The 2018 NFR felt a little like a first-time qualification for Derrick Begay, treating each run like it’s the first and last has been the mantra surrounding him. Derrick is competing as fierce as ever, but this year is different. Grateful for the opportunity back, Derrick’s perspective on the NFR and life in general has evolved more than ever.
“The past couple years in December hasn’t been too fun watching from home. Once I got here, [Vegas] it was exciting. Even knowing the routine from being here before, this year I may have been more nervous than I’ve ever been. Even a month out I was thinking about it. I hope I make it again, but I’m trying to cherish every moment while I’m here. Being able to rodeo and be at home has been a dream, but I realize it’s rare to accomplish.”
Though the WNFR may have not gone exactly the way they wanted, Begay and Petska have competed extremely well and struck three go round wins (3rd round, 7th, and 9th). No matter the outcome, Begay trusts it’s part of the Greater Plan.
“There are two steers in my career I wish I could have back and they both were with Cory. One is from the 2014 George Strait short round where I came back high call and one from the 6th round [2018 NFR], the round was easy, and I was at the bottom of the draw. But I believe there was a reason I missed them, I think there were lessons to be learned or maybe it was to make me stronger. You can ask why, or how come, but the truth is we’ll never know why those things happen.”
2018 had more than its fair share of ups and downs for Begay, but with the bad always came some good. One example was being able to be home for the majority of the rodeo season and getting wins with a great partner [Cory Petska] when they needed to, which is what Begay considers “the best of both worlds”. They didn’t even start rodeoing hard until after the fourth of July, and rodeoed almost solely on his one sorrel horse, Swagger, whom he has owned since 2007 and credits his qualification to. The NFR was never really part of the plan for 2018, but the fun part about the year was it happened.
“I’m sure enjoying it. Although I get here, and I realize I’m not doing anything much different than usual. It’s always been a dream and what I’ve come to find out is it’s a very hard one to have come true. It’s very rare to find yourself in the Top 15 of the world standings, especially under the circumstances of our rodeo season this year. I think before I took that part for granted. It gives me confidence, I got to thinking the other day, I must be okay if I made it here, but on the other hand if I can do it…anyone can!”
Begay credits a lot of his maturity of competing to his former partner, the Champ, Clay O’Brien Cooper.
“Champ has a big perspective. He doesn’t ride the highs and lows, he believes he is supposed to win what he is supposed to win and leaves it at that.”
Those that know Derrick well know he is not the evangelical type, not the loudest in the crowd, but know his relationship with his family and foundation in his faith is strong. In a sport that is evolving at what seems the speed of light with faster times, higher fees, and higher-tech equipment, it’s easy to get caught up in the wins, losses and qualifications. It’s easy to lose sight of what the real purpose of the sport is; to honor and celebrate the western way of life and enjoy a sport we are fortunate enough to participate in. Team Roping is something he loves and enjoys, but certainly does not define who he is.
“I want to rodeo and jackpot and be involved for the rest of my life. I’m addicted to competition and that’s something that isn’t ever going away. But as far as the level I’m competing at, I’m not worried about it, whatever comes my way will come. My career is being a cowboy, being around horses, tending to cattle and living the western lifestyle. Plus, I’m always looking for opportunities that go along with it, including the NFR.”
As for Derrick’s future, there are no plans to quit competing anytime soon.
“I’m sitting back and waiting to do whatever he calls on. I’m trusting God more than ever at this point in my life. He knows what I want to do even more so than I do, so whatever he brings I am trusting. I never have prayed to win or to draw the steer I want. I only pray for good health, happiness, and protection and only those things can come from him. It’s always an easier decision to be a bad guy, it takes work to be good and that’s what I’m getting guidance on and working towards every day.”
The NFR is the summit of accomplishment and emotion for everyone who covets the western way of life. Contestants’ wildest dreams both come true in the yellow arena and can also be crushed within seconds. It’s the heartbeat of the western industry pumping life into every artery and vessel associated. In the ten long days of fast-paced craziness, under the bright lights and thumping beats of Las Vegas, it’s nice to be reminded to step back, take a deep breath, and be in the moment. Something we can all learn from Derrick Begay, because after all, life is a series of moments that come and pass, never to be recreated.
We want to wish Derrick and Cory and all the team roping contestants the best of luck in 10th round of the 2018 NFR. We’ve enjoyed watching you compete and live out your dreams and leave you with this bit of wisdom from the article subject himself.
“Life and rodeo are all a journey. When seeking guidance, lay down a prayer. Look out for the opportunities that will be presented some will be good, but also be aware of the bad. Be quiet and listen and you’ll know where you’re being led.” – Derrick Begay
Innovation and leadership are at the core of Classic Rope’s DNA. Since 1986, Classic Rope has pursued to technologically advance the team rope to improve quality, feel, and performance, helping ropers compete and reach their greatest potential.
