Photos by Allen's Rodeo Photos
When Bret Beach and Clay O’Brien Cooper won the 1982 Bob Feist Invitational in a foot of mud in Denton, Texas, the young team was in the middle of a hot streak of jackpot wins that kicked off both of their legendary careers.
“We were kind of a powerhouse jackpot average team,” Cooper remembered. “Bret had an awesome horse, one of the best over a long score that there was. He was a phenomenal horn roper—he just never missed. I had learned to catch every steer and I had confidence I could catch every steer. We went on a rampage there for a few years that we just dominated the jackpots. We were riding on confidence. We were totally young, and it was all adventure to us. We just wanted to make our way to the top.”
The head horse Cooper refers to was Zinger, the gelding that carried Beach to his first NFR in 1981. The horse was so fast that, despite the conditions, Beach could lay off the barrier and let his head horse do the work.
“The steers still ran, though, and they were pigs and they tried to outrun you,” Beach said. “Getting all the way to one was nearly impossible. I had the best head horse in the world at that time that could outrun everybody’s horses. I knew the times would be long because of the conditions. I knew I wasn’t going to break a barrier, and I just dealt with whatever I had to get to them and get them turned.”
They won $10,000 a man, saddles and buckles at the roping held at the Smith Brothers’ steer roping arena in the fall before the NFR in Oklahoma City that year. Given the arena size and conditions, they’d turn in the fourth-slowest time on six head in BFI history—70.86 seconds—still a feat, all things considered.
“It was the typical ‘you-never-know’ kind of Texas fall weather,” Cooper continued. “Back then, I didn’t have as many ropes available or given to me, so I had to pay attention to my ropes. When you have a situation like that, you go to the nearest hydrant and you washed them off and let them dry and picked them back up and go again. You can’t just go get a new one every run.”
Beach and Cooper placed on their first steer, took the lead after their second steer and kicked it into overdrive and never looked back, Cooper said.
“The arena looked like it was a mile long, and it was a 35-foot score,” Beach added. “It snowed on the way there and then it just rained. It was the deepest, muddiest mess you’ve ever seen in your life. The fact that he roped six steers by two feet in that mud, I can’t even describe the skill that took. After the second steer, I didn’t put boots on my horse. It would be so deep in places you didn’t know how you or your horses could do it. It felt like you were running in quick sand. I’ve roped in bad arenas, but a 35-foot score with big fresh fast steers is something I’ve only gotten to experience once in my life.”