There’s an already notorious new team in town, and in addition to two tons of talent, Luke Brown and Paul Eaves have another advantage in their arsenal. It’s the Allen Bach Factor, and you have to go way back to trace the roots of this impactful phenomenon.
Eleven years ago, in the fall of 2007—when Luke was 33 and hadn’t yet qualified for his first of 11 straight Wrangler National Finals Rodeos, and Paul was just a 17-year-old kid who wasn’t even old enough to purchase his Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association permit—Allen had an idea on how to help a few boys with a roping dream become men making an honorable living at it.
Allen and his wife, Peggy, hosted a month-long roping camp at their place in Millsap, Texas, for 12 boys under 21 years of age, with the mission of helping make good cowboys—and good men—of them. To back up a bit, Paul—who just won his first world championship with Clay Smith after they set an annual team roping earnings record of $289,921 in 2018—grew up in Lonedell, Missouri. He started roping when he was 12, and made a meteoric rise to 8 status. Then he got stuck.
“There are people who love to rope where I grew up, but not a lot of them,” said Paul, who’s 28 now and will turn 29 on February 10. “I roped a lot when I was a kid, and progressed pretty fast. I was an 8 heeler when I was 14 or 15, but then I got to a point where I wasn’t getting any better, no matter how hard I worked at it.
“I went to a two- or three-day roping Bible camp in Graham, Texas, and Allen was one of the instructors. My mom (Joyce) took me, and there were 40-50-60 kids there. I was eating it up, and soaking it all in. I got to explaining to Allen how I’d plateaued, and was frustrated about it. He told me, ‘Hey, come see us and rope with us.’ He told me he’d help me any way he could, and I took it to heart. I called him, and asked if me and my dad (Russ) could come stay and rope for a few days. He said yes, so we went to his house in March. It was so cool.”
The Bach-Eaves connection was made, and led to Paul being on the guest list for that month-long roping camp in October of 2007. That’s where Brown—a native of Rock Hill, South Carolina, who had recently moved to Texas to live with his friend Chad Masters—entered the equation. Luke was on the labor list at that camp.
“In my mind, how that all happened was all God,” said Paul, who today lives in Millsap—where this story started—with his wife, Amanda, and their little girl, LoElla, who’ll turn 2 on May 8 and is expecting a baby brother on April 23. “It was meant to be. Allen helped me a lot in those three days in March. I knew I needed to be around him more, and had a lot to learn.
“At that month-long camp, Luke showed up every morning, fed the steers, and worked the arena. Then he turned steers for everybody all day long. If your header in the camp missed, Luke would get in there and turn you one. As a kid, it was pretty cool to get to rope with a guy I looked up to like that.”
Luke finished 37th in that year’s 2007 world standings, before roping at his first Finals the following year with Jade Corkill. As that camp was coming to a close, Paul slipped off to a roping and fate stepped in again when the axle fell off of a trailer he’d won earlier that year at another roping. Paul didn’t have the money to fix it, so he stayed with the Bachs—two more years.
“That was God again,” Paul said. “I’d become buddies with Joel (Allen and Peggy’s oldest son), and he was heading for me a lot there at the house. Allen’s roping shoulder was giving him a hard time, so he said if I’d help keep his horses ridden I could stay. I lived in their house the first few months, then several of us kids rented a little two-bedroom place in Millsap. But we roped at the Bachs’ every day.”
“It’s fun to see this circle come all the way around with Luke and Paul roping together like this,” said four-time World Champion Heeler Allen, who won his gold buckles in 1979, 1990, 1995, and 2006, and owns the record for most NFR team roping qualifications with 30. “Back in 2007, when Luke first showed up, he’d had a little heck in his life, and when I needed a partner to finish out that fall, Chad offered his horses to Luke to head for me. It was designed for us to rope together a very short time, but it turned into so much more.”
Guest instructors at Allen’s month-long camp, who voluntarily came by to lend a little wisdom a day or two at a time, included Jake Barnes and Clay O’Brien Cooper, Trevor Brazile and Patrick Smith, Clay Tryan, Kory Koontz and Stran Smith.
“Those guys talked to the kids about everything from roping to taking care of horses and business, partnerships and the importance of showing up on time—everything it takes to be successful when you rope for a living,” Allen remembers with a smile.
“I’ll never be able to repay Allen for that month-long camp, even though I was just there to help out,” said Luke, who at 33 at the time was twice the age of a lot of the kid campers. “Those guys we all looked up to told us their testimonies, and the reasons why they are who they are—that there’s a rhyme and a reason to their success, and a foundation you need to live by. It sure put a different perspective on my life, and I’m very thankful for it to this day.
“That’s also where I met Paul, who was the first one to the arena and the last one to leave—every day. It’s pretty cool that we got put through the same program, and now here we are today—partners. Paul and I both learned how to do it by the book, and thanks to Allen.”
What led Luke to that camp was that Chad Masters-matched stint with Allen leading up to that fall.
“I’d been rodeoing with York Gill, and staying in Stephenville that year,” Luke remembers well. “After Cheyenne, York went to finish school. Al pretty much had the Finals made, so Chad got us together to finish out that fall. Our first rodeo was Abilene, Kansas, the first week of August, and I roped with Allen through Pendleton the middle of September. That time with Allen was one of the best months of my life. Every morning we’d go eat breakfast, and Allen explained the whole Book of John to me from the Bible in redneck terms, so I could really understand it.
“The roping part was great—the mechanics of team roping, and the winning side of things he taught me. But that time together was priceless to me. That was the start of some really good professional team roping advice I’ve gotten from Allen, and the start of a very, very good friendship.”
