When Jake Barnes met an eager, younger Brazilian cowboy named Junior Nogueira, the legendary team roper was far from planning on lassoing another trip to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
The two men met in late December 2013, about a week before the National Finals kicked off in Las Vegas. Barnes was scheduled to attend the NFR only to sign autographs.
At the same time, Barnes was teaching a roping school at his home in Arizona. When one of Barnes’ students learned Nogueira was around, he persuaded Barnes to allow Nogueira to rope along with them.
Nogueira had built a reputation as a standout roper in his native Brazil and Barnes immediately was impressed with his heeling skills. Barnes also was moved when he learned that Nogueira’s father was a Brazilian roping star who died of a heart attack during Nogueira’s childhood.
So, Barnes agreed to work with Nogueira. The duo partnered throughout 2014 on the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association circuit and they qualified for the Dec. 4-13 National Finals.
Barnes, 55, and Nogueira, 24, were in Fort Worth on Friday to compete in the Stock Show Rodeo. During the matinee performance at Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum, the duo turned in a time of 6.2 seconds. They are tied for third in the first round.
But during the evening show, they posted a 12.8 as the result of receiving a five-second penalty because Nogueira caught only one back heel.
Barnes is legendary as the result of snaring seven world team roping heading titles. With the help from his heeling partner, Clay O’Brien Cooper, Barnes finished No. 1 in 1985-89, 1992 and 1994.
Only Speed Williams, who partnered with Rich Skelton in the late 1990s and early 2000s, has earned more heading gold buckles. Williams has eight.
Barnes has earned 26 National Finals Rodeo qualifications. In order to qualify for the NFR, a rider must finish in the top 15 in a single event during the regular season. Barnes accomplished that feat in 1980-95, 1998-99, 2002-05, 2007-08, 2011 and in 2014.
Barnes and Nogueira (the first Brazilian to qualify for the National Finals in team roping) each earned $75,703 at the 2014 NFR. Barnes finished 2014 ranked fifth in the heading world title race with $148,045.
At 55, Barnes said his time as a world class competitor is limited.
“I’ve got to take it really serious now, because I don’t have much time left to compete,” he said. “So, these next few years are going to wind up my career. So, I’m giving all I’ve got.”
Barnes said he’s in fine physical shape overall. But he said he does not have a workout regimen because he struggles with an ailing right knee and someday he will need to have knee replacement surgery.
Competing in team roping means Barnes does not have to dismount from his horse and subdue an animal.
“In our event, it’s not a physically demanding event like tie-down roping, but I still have good balance and I rope and I practice every day,” he said.
Barnes, who joined the PRCA in 1980, also relies on years of experience.
“I’ve got a routine,” Barnes said “I’ve been to these same rodeos for the past 35 years, and I know exactly what it takes to win at each of them and I don’t get out of my game plan. There’s certain rodeos that takes a little bit different style of roping such as rodeos that are one-headers.
“But the big rodeos, you pretty much need to make a couple of good [prelim round] runs. If you draw a good steer, you might place on him. But more than anything, it’s making it to the finals because that’s where the big money is paid.”
Barnes said he also places a high priority on roping from a top-of-the-line horse.
“If you have a top-notch horse, you have the advantage,” Barnes said. “I’m more competitive when I have a good horse, and I can use my experience to put the icing on the cake.”