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Team Roping Gaining Popularity in Southeast
Morgan Co.’s Ben Lawrence Rounding Up Interest

By Susie Sims

Team Roper Ben Lawrence is always looking for a way to promote his favorite sport. Promotion is key since he lives in an area not known for its interest in rodeo events.

Team ropers Dale Corlew (l) and Ben Lawrence before a competition in Nevada.

     "Interest is growing," said Lawrence about team roping and other rodeo events. "I take every opportunity to tell folks about roping."

Lawrence, 36, lives in west Morgan County, just south of Danville, with Leslie, his wife of 15 years.

He has been team roping for nine years — three years with partner Dale Corlew of Burns, TN.

Ben Lawrence and his wife, Leslie.

For those of us who are not familiar with many rodeo events, Lawrence gave a brief description of team roping.

He said two riders make up the team — a header (Corlew) and a heeler (Lawrence).

The riders back into boxes and wait for the calf to leave the chute. Once he’s out, the riders can leave their boxes. The header ropes the steer first and turns him around, and then the heeler ropes the animal’s rear legs and stretches him out.

Lawrence said the entire process takes only a few seconds.

"Six or seven seconds and it’s over," he said. "Until the next one."

He said U.S. Team Roping events are progressive. Points are given for time earned on four steers.

"You have to rope the first steer to get to the second one, and so on," said Lawrence. "You miss and you’re done."

Show Me the Money

Thousands of competitors show up at each event hoping to get a piece of the winnings. Winning is how most of the competitors finance their trips to events.

Lawrence said prizes for first place at U.S. roping events average around $4,000. The World Series in Las Vegas boasts a purse of $150,000 for first place.

For Lawrence, trips to roping events happen almost every weekend.

"We travel to about 20 events every year," he said. "We also compete in about 30 jackpot events."

Jackpot events are local competitions held at smaller arenas. Entry fees are low compared to the large events and competitors don’t have to travel so far from home.

"The jackpot events are great for folks who work regular jobs and can’t get away or who just don’t want to travel far from home," said Lawrence. "They are also good training for ropers just starting out."

Heeler Ben Lawrence ropes a steer during the Muddy River Classic held February 24-26, 2006. Photo courtesy of Lone Wolf Photography, Kempner, TX

Lawrence said these smaller events are important because competitors earn points which contribute to their overall standing in the league.

To qualify for some of the larger events, ropers must earn a certain number of points. Otherwise, they must be invited to compete.

Of course, to get invited to a large event, a roper must be competing well.

Lawrence noted the invitation helps ropers who live in areas where qualifying events are limited.

"We have to travel hundreds of miles to compete," said Lawrence. "We may not get to earn as many points as those who live where events are held regularly."

Alabama Needs Indoor Arena

Lawrence said Alabama hosts only one U.S. Team Roping event each year in Montgomery. He said more events would be possible if the state had a climate-controlled facility large enough to house a roping event.

"In order to host a big event, we would need to have 700 to 1,000 stalls available to competitors," Lawrence said. "Many events easily have 1,000 horses at them."

Lawrence said many of the serious competitors will not travel to compete in an outdoor facility.

"Some of these folks come from a long way off," he said. "They can’t afford to travel hundreds of miles and then have it rain when they get there. With a climate-controlled facility, the competition goes on no matter what."

"This could be a big money-maker for the state," said Lawrence. "We could host more events if we had a proper facility."

Lawrence said he believes the sport could really take hold in the Southeast if more events were held in the region.

He said interest is picking up, though, and he expects the sport to grow in Alabama as interested children grow up in the sport.

Vegas Style

Lawrence and his partner traveled in December to Las Vegas, NV to compete in the World Series Team Roping event, which is held in conjunction with the National Finals Rodeo. He said this was his second appearance at the World Series.

"I had a lot of help going to the World Series," said Lawrence. "I could not have gone without the help of my sponsors."

His sponsors include Phil Gilliland of Chore-Time, Smith Poultry, Galen Grace and Lawrence County Exchange.

Lawrence said 250 teams from across the country were in Las Vegas for the event. One hundred fifty of them had to qualify to attend, the rest were invited.

He and Corlew were invited to participate.

Lawrence noted he has been blessed to participate in three of the world’s largest roping events in the past two years.

He has been to the Reno Rodeo Invitational, the U.S. Team Roping Championship Finals in Oklahoma City and the World Series of Team Roping in Las Vegas.

Good Products, Good Results

Lawrence is a loyal user of Co-op’s All Grain Performance 10% Horse Feed. He said his horses perform well on it and he gets good service from his local Co-op.

He trades at Lawrence County Exchange in Moulton. Store Manager Darrell Thompson is always ready to help with products and information, said Lawrence.

In addition to horse feed, Lawrence also depends on his local Co-op for horse stall bedding which makes daily maintenance not so unpleasant.

Facility Needed

Lawrence said he would like to urge anyone interested in roping and rodeo events to contact their local officials and state legislators and ask them to consider building a large, climate-controlled facility in Alabama.

"With a facility large enough to host a U.S. Team Roping event, we could encourage more folks to get involved with rodeo events in Alabama," said Lawrence. "Without a facility, the sport will not grow in our area."

Susie Sims is a freelance writer from Haleyville.


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Date Last Updated January, 2006