Living legend Jake Barnes and teen team roping sensation Jaylen Eldridge left a lot of jaws on the ground when they jumped out and won the first round at La Fiesta de los Vaqueros, which wrapped up last week in Tucson, Arizona. They were 5.5 for $3,490 a man. Ultimate warrior Jake, who’ll turn 63 on April 4, proved yet again that he’s still got it. And on the heels of 19-year-old Eldridge’s win at the Mike Cervi Memorial Roping with Jeff Flenniken, team ropers from two different generations gave the roping world plenty to buzz about.
It all started when Jake—who with wife Toni is currently living in Wittmann, Arizona—attended some slide ropings this winter, and asked young Eldridge to rope at one of them.
“I’d noticed that kid last year at the ACTRA Finals,” Jake said. “That boy ropes good. He was down here this winter helping Mike Fuller break in cattle and at the ropings, so we roped a little bit at the jackpots. I wanted to go to (the rodeos in) Yuma and Tucson, so I asked if he wanted to rope.”
Naturally, Eldridge was thrilled and the answer was yes.
“When Jake asked me to go to those two rodeos in Arizona, it was not even a second guess,” Jaylen said. “Jake’s been there, done that, scores sharp, rides a good horse and doesn’t miss. He’s a legend. My only job when I rope with Jake is to catch, and when I catch, we win money. Jake won first and second at that slide roping that day, and we placed at both rodeos we entered.”
Yes, Team Barnes-Eldridge went two-for-two and cashed checks at both Yuma, which ended February 13, and Tucson last week. Jake rode his yellow horse Mustard, and Jaylen his bay Stripper.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re in Tuscon, Arizona or Tupelo, Mississippi, winning’s always cool,” smiled Jake, who entered exactly one rodeo in 2021—the Oakdale (California) Saddle Club Rodeo—and placed there with his partner in seven-gold-buckles crime, Clay Cooper. “Clay and I talked about maybe going to Oakdale again this year, but we’re mostly concentrating on our roping schools now. It gives you the fever when you win something, but in reality, I’m not sure I’m cut out for that road anymore.”
Don’t be looking for an encore out of Jake and Jaylen. Jake and Clay are booked and busy with a full slate of roping schools, and Jaylen just doesn’t have much gypsy blood in him. Eldridge entered three rodeos last year. He filled his permit at the first one, in Redmond, Oregon, with Flenniken, roped at the California rodeos in Red Bluff and Clovis, and called it a rodeo year.
“I decided to stay around home (Nampa, Idaho),” said Jaylen, who’s the son of Marlow and Audrey Eldridge; Marlow and Mark Eldridge are brothers, which makes Jaylen and National Finals Rodeo bulldogger Dakota Eldridge first cousins. “I run yearlings with Jared Parke, and we stay busy taking care of calves and riding horses.
“I’ve kicked around going to a few more rodeos this year, but the plan for now is staying around home, then heading back to Arizona in about October. I don’t wake up in the morning craving driving. I hate driving.”
The sky’s the limit for this young cowboy. For now, he considers winning that round at Tucson the highlight of his roping career.
“Winning the Cervi was awesome,” Jaylen said. “But winning that first round at Tucson with Jake was the best so far for me. Nobody knows who I am. But everybody knows who Jake Barnes is. And it’s not every day you get to rope with a legend.”