeo, Tuf Cooper has earned two tie-down roping world championship gold buckles and six qualifications to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
He hasn’t, however, done very well at the Lea County Fair and Rodeo.
“I placed fourth in the first go-round last year, and that was the first check I ever won in Lovington,” said Cooper, who pocketed a little more than $1,500 last August.
He should add a lot to that total here this year. On Aug. 7, Cooper posted two runs in a cumulative time of 16.2 seconds, leads the first go-round and the all-important average with just two days of competition remaining. More importantly, he put on quite a show inside Jake McClure Arena on a night when his late grandfather, Dale “Tuffy” Cooper, was honored.
“They just dedicated this to my grandfather,” he said, noting that Tuffy Cooper died last November at the age of 88. “I hope I end up winning it; if I do, it’s going to be a special one for me and my family.”
Cooper owns a lot of victories, but doing well in his family’s home county has always been a big deal. His father, legendary roper Roy Cooper, was raised in Lea County; Roy Cooper then passed along his experience and talent to his three sons, Tuf, Clif and Clint, a Lovington High School graduate.
But the foundation was laid in Monument, N.M., with Tuffy Cooper.
“My dad gave me all the opportunity to rope,” Tuf Cooper said. “Whenever I wanted to learn something and try to get better, I would call my grandpa and ask him what I could work on to get better. My dad taught me to rope, but my grandpa helped me get better.
“By just talking to him on the phone, he could teach me how to practice and to do the right things to improve. He helped develop me over the telephone.”
That’s quite a statement about his namesake, but it’s one he shares with countless other ropers. Those lessons came in quite handy Wednesday; he roped and tied his first round calf in the afternoon session in 7.8 seconds, then followed that with an 8.4-second run in the performance, which moved Cooper to a tie for second place in the second round.
“You want to win every time you nod your head, but whenever I have those special moments, it fuels my fire,” said Cooper, the No. 1 tie-down roper in the world standings with more than $106,000 in earnings so far this season. “Tonight was one of them.”
The fire has been ignited, and the Cooper clan had another reason to celebrate Wednesday.
Courtesy of PRCA