The sport (passion, or affliction) of team roping experienced a terrific boom in popularity years ago with the creation of an association called United States Team Roping Championships (USTRC).
It established a classification system based on the roper’s skill. It is comparable to the handicapping system used in golf. The result is that ropers are able to compete with others of “equal ability” therefore increasing their chances of winning. As a roper improves, his USTRC number increases.
Classifications begin at No. 1 which is defined as True Beginner. These ropers have trouble controlling the rope and their horse at the same time. Inexperienced riders with little or no roping experience. And it runs up to No. 9 which is defined as National Finals Rodeo quality ropers.
I joined USTRC and applied for a number. After reading the classification description, I realized they didn’t go far enough. There are some handicaps, quirks and flaws that deserve special numbers. I suggested these additions:
No. 3/8 – One who can rope the dummy standing on a barrel, behind his back, between his legs, from the front seat and blindfolded, but couldn’t rope a live elk in an eight foot stock tank if his life depended on it.
No. 0.0025 – Ropers who have been at it several years yet seem to have no aptitude for the sport. Still don’t grasp basic concepts like nodding for the steer.
No. 0.5 – Those cowboys condemned to always ride green, spooky, maladjusted “in training” horses. Although they might be fairly good ropers, it never shows between the pitching, squeals and cheers from the crowd.
No. 2 3/4 – Consistently poor ropers but so creative at inventing excuses that they deserve some credit. “Did you see how close that was? I had ‘em both, I saw. Then the loop must have snagged on a gum wrapper and it broke my concentration just as my horse switched leads, and in this humidity … blah, blah, blah …”
No. 1/4 – Left-handers who rope right-handed. Easily spotted by the slight hesitations, looks of confusion and facial tics.
No. 1/8 – Left-handers who rope left-handed. Heelers who spend their life trying to get in position.
No. 4F – Usually mature ropers who suffer rotor cuff injuries, bursitis, tennis elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome or other maladies that result in unusual roping styles. Such as one swing, wince and toss it like they’re trying to get a booger off their finger.
No. 10+ – Poorly dressed cowboys, ridin’ scruffy horses needin’ a mane roachin’ and tail pullin’, carrying a rope that looks like it spent the winter holdin’ down tarps, bummin’ Copenhagen and wanting to sleep in yer trailer, who can use a rope better than most of us can write our name.