In team roping in the 21st century, only Hall-of-Famers Jake Barnes and Tee Woolman have claimed as many NFR average titles as Luke Brown, so it seemed only a matter of time before the King of Consistency came tight on a win at the sport’s most prestigious six-round Open contest – the Bob Feist Invitational.
Brown had been close before, having placed second here in the past, but finally got the win with Jake Long during the event’s 40th anniversary on June 19 in Reno, Nev. Brown’s half of their $120,000 paycheck made him the third all-time money leader in BFI history behind gold-buckle greats Clay Tryan and Rich Skelton. He’s come a long way since heeling at his first BFI for Jason Tucker in 1998.
“This is my favorite roping of all-time; it always has been,” said Brown, of Morgan Mill, Texas. “As a little kid growing up out there in South Carolina, I was hooked on the 1987 BFI tape.”
Brown, 42, and Long, 33, were sponsored at the BFI by All Nations Oilfield Services and Ystaas Electric Service, and both represent Wrangler and Purina. Brown has long been a Classic Rope endorsee, and Long is a Cactus team member.
The first round saw them draw arguably the fastest steer in Reno. But with a seemingly triple-digit speed index, Brown’s sorrel gelding Cowboy let the pair come tight in an impressive 7.8. By the time they notched their no-nonsense 7.5 in Round Three, Brown and Long’s penchant for daily practice sessions and entering local six-head jackpots over the past two years became obvious (they live just 5 miles apart in Texas).
After four picture-perfect runs of seven seconds and change, Brown and Long were in the driver’s seat, with Long’s best friend Coleman Proctor and Billie Jack Saebens right on their heels. Only 25 teams would get four steers down, as the leaders waited an agonizing two hours to be almost the last team to nod for their fifth steer. It would be their fastest run all day – a 6.87 – to nail down high call.
In the short round, Oregon cowboys Colton Campbell and Jason Duby did what they could with a 7.4-second effort, but were already spotting the next two teams a couple of seconds. At the second call-back, Proctor ran to the hip and applied a beautiful handle while Saebens dallied on the steer’s first hop for an 8.0 to take the lead. Brown and Long just had to be 9 seconds flat to win the BFI. The got the flag in 7.6, giving them a six-head time of 44.7 to easilywin the average.
Proctor was the first one to ride over and congratulate Long, who’s from Coffeyville, Kan. The lifelong buddies have roped together professionally five seasons out of the past 10 years and couldn’t have been happier to “one-two” the oldest, most prestigious roping around. Saebens hails from the same north-Oklahoma region as Proctor, where he trains for Dixon Flowers Roping Horses.
Dixon Flowers got its own nod of recognition when 12-year-old Domino Lena (“Kevin”), the black gelding ridden by Saebens, won Heel Horse of the BFI. Fittingly, Proctor’s 16-year-old sorrel gelding, Like A Cat (“Carmine”), won Head Horse of the BFI.
“He’s little, but he’s mighty,” said Proctor, who bought the horse from Speed Williams with the help of his friend Shane Boston. “This horse is the only reason I made the NFR. He has so much try.”
Just as Proctor and Saebens were savoring their $84,000 win and collecting their custom-made bronze horse-award trophies on the arena floor, an excited fan walked up flourishing some money. It was a hundred-dollar bill he’d had them sign in December at the NFR, and he’d carried it all the way to Reno to have them both autograph it again.
The scene played almost like they were world champions – which is understandable considering the BFI level of difficulty is so far up there that finishing at or near the top feels a bit like winning the world. Jake Long, who has also won the George Strait Team Roping Classic, said the BFI’s old-school 18-foot scoreline and one-day format is more difficult because it’s so mentally draining. Brown agreed.
“A lot of headers better than me have never won this,” Brown marveled. “It’s hard!”
Making it easier were both their horses. Long’s 13-year-old gelding, Zans “Colonel” Shine, is the reigning PRCA/AQHA Heel Horse of the Year because he’s perfect in any situation from the NFR to the BFI.
“This horse will let me go throw fast all day and then track until the fifth hop if I want,” said Long. “He’s so cool here because the heel box feels really short, like you’re sitting right next to the steer. But that horse will not wiggle until I’m ready to leave, so I can score with Luke. It’s crucial to be able to let the steer run straight here.”
A head horse always makes or breaks BFI hopes, and Luke’s horse Texas Tallman (“Cowboy”) was given most of the credit by both partners.
“I will never own another horse that fast,” said Brown of the former barrel horse that he found through Chad Masters. “I’m lucky to ride him here. He tore a flexor tendon a few years ago and was given a 10 percent chance of coming back.”