Meanwhile, a few short months after that life-changing camp, Paul had the first huge hit of his team roping career, when he won the Wildfire Open to the World Roping—to the tune of $50 grand a man—in Salado, Texas, on the eve of his 18th birthday with Tennessee’s Kelsey Parchman, who was 19 at the time.
The Allen Bach Factor has kicked in time and time again in the last 11 years. It’s never let up, and Luke and Paul are so thankful for that.
“Allen’s been a big part of my life,” Luke said. “He’s been very good to me, and not just when it comes to roping. We prayed for the right woman in my life, I found Lacy, and Allen approved—partly because she was a good shot at basketball, I think.”
Allen actually married Luke and Lacy on November 5, 2011. It was the first wedding he’d ever officiated, and he was more than a little nervous about it. But Luke would not take no for an answer. And it was amazing. Luke and Lacy now live in Lipan, Texas, with their little girl, Libby, who turned 5 on January 23, and are just 15 minutes from Paul, Amanda and LoElla, which makes practice and play dates a breeze.
Allen and Peggy live in Marble Falls now, between Llano and Austin. But Allen’s still always a phone call or text away—including during the run of the NFR, where at times the simplest reminder from a guy who’s basically been in every possible scenario comes in handiest. The new team of Brown and Eaves—you know, the one with all that cool, old, camp-mates history—has enlisted their old friend Bach for continued fine-tuning.
“Allen helped me get started on the right foot,” Paul said. “At 17, he taught me lessons that otherwise might have taken me awhile to learn, like never badmouth your partner behind his back. If you have a problem with him, go straight to him. And when you go to someone’s house to rope, rake the box and work the chute until they tell you to get on your horse. Allen never got anything from all of us kids he helped. He helped us out of the goodness of his heart.
“I know I can always call Allen, and that he has my best interest at heart. There’s no hidden agenda, and he’s going to help me the best he can. Allen has a God-given gift. He’s a coach more than anything. He can watch us rope, and take a good header and a good heeler, and make them a great team. He knows how to pull it all together, and he’s very humble with his advice. In December, he called me the morning of the first round of the Finals, just to say he was thinking of me. All I was thinking about was that first steer at the Finals, and him sharing things that had helped him over the years really helped me. I read the Bible verses he sent me when I was riding around before we roped every night.
“I’ve learned so much from Allen, but the most important thing is about keeping my priorities straight. Allen is big on God first, then family, then roping. There are a lot of ups and downs in roping, so if that’s #1 to you, you’ll be up and down all the time. Keeping my priorities straight, and remembering that roping is really small in the grand scheme of eternity really helps with my perspective. I remember that roping is really no big deal, then I work on what I need to fix. Without the right perspective and the right outlook, you’re stuck. Allen helped me get that.”
Luke and Paul have enlisted Coach Allen to come to some of their practice sessions packing constructive criticism for what they can do better.
“I talk to Allen about the whole, big picture,” Luke said. “I’ll call him and say, ‘Remind me about this or that.’ Our talks and texts during the NFR are priceless to me. The fundamentals of the NFR never change—whoever catches the most steers and ropes the sharpest wins the most. That part will never change, and Allen coaches me through every scenario. He knows how to set a game plan. That’s what he’s going to help Paul and me do, too.”
Coach Bach feels blessed to answer those calls.
“Luke and Paul are two of the best guys in the world,” Allen said. “They’re already a top-three team, but what can we do to make sure they’re the best team they can be? I don’t know anyone who hasn’t had to recreate himself at one time or another in his career, and this is a big opportunity for Luke and Paul as a new team.
“Everybody knows I’m a huge basketball fan, so I’ll use the analogy of Steve Nash. He was playing for the Dallas Mavericks, then got traded to the Phoenix Suns. He was already an amazing franchise player, but that whole summer after being traded he pushed himself so hard, and didn’t take the summer off, like everyone else. By the time he opened the next season on his new team, he was even better than he was before.
“Steve Nash was named that year’s MVP. It was so cool, and such a testament to his character. Instead of being mad, and throwing his sucker in the dirt for being traded off, he pulled up his big-boy britches and went to work while other guys were resting, and took it up another notch. That’s the opportunity I see for Luke and Paul with their new team, and amazingly, they’re giving me a voice in helping that happen. It’s pretty cool to be trusted like that.”
Allen Bach’s role in the Book of Luke and Paul is much like that of living legend Larry Bird, a hall of fame basketball player who went on to an amazing coaching career that included NBA Coach of the Year honors.
“Even without any adjustments, I believe Luke and Paul will be a top-three team,” Allen said. “But I really believe that with some tiny tweaks, they’ve got what it takes to be THE team. I’ve watched and rubbed shoulders with the best of them in my career. Jake Barnes lived with Peggy and me the first three years of his career. I’ve rarely seen anyone match Jake’s work ethic. But I saw Luke rope 100 steers a day—50 in the morning with Patrick Smith, then 50 in the afternoon with Martin Lucero—for five years. No one’s going to outwork Luke or Paul.
“Luke and Paul have proven they can work harder. Now let’s work smarter. Let’s practice as smart as we do hard. Let’s break it down from the back of the box when Luke nods his head to the end of the run, and take it to a whole new level. Sometimes, a tiny tweak makes a big difference. That Luke and Paul value my opinion means a lot. I’m so proud of them, and it’s pretty special to get a text that says, ‘What do we do now, Big Al?’ How cool is that?”