Ben Johnson Steer Roping to regain invitational status

Mike ErwinJournal-Capital

The 2016 Ben Johnson Memorial Steer Roping will go retro for its 63rd-annual go rounds at the Osage County Fairgrounds.

After testing the market as a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association-sanctioned event last spring, the BJMSR will return to its longtime “invitational” format this season. The roping competition is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. on Saturday, June 18, in the fairgrounds’ outdoor arena.

Around three dozen of the world’s best steer-tripping cowboys have been selected to take part in the event, which is to be sponsored by the Osage County Cattlemen’s Association as part of its 82nd-annual convention. Since 1954, the BJMSR has been held in memory of the father — and namesake — of the late cowboy actor, Ben Johnson. Fittingly, the roping is held over the Father’s Day weekend.

Another high-level steer roping, the Shoat Webster Classic, will take place Sunday, June 19, at the Bar K Arena southwest of town. Sponsored by the Osage Steer Roping Club, the $5,000-added money event will begin at 10 a.m. and include three levels of competition.

The 2015 Ben Johnson field included more than 90 ropers. PRCA veteran Ora Taton, an Oklahoma native who now resides in South Dakota, won the “open” competition. Chance Gasperson of Decatur, Texas, placed second and Barnsdall’s Thomas Smith, who went on to be named PRCA’s Steer Roping Rookie of the Year, finished third.

Smith’s father, Tom Smith, also was a top-10 finisher in last year’s BJMSR. Even more incredible is the fact that the elder Smith earned the pro rodeo association’s Steer Roping ROY honors for 2014. Jay Sellers of Waurika was fourth, overall, at the 2015 roping (he also tied the fastest steer of the day at 10.9 seconds) and former three-time world champion Rocky Patterson of Pratt, Kan., placed fifth. Pawhuska ropers Chet Herren, Cody Garnett and Shorty Garten also were among the top-10 finishers at last year’s Johnson Memorial roping competition.

Academy Award-winning actor Ben Johnson was born on Osage County’s Chapman-Barnard Ranch, where his father worked many years as ranch foreman. The elder Johnson earned numerous roping championships in his lifetime and his son won a 1953 world title for team roping. Ben (Son) also competed in several of the early memorial ropings. The arena which hosts the event is unofficially named for the younger Johnson, who died in 1996.

Last Saturday and Sunday, the Osage Steer Roping Club held its annual Ed Goad Memorial roping at the Bar K. Results from the event were unavailable at press time., however. Buckle winners at the OSRC’s Ted Wells Memorial roping on April 23-24, included Chet Herren in the A Division, Scott McCornack for the B level and Nick Simmons in the C Class. At a May 14-15 roping the OSRC sponsored in Coleman, Okla., the first-place A Division buckle went to Patterson, with Brad Prater of Skiatook placing first in Class B and local rookie Ryan O’Rourke winning the C title.

Several of this year’s OSRC Saturday ropings — including the Ted Wells and Ed Goad events — are being co-sanctioned by the American Cowboys Rodeo Association. Barnsdall’s Matt Garrett won the A division’s third go at the Wells Memorial and local roper Joey Bills placed second in that event’s second B-level round.

Recent steer roping results include:

— Patterson (10.7 seconds), Herren (10.9) and Guy Allen (9.9) were the three go-round winners at the Will Rogers Stampede, held May 27-29 in Claremore. Ryan O’Rourke tied 18-time world champion Allen for fourth in round two and Pawhuska native Brady Garten finished third in round three. The average leaders were Patterson (first place, with 37.7 seconds on three runs), 2014 Ben Johnson-winner Vin Fisher Jr. of Andrew, Texas, placed second and Thomas Smith was third.

— at the Nowata Steer Roping on May 6,Tom Smith won the first go with Herren second, Brad Mohon third and Kelly Casebolt fourth. The second-round winner was Thomas Smith, Brad Prater of Skiatook second, Casebolt third and Bills fourth. Cole Wilson placed first in the third go, with Keith Swan getting second, Casebolt third and Herren, fourth. Casebolt won the average title (37.72 seconds), edging out Herren (38.03), with Brad Starks taking third and Zac Parrington getting fourth.

— Pawhuska’s Rod Hartness, the Ben Johnson champ from 1998, won an April 16 steer roping in Welch. Hartness finished second to Shorty Garten in the second go and nipped John Wayne Giles (32.19 seconds to 32.55) for the average.

— the American Cowboys Rodeo Association standings through the end of May show Shorty Garten in first place, Casebolt ranked second, Garrett in third, with Hartness holding fourth place and Herren sitting fifth.

— the latest PRCA standings have J. Tom Fisher of Andrews, Texas, in first, with Patterson second and Scott Snedecor of Fredericksburg, Texas, in third. Vin Fisher Jr. of Andrews, Texas, is fourth. Eighth, overall, is Cody Lee of Gatesville, Texas, the Ben Johnson champ of 2012-13. Allen, the 1988 Johnson winner out of Santa Anna, Texas, is in 11th place. Guy Allen is the older brother of Pawhuska Fire Chief Gip Allen. who won the Ben Johnson title in 1994 and 2005. Herren is No. 14 in the standings and 1992 BJMSR winner Dan Fisher (also of Andrews, Texas) is 15th. No. 18 is Thomas Smith and 2011 Ben Johnson champ Mike Chase of McAlester is 23rd. Shorty Garten (the 1993 BJM champ) and son Brady, the local event’s winner in 2008, are currently 35th and 36th, respectively, in the PRCA standings.

In other steer roping news, former champion Kelly Corbin of Pawhuska is recovering from recent open-heart surgery. Corbin won the 1966 Ben Johnson title after finishing second to Shoat Webster the previous year, when the Lenapah legend claimed his sixth and final BJMSR crown. A five-time qualifier for the Clem McSpadden National Finals Steer Roping (1964-67, 1974), Corbin finished in the world standings’ top five in each of those first four years. He won the NFSR average title in 1966 and placed second in ‘65 and ’67. Corbin also is a longtime PRCA judge.