When Derrick Begay’s signature sorrel mount, Swagger, got hurt on the very last steer when they were running them through two days before the start of the 2021 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, we were all so sad. But Begay didn’t have time for tears. He knows the $13.3 million show must go on. Begay’s 18-year-old nephew stepped up with the offer of a buckskin mare he just bought from Colter Todd—you know, the NFR header who helped Uncle Derrick get here by heeling a few down for him at some of the fall rodeos this year. That nephew has a name—James Arviso—and you should know it, because in a blink he’ll be roping here at the Thomas & Mack, too.
The twist to this little team roping tale is that James had a big roping of his own here this week—the Gold Buckle Beer Open at the World Series of Team Roping Finale over at the South Point. He wasn’t aware of the NFR ground rule that does not allow horses used at the Thomas & Mack to do work anywhere else during the 10-day run of Rodeo’s Super Bowl.
So on Saturday, James saddled up his new purchase—the buckskin beauty’s name is Keta, she’s 7 and you watched her help Begay and Brady Minor win Round 2 in 3.9 on Friday night—to get ready to spin four steers for his friend Cooper Freeman at the Gold Buckle Beer Open. Lucky for him, NFR header and longtime Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association team roping event rep Garrett Tonozzi spotted the situation and broke the news to Arviso. Uncle Derrick didn’t even know about it.
“I’d never heard of that one (rule),” Begay grinned. “I called (Matt) Sherwood (the current PRCA team roping event rep, and world champion header who contributed $10,000 toward Derrick’s world heading standings this year by heeling for him at the 2021 American, where they won second and $10,000 a man), and he confirmed that it’s true.”
Alrighty then. James—family and friends call him JP, as he was named after his great grandfather, James Preston Begay—saddled his second new mare, Rihanna. JP’s the son of Derrick’s sister, Jamie, and her husband, John Arviso, by the way.
Fate stepped in with another fairytale finish. Riley Minor and Cory Petska won the Gold Buckle Beer Open and $77,000 after finishing 16th and 17th in the world heading and heeling standings, respectively. Second? You guessed it—Arviso and Freeman for $55,000!
As for Uncle Derrick, neither of the horses he brought from Arizona will see the bright lights of the Thomas & Mack this week.
“I haven’t had Swagger looked at yet, but I don’t expect him to be back in time to ride here,” Begay said. “The gray horse I brought to ride in the grand entry bucked off the kid who hauled him here for me, so he’s out, too. I guess I could have come to the NFR in a car.”