Fortunately, stem cell therapy and a year off provided a 100 percent recovery for Cowboy.
“That horse makes it easy here,” said Brown. “If I get a good start and catch the cow, that’s always fast enough. The confidence I have in him motivates me to do it that way. I’ve been here and rode slower horses and been more aggressive and it’s never worked.”
Cowboy’s ability to mow down even the hardest runners meant Long never had to throw fast. In fact, knowing they only had to catch their last steer in 9 seconds might have been more difficult than if they’d just needed a six-second run.
“I’m not known for throwing my rope conservatively,” Long laughed. “I’ve really worked on those situations.”
The single biggest contributor to their win could be Long’s scoring and hazing finesse.
“Jake’s real good about not leaving early,” said Brown. “We like the idea of leaving at the same time, so he scores with me. If a steer ends up stepping right, well, that’s the way it goes. But we do that rodeoing, too – try to keep them all straight.”
In the end, it’s no surprise these two took home the first-place paycheck and loads of prizes including BFI-customized Coats saddles, Gist buckles, and Best Ever pads, plus Justin full-quill ostrich boots, Bex Sunglasses, Yeti coolers and other retail certificates.
They have an easy-going relationship; typically ribbing each other between runs about a handle or whether Long “tracked” their steer. But the two men couldn’t have any more confidence in each other.
“Luke is unflappable in any situation,” said Long. “I have not an ounce of doubt about what he’ll do. Knowing he’s not going to mess up makes it simple to do my job.”
Complete results from the 2017 Bob Feist Invitational:
First Round: 1. Zane Barnson and Cole Wilson, 6.68 seconds, $8,000; 2. Jake Barnes and Tyler Worley, 6.81, $6,000; 3. Charly Crawford and Joseph Harrison, 7.06, $4,000; 4. Paul David Tierney and Levi Tyan, 7.15, $2,000.
Second Round: 1. Kolton Schmidt and Dugan Kelly, 5.03 seconds, $8,000; 2. Billy Bob Brown and Logan Medlin, 5.71, $6,000; 3. Dale Benevides and Buck McCay, 5.76, $4,000; 4. Trey Blackmore and Jordan Olson, 5.82, $2,000.
Third Round: 1. Riley Minor and Brady Minor, 4.92 seconds, $8,000; 2. Lane Ivy and Buddy Hawkins, 5.20, $6,000; 3. Clay Smith and Paul Eaves, 5.72, $4,000; 4. Chad Masters and Travis Graves, 5.94, $2,000.
Fourth Round: 1. Dustin Bird and Russell Cardoza, 4.80 seconds, $8,000; 2. Kelsey Parchman and Chase Tryan, 4.89, $6,000; 3. Garrett Rogers and Jake Minor, 4.94, $4,000; 4. J.D. Yates and Rafael Paoliello, 5.31, $2,000.
Fifth Round: 1. Steven Duby and Taylor Duby, 4.65 seconds, $8,000; 2. Derrick Begay and Kyle Lockett, 4.81, $6,000; 3. Chad Masters and Travis Graves, 4.90, $4,000; 4. Dustin Bird and Russell Cardoza, 5.25, $2,000.
Wrangler/Priefert Short Round: 1. Jeff Flenniken and Wyatt Hansen, 5.76 seconds, $4,000; 2. Jake Barnes and Tyler Worley, 6.64, $3,000; 3. J.B. James and Brock Hanson, 6.87, $2,000; 4. Colton Campbell and Jason Duby, 7.45, $1,000.
Aggregate: 1. Luke Brown and Jake Long, 44.70 seconds on six steers, $120,000; 2. Coleman Proctor and Billie Jack Saebens, 46.23, $84,000; 3. Colton Campbell and Jason Duby, 47.27, $56,000; 4. Jake Barnes and Tyler Worley, 50.11, $33,000; 5. Travis Bounds and Jesse Sheffield, 51.44, $21,000; 6. Dan Williams and Caleb Twisselman, 52.18, $16,000; 7. Chase Wiley and Martin Lucero, 52.41, $14,000; 8. Hayes Smith and Cesar de la Cruz, 53.01, $11,500; 9. JB James and Brock Hanson, 55.51, $10,000; 10. Jeff Flenniken and Wyatt Hansen, 56.87, $9,000; 11. Chant DeForest and Bronc Boehnlein, 61.93, $9,000; 12. Tom Richards and Tyler McKnight, 40.75 on five, $9,000; 13. Brandon Beers and Jim Ross Cooper, 43.29, $7,000; 14. Tyler Wojceichowski and Krece Harris, 45.3, $7,000; 15. Riley Minor and Brady Minor, 47.84, $7,000.