More than 2,700 teams turned out at Hardy Murphy Coliseum in Ardmore, Oklahoma, over the weekend for the May 1-3 Ardmore Ariat World Series of Team Roping Qualifier. Team ropers are ready to get back to business, and there were some high-profile bulldoggers and bronc riders in the mix, too. Take Tyler Pearson as one prime example. The 2017 world champion steer wrestler bought a brand new living quarters trailer on the brink of coronavirus rodeo cancelations, and has since taken it out twice—camping at the lake and to a team roping jackpot.
“Buying this new trailer wasn’t the best of timing, but who knew?” said Pearson, between runs at the roping on Saturday. “We took it to Lake McGee right there by the house (in Atoka, Oklahoma) the other day. Everybody else brought their high-dollar campers to the lake. I brought my high-dollar horse trailer.
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“Who’d have thought this trailer’s first big competitive outing would be a team roping jackpot? I’m done for the day. I just drew a steer that could have outrun Gone With the Wind. But we’re staying right here at the roping and camping out. After being on lockdown so long, it just feels so good to get out.”
Pearson was obviously far from alone. Watson Team Roping’s Ardmore World Series of Team Roping Qualifier far exceeded everyone’s expectations.
“The biggest roping we’d ever had before in Ardmore was 1,450 teams,” said Producer James Watson. “I’ve never answered and returned so many phone calls in my life. As soon as I put word out that we were having a roping, I bet I answered 2,500 phone calls. It’s the craziest thing I’ve ever seen. People came out of the woodwork, including a lot of new (World Series) members.”
Watson didn’t dream he’d get that many teams, but after his phone blew up he went ahead and loaded 900 steers just in case.
“May 1 was the first day Oklahoma opened back up and the first day of the roping,” Watson said. “I couldn’t get set up the night before, because the city ordinance wouldn’t let us in early. We had to haul in 400 steers that morning to get started, then brought the rest of them in later that night.
“We kept two covered arenas rolling. It was in the high 80s, so it was really nice roping weather. There’s a ton of parking at that facility, and we about ran out of parking. The turnout was just amazing. If it wasn’t for my chute help, flaggers and crew, we’d have never gotten it done. They worked way above and beyond.
“I’m ecstatic with how the weekend went. It was unbelievable. I don’t know how it could have been any better. We’ve been having a roping there in Ardmore for four years, and this was by far the biggest one. I think everyone was sick and tired of sitting at home. It was fun to have cowboys from all different events come rope with us. Guys like Tyler Pearson and (2018 World Champion Saddle Bronc Rider) Wade Sundell were there. Wade was fired up, too. He said he’d been itching to get out and go somewhere for months.”
Sundell headed. Pearson — who’s a #6 header and #7.5 heeler — roped both ends. He brought a black hazing horse, Feature, that he recently bought from Rhen Richard, and headed on him. Pearson heeled on his 4-year-old Appaloosa, Dippin Dots. Pearson’s Gone With the Wind comment, by the way, was in reference to getting left in the starting blocks in the short round of the #13 warm-up roping, when he was heading for Watson. They drew a runner, and Pearson gave the peanut gallery a good laugh by throwing his rope straight in the air right after they went beyond the money hole.
The rodeo cowboys gathered at the roping were lamenting the most recent rodeo cancelations, including learning that day that the one in Fort Smith, Arkansas, will not be happening now. Still, Pearson is hanging on to his sense of humor.
“I haven’t shaved since The American, and I’m not shaving until we get to go to a rodeo,” he said. “My beard grows in white trash as hell, it’s getting a little gray in front and it makes me look like a really bad version of Santa Claus. I’m going to be a silver fox in five years, I guarantee it. Everybody better hope the rodeos get back to rolling, or it’s going to get ugly.”
Everybody knows and loves Pearson and Kyle Irwin’s all-star steer wrestling team of Scooter and Metallica. Pearson has a second team now, a palomino bulldogging horse he calls Casper and Feature, who’s versatile on both the heading and hazing sides.
“I was planning to take Casper and Feature to California for the spring run,” said Pearson, who also headed for 2009 World Champion Header Nick Sartain over the weekend. “But since that didn’t happen, here we are at a team roping. Good thing Feature doesn’t mind doing more. I got him from Rhen at Guymon (Oklahoma) last year. They’d just ranched on him, but he took to the heading really good. I’ve headed, heeled and hazed on him now, and he doesn’t care. He’s just down to do something. Stetson (Pearson and wife Carissa’s 6-year-old son, who’s also big brother to little sister Steelie) rides him, too.
“We’ve been roping at home a bunch. Best way to pass the time during quarantine. I heel on the prettiest Appaloosa you’ve ever seen. Dippin Dots is only 4, but he’s awesome and I’m pretty proud of him. I have a prettier Appaloosa than Travis Graves.”
Pearson got done on Saturday, but he and his family were having so much fun they decided to stay in Ardmore instead of heading home.
“We decided to make a weekend out of it,” he said. “I sure didn’t expect to be camping out at a team roping, but it just feels so good to be out of the house. We’re having fun. It’s good to see people, and it’s always fun to rope.”