Classic ropes are individually made to order using the latest blends of high tech nylon and polyester fibers. We take great pride in our superior craftsmanship and competitive edge our ropes offer the athletes that use them. Innovation is a catalyst for improving the way we do business and an opportunity that’s been integrated with every phase of the rope production process. We are committed to making the sport better for all ropers with investments in associations, events, and clinics to spur positive changes and advancements benefiting ropers around the globe.
Evolution of Classic Rope
Beginning as a small start-up shop in Granbury, TX with a humble launch in the late 80’s, we recognized early on an opportunity within the fragmented rope production market. Most team ropes in that period were “coil ropes” and the majority of the 32 rope companies operating at that time bought rope from an industrial rope manufacturer and made 600-foot, pre-waxed, nylon strand coil ropes. These coils had to be solar aged for a year or longer until they were suitable for competition. After the ropes had cured, rope companies branded them and sold them as their own. Ropers had to shop locally from either a roper that had a distributorship or at regional team roping events. Ropes were not carried in stores like today, and there was not a variety of selection.
Classic ropes were made differently from the beginning by using horizontal machines to make ropes in specific, ready-to-tie lengths. They were spun before they were waxed leaving the rope with a crisp, fast feel that set the rope’s memory and body overnight literally taking an entire year of sun curing out of the equation. Classic ropes were tied within days of being made and could be used immediately. The first Classic Rope was the Classic Gold, a neutral colored nylon rope.
The Money Maker
An early turning point for Classic Rope was the creation of the Money Maker in 1987. After an opportunity to try some overrun polyester from a supplier, it was spooled into a rope, and after rigorous tweaking and testing, the Money Maker was born. It was the first nylon/poly rope on the market and the first rope that wasn’t a neutral tone having a green hue. The Money Maker was revolutionary not only because of its unique color, but because when the poly was added to the nylon, it allowed for the rope to have a smaller diameter, but kept a good weight. The poly also deadened the nylon, so the Money Maker had more tip weight, resulting in an overall more user-friendly, balanced rope providing a never-before-felt “feel” which quickly became the preference of professionals and amateur ropers alike.
The Sport of Team Roping
The landscape of team roping in the 1980’s looked vastly different than it does today and was not an organized sport. Pockets of team ropers across the country competed in grass root/ backyard events. There was no unifying association or classification system, so most of the events were “open” to anyone who wanted to enter. Depending on geographic location, some jackpots had open, junior or senior mixed (team must include a woman or youth), and 40+ divisions. If ropings had a handicap system, it was based solely on opinion and could vary greatly from region to region. Team roping was offered at rodeos, but not always, and rodeos were not required to add equal money to the purse of the event. During this time, we did see the production of major jackpot events geared toward the now classified, “open roper”, at the likes of the Bob Feist Invitational and the George Strait Team Roping Classic. While new events offered a great opportunity for the professionals, there was a major void for a place for the amateur and beginning roper to compete, therefore the overall number of active ropers across the nation was low and a direct correlation of the lack of opportunity.
This made a high demand for a unifying team roping association, which resulted in the formation of the United States Team Roping Championships in 1989. The USTRC implemented a revolutionary classification system providing an opportunity to every roper at any skill level or age to compete against likely skill leveled competitors, changing the sport forever. We saw the growth opportunity the USTRC was offering the sport of team roping and jumped at the chance to get behind the organization in form of sponsorship. In addition to the sponsorship of the USTRC, we started marketing our ropes to the consumer through ads in publications like the Pro Rodeo Sports News and Roper Sports News. Not only were we pioneers in event sponsorship, we took to investing in professional team roping endorsers and were the first to put a “patch” on professionals. We were also the first to utilize tail tags as a branding tool indicating the type, length, and lay of each specific rope opposed to other rope companies’ methods of handwritten information on rope burners.
As the sport grew, the roping population exploded. Events began to pay more money, competition became tougher, and the times and setups got faster. Professional ropers now had the opportunity to make additional income by instructing roping clinics across the United States and even abroad. We continued to grow our investment and started taking our ropes to markets and trade shows, and over time, store owners began to stock our ropes, increasing overall availability nationwide. Team roping today as a sport makes up the largest demographic within the western industry, resulting in the advancement of our technology, manufacturing processes, machinery, and equipment. We have changed how we made our ropes to accommodate ropers’ requests for preference in feel, body, rope size, and tip weight.
