Roping comes naturally for Bud Ford.
In 1995, he clinched the tie-down roping title at the Fort Worth Stock Show’s prestigious Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association show. A year later, he earned a trip to the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, the sport’s equivalent of the Super Bowl.
More than two decades later, Ford, 52, who lives in Mansfield, can still rope and tie a calf in less than 10 seconds, which would send him to the pay window at a lot of rodeos.
When the tie-down title was at stake during the Fort Worth Stock Show’s Cowboys of Color Rodeo during a Monday matinee performance, Ford and his horse burst from the box and tracked down the calf pretty quickly. After making the catch, Ford dismounted and tied the critter in dramatic fashion.
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I have a job [catching loose cattle for area cities], but I took off the last three or four days and roped calves so I’d be ready for the Stock Show.
Calf roping veteran Bud Ford
Ford clinched the title after turning in a time of 9.6 seconds, four-tenths of a second faster than second place finisher Wendell Hearn of Waxahachie.
It was a moral victory for Ford, who said he had not competed in a rodeo since October.
“I have a job [catching loose cattle for area cities], but I took off the last three or four days and roped calves so I’d be ready for the Stock Show,” Ford said.
Ford clinched the title while competing before a captive audience at Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum. More than 5,700 spectators filed the iconic venue to the brim during the Martin Luther King holiday and watched a two-hour rough-and-tumble rodeo performance.
After clinching the title, Ford said he’s highly motivated to compete again.
“It’s got me fired up,” Ford said. “That’s one thing I can do is rope. It’s never left me.”
Ford mostly learned to rope at the Kowbell Indoor Rodeo, a former weekly rodeo that ran for many years in Mansfield. As he competed in amateur rodeos and jackpot roping events in the 1980s and 1990s, Ford commanded respect for his ability to turn in blistering times. In the mid-1990s, he opted to compete on a bigger stage by entering larger shows that were sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
That’s one thing I can do is rope. It’s never left me.
Like Ford, Hearn learned to rope during his youth and still hold his own at 45. He’s the son of Cleo Hearn, who heads up the Cowboys of Color Rodeo at the Fort Worth Stock Show. The elder Ford, who worked in a management position for the Ford Motor Co. for more than 30 years, was a longtime PRCA competitor.
“He would rope all week and rodeo on the weekend,” Wendell Hearn said of his father.
Like his father, Wendell Hearn has a full time job and ropes on the side. He’s an insurance claims adjustor.
“You don’t have to rodeo every day and be out on the road to be successful,” Hearn said. “You can still have a full-time job.”
Tuf Cooper has earned three PRCA world tie-down roping titles. But he has a natural ability to be competitive in other roping events and also can finish in the money in steer roping. During the past weekend, Cooper clinched the steer roping title at the SandHills Stock Show & Rodeo in Odessa after turning in a three-run time of 32.1 seconds.
On the Professional Bull Riders’ circuit, Brazilian Rubens Barbosa clinched the title at last weekend’s Built Ford Tough Series tour stop in Chicago. After the first two tour stops of the season, Barbosa ranks second in the world title race with 770 points. Jess Lockwood, who won the 2017 BFTS season opener in New York on Jan. 8 and then finished fifth on Sunday (Jan. 15) in Chicago, is ranked No. 1 with 975.