In their first time roping together, Arizona's Chad Smith and Texas' Steve Purcella won the Priefert #14 World Series of Team Roping Finale from ninth callback after roping four head in 30.11 seconds, worth $178,000.
"Chad did a good job of sticking it on the horns and making it easy for me," Purcella, a PRCA world champion header and 14-time NFR qualifier, said. "I told him down the arena that I've been on both ends of it. There's a lot more to heading. I don't care what everybody says. The heeler gets all the glory but that header is the one that makes it all happen, I promise. I've been there and done it. It's a team event, not keep away."
Lucky for Purcella, Smith had help remembering how to handle steers.
"My wife (Shawn) was really good at reminding me today to just be smooth because I tend to be just a little bit over aggressive heading," Smith said. "I wash them out and don't help my heeler much."
After the duo roped their short round steer to move to the lead of the roping, World Series of Team Roping staff held them in the back alley to watch the last eight teams do battle for the number-one spot in the average. Some teams made decent runs and others slowly fell apart, but fortunately for Smith and Purcella none were quick enough to move them out of the lead.
"I wasn't really trying to watch it that much," Smith said. "I was just trying to soak it all it. Teams kept going out, kept going out, kept going out and Steve had more of a serious look on his face, which is hard to imagine. I didn't think it would ever happen in a #14 roping."
"Troy (Shelley) had us stand there in the back," Purcella added with a chuckle. "I told him, 'We aren't going to be here but only for a minute, but if I do have to stay here until it's over you can ride double with me.' But he wouldn't get on. I was really thinking we had a chance to win fourth or fifth probably when we roped, that's just how it goes—maybe worse or maybe better. It just was just our day I guess."
Smith was on a 17-year-old gelding, Rambler, that has only had about 400 steers roped on him in an arena despite the many roped out in the pasture. Smith runs a ranch in northern Arizona where they have raised horses for as long as he can remember. He even recalls that about 40 of the first AQHA horses ever registered came from that ranch.
"That horse is pretty special to me," Smith said with excitement. "He's just a cowboy horse. He's never been off of that ranch. I started roping on him and hauled him to his first World Series in one month of roping on him. A good buddy of mine that helps us out a little bit took him and has actually been rodeoing on him a little bit. Brock Hanson rode him for a little while, too. Then when Steve and I got hooked up I called and said I need to steal my head horse back because I need all the help I can get. To come here and be able to do that on that horse in such short of time is pretty amazing."
Purcella was on Cadillac, a little bay gelding that he owned about six years ago until he sold him to a close friend, who then traded him off which worked out in his favor.
"He came off of the Harrison ranch down there by Houston (Texas)," Purcella said. "I bought him initially to head on then I got to think that he really wasn't big enough, so I ended up selling him to my friend Mark Adams about two years ago. He ended up heading on him and rode him for a year or two and wasn't really getting along with him so he traded with Johnny Trotter because Johnny had a horse that he didn't really get along with. I guess he's really not mine. He belongs to Johnny now but he's never been on him. He's honest and lets you catch."
Purcella, who has rodeoed and roped for a living most of his life, got a job a few months ago at a feed yard in Hereford, Texas.
"You're never going to believe this, but I've never had a job until the first of May this year," Purcella said. "I manage a feed yard in Hereford, Texas. I get up at 4:30 a.m. every morning."
To help celebrate, Smith was accompanied by his wife Shawn and close friend Blaine Chapman. Purcella's wife and daughter unfortunately had to stay home for sports-related activities.
"My wife is probably my biggest fan," Smith said. "And my best old friend, Blaine Chapman, he came up to support me. I actually filled my rodeo permit with Blaine. I was 16 years old going to rodeos in Arizona."
For Purcella, the win is a bigger payday than he ever saw in ProRodeo.
"I'm pretty sure in '96, I'm not sure we won 100-grand the entire year," Purcella said. "Of course it's bigger and better now. Now we win $89,000, that's pretty cool to win it all in one day. They've done a great job over here. It's been a work in progress."
Purcella's acclaim in the professional heeling ranks may be limited, but he points out that he actually got to heel down on one at the NFR for none other than Kory Koontz after missing the horns on his first loop, back when there was a three-loop limit.
Smith plans to invest in a friends business and spoil his wife just a touch, while Purcella hadn't had a chance to let the win sink in enough to spend the money just yet. TRJ