In 1996 Rattler Rope become a sister company to Classic Rope. Investments in new machinery and technology in 1997 allowed for the production process of raw fiber, giving us complete control of every step in the rope making process. For over two decades, we have dedicated ourselves to mastering the art of raw fiber conversions and pride ourselves in being innovators of design and technology.
Technology and Growth
Guidance was sought from outside engineers to improve machines and ensure accuracy and precise specifications needed for each rope’s feel and performance. Ken Bray (CEO), Craig Bray (Chief Operations Officer), George McQuain (Rope Production Manager), and Dallas Clay (Fiber Production Manager) were instrumental in researching and testing nylon and polyester fibers twisted in various styles of construction and makeup to accommodate different needs for styles and performance. Ropes are about feel, which is difficult to learn and teach. Craig, George, and Dallas were making ropes in the early years, and today are invaluable to this process. They have been with the company since the beginning and to put simply- have an amazing feel for ropes. See George and Craig here presenting the new NXT4 and NXT5 last year to our expectant pros. Each new product is tested in every climate, every situation, to make necessary adjustments needed to ensure performance in any season and at all levels of competition.
Classic Rope Shop Talk – what makes our different?
Programmable Logic Controller (PLC)– people run it; makes the machine the most consistent on the market
Human Machine Interface (HMI)- people watch it; enables the operator to receive messages informing of any inconsistencies that might come up
Operator Interface Terminal (OIT)– people adjust it; touchscreen allows the operator to adjust the rope tension by a simple touch of a button
Variable Frequency Drives (VFD)– people quality check; plays an important part in fine-tuning the machine
Human Engineered– uses people direct drive gearboxes instead of conventional style
New high technology fibers used in other textile industries were tested and implemented to designs giving ropes an enhanced “sweet spot” in the loop making for an easier, faster, balanced, stable, and smoother swing.
You can expect a Classic rope to be:
Help you reach further
Feel the tip better
Improve the accuracy of delivery
Open to the target
Close fast to prevent wave offs
Have guided tip delivery
A weighted bottom strand that goes to the ground in front of the feet
In 1998 the XR4 was introduced with the patented designed CoreTech™ technology. This was the first nylon four strand team rope with a core. The Powerline Lite followed in 2000 and was the first poly/nylon blended rope with a core and was followed by a series of new ropes, each one different from the next, not only by color but by material make and fiber blend. At our core, is vowing that every new rope introduced is always uniquely different from all the others and fits a specific need for feel and roping style.
Restoration and Expansion
As the western industry grew and flourished, Classic Rope and Rattler Rope followed suit. The Highway 51 rope production facility in Granbury would be added onto nine times before a tragic fire would burn it to the ground early in the morning on November 30, 2015. The fire would be recorded as one of the largest in Hood County history and despite the valiant efforts of firefighters, everything was destroyed. As ashes were still smoldering, plans were made to rebuild immediately. All employees of the facility were promised no loss in pay over the holiday season and immediately began the clean-up. The results of the investigation of the start of the fire were deemed inconclusive.
After only seven months, rope production commenced in a temporary facility and construction on the new, state of the art, climate-controlled, rope production facility would begin in the new location of Stephenville, TX. Mid summer 2016, we were able to produce only Heat’s and GT4’s for the first time. The new, 98,000 sq. ft. ‘rope shop’ would be fully operational by Fall of 2017. Under the leadership of Craig, Ken, George, and Dallas; 53 employees can produce 34 different types, blends, and fiber constructions used in the 1,800-2,000 ropes made each day.
More so than production, Classic Rope has invested in and supported the industry to not only grow in the United States but to expand team roping and the western industry globally. It has been our greatest honor to have had a hand in helping clinicians, team roping producers, junior rodeo, and team roping associations grow to what they are today. The youth is the industry’s future. Together with our sponsored associations, employees, ambassadors, and clinician partners- we encourage kids to get involved and active with a horse early on, helping them realize their full potential.
More valuable than our ropes are the hands that make them. We are a unique group of individuals actively involved in the sport and with horses, daily. We are a team of driven individuals, more dedicated and passionate about the industry than you can find anywhere else with the united belief that everything we do today, can be improved upon tomorrow. This philosophy runs deep throughout our culture and our desire to improve and advance our technology is what keeps us on top.
We are leaders. We are innovators. We are competitors. We are Classic.
We would like to thank you, our valued customers, for trusting us. It is through your success, we love to make ropes.
“The Daddy” is over and all the cowboys are dispersed among the Great Plains this week. Many are in Kansas entered at Dodge City, Phillipsburg, Hill City, and Abiliene. Sydney, IA and Great Falls, MT are also on the schedule among several others. With roughly eight weeks left in the regular season, it is crunch time for these cowboys on the road seeking the golden ticket to the Thomas and Mack. See who is rising to the top: