It was such a letdown and disappointment that Jake got hurt, because he had the ball rolling out there in Las Vegas and he wasn’t going to be denied what he wanted. I think everyone knew that. It was disheartening to me for him to come up short due to an injury that is not supposed to happen to Jake Barnes. For me, I was just really broken-hearted. I was so devastated. I felt for him so much. I just couldn’t believe it. But then I got to thinking, “Man, who are we talking about here? This is Jake Barnes. This is the guy who has no quit. He’s going to be OK. I know Jake will be all right.”
Jake Barnes is a unique individual. He has so much character and personality. He’s just got so many qualities. He’s funny, he’s sensitive and thoughtful, he’s an absolute fanatic about competition, and he has the energy of 10 people combined into one body. All these things and so many more make Jake who he is. I don’t know of one person who doesn’t like him, and most everybody just loves him. He’s obviously been a very special part of my life, career-wise and personally. How Jake’s life has impacted mine is a deep subject. I could go on for days. There are so many great stories about the things Jake and I have been through over the years. I believe, without a shadow of a doubt, that Jake and I becoming partners, the success we had and the friendship we have is all by God’s design. The growth of team roping in this country-the explosion of this event all across the United States-and our success all went hand-in-hand. Jake’s larger than life, a legend, a hero and a teacher that only comes along by divine appointment. I’ll never forget the phenomenal year he had in 2005. I sat at home, along with everyone else, talking about his amazing year and how he was going to win another championship and pull it off. With the tenacity and driving will inside of him, you could just see that he was going to get it done. Everybody was on the ride with him.
I drove Jake’s rig home from the Finals. He left his phone in his jacket pocket when he left the arena for the hospital that night, and it ended up in the front seat of his truck. I drove five hours to Phoenix, and his phone rang non-stop the whole time. My phone rang non-stop, too, because people couldn’t get ahold of Jake. It was all people who care about him and had to know how he was doing. What it really showed me is what an impact on other people Jake has made throughout the years. There are just so many people who care about this guy. We sometimes take stuff like this for granted, because we travel so much and know so many people. That those people follow and care about us is such a neat thing to experience.
As much as I care about Jake, and as close as I’ve been to him for so many years, I was concerned for his mental state of mind when I went to see him at the hospital the morning after he got hurt. When I got there, Jake was tired. But he was upbeat and OK. That was good to see. I’ve been checking on him this week since it happened, and he’s doing good. He’s upbeat, and making plans for getting going again and getting back out there. He hasn’t wasted any time looking back. He’s looking ahead. We all want to see Jake get healed up as quickly as possible, get back out there, get rolling and do it like he does it-which is like nobody else. I want to see him back out there getting after it the way he always has.
The best young headers we have today are the kids who grew up watching Jake Barnes on TV in Las Vegas. Jake was the hero. The Tryan boys are a testimony to that. They ate and slept Jake Barnes videos and accomplishments. He’s inspired the next champions. And what’s so cool is that he’s competing for the same championship as the people he’s inspired. What does that say about Jake Barnes?
What’s pretty cool, too, is if you look back over the careers of some of the guys who are our age. When I look at guys like Jake and Allen (Bach), it amazes me. Jake has roped better than he’s ever roped in the last several years. He even commented on (their recent dvd) “The Journey” that he’s personally tried to keep up with roping and the changes that have been made, and that he’s tried to elevate his abilities and his style. He’s done that. Allen’s done it. I feel better than I’ve ever felt, too. It’s evident that Jake was about to win his eighth championship at 46 years old, and that he can still do it as good or better than anybody else. That says something for his love of the game, his work ethic and his willingness to go for it. As Jake goes on, he inspires me as he does others with his accomplishments. His whole life has been a series of accomplishments and successes.
Jake Barnes’ final chapter hasn’t been written yet. Jake is going to touch many more lives throughout the rest of his career and the rest of his life. The people who’ve been around him and know him, who’ve been able to experience Jake, have been blessed from it. I know I have. Not only that, Jake’s a genuine hero. He stands for what’s good. He’s a role model for the young people. If the last words people say about me are comparable to what I think about Jake Barnes, I will be more than satisfied. Because I look at him as my hero. STW