Field of 35 steer ropers contending for Ben Johnson Memorial honors

Mike ErwinJournal-Capital
Field of 35 steer ropers contending for Ben Johnson Memorial honors

A choice field of 35 contestants has been selected for Saturday’s 63rd-annual Ben Johnson Memorial Steer Roping at the Osage County Fairgrounds.

Sponsored by the Osage County Cattlemen’s Association, the event recognizes the county’s unofficial claim sobriquet as “The Steer Roping Capital of the World.” The Ben Johnson roping — along with Friday evening’s OCCA Ranch Rodeo — will provide highlights for the Cattlemen’s 82nd-annual convention, which kicks off Thursday night.

Ropers will be introduced Saturday around noon in the Fairgrounds’ Ag Building and the competitive roping gets started at 1 p.m. in the OCF Outdoor Arena. (In case of rain, the BJMSR could be moved to the nearby Clarence Brantley Indoor Arena.) Tickets are $10, with children under 10 admitted free.

This year’s Ben Johnson Memorial field features six of the top 10 steer ropers in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s current World Standings — including leader J. Tom Fisher of Andrews, Texas, and second-place Rocky Patterson of Pratt, Kan.

Fisher will come into the local roping with more than $45,000 in PRCA winnings for 2016. The 30-year-old holds about a $9,000 lead over Patterson, a three-time world champ who captured the Johnson event in 2001 and 2003. While Fisher has yet to win a Johnson crown, his older brother, Vin, claimed the 2014 championship and their father, Dan Fisher, won here in 1992.

Vin Fisher was runnerup for the 2015 World Championship and is No. 5 in this year’s pro standings. Sixteen-time National Finals Steer Roping qualifier Dan Fisher, who turns 65 Monday, is 16th on the PRCA list. The Fishers just two of the father-and-son entries in the BJMSR field.

Started in 1954, the Ben Johnson Memorial has traditionally been held on Father’s Day Weekend. It was begun as a tribute to the namesake father of Osage County-born cowboy actor Ben Johnson. The elder Johnson garnered two or three roping world championships in his lifetime and his son won a 1953 world team roping title.

Currently No. 9 in the World Standings is Pawhuska’s Chet Herren, who will be leading a strong contingent of local ropers into the OCCA event. Other hometown entries include 1993 BJMSR champion Shorty Garten, as well as his son, Brady Garten (now of Chelsea), who won the 2008 title. Other Pawhuskans in the field are Dee Kyler, Cody Garnett and the 1998 winner, Rod Hartness.

Barnsdall will be represented by Matt Garrett and another accomplished father-son duo, Tom Smith and Thomas Smith. Tom Smith was the PRCA’s Steer Roping Rookie of the Year in 2014, while son Thomas earned the ROY honor last year. Thomas Smith finished third in the 2015 Ben Johnson and is currently 18th in the World Standings. Additional area ropers in the contest include Worm Shipley of Copan, Ralph Williams of Skiatook and Brad Mohon of Claremore.

Other Oklahomans competing will be J.P. Wickett of Sallisaw, Roger Branch of Perkins, Brodie Poppino and Marty Poppino of Big Cabin, J.R. Magdeburg of Roland (the 2006 champ), Darin Suit of Ames, Kim Ziegelgruber of Edmond, Todd Casebolt of Ryan, Colt Williams of Sulphur and Jay Sellers of Waurika. Two more Oklahoma ropers are 1996 champion (and two-time runnerup) C.A. Lauer and son K.W. Lauer of Buffalo.

Last year’s BJMSR winner — Ora Taton of Rapid City, S.D. — will return to defend his title. Joining him in the competition will be his son, Tyrell Taton of Beaver, Okla. Also back for another try is Cody Lee, the Johnson champ of 2012 and ‘13. Lee, of Gatesville, Texas. Lee is currently No. 10 in the PRCA standings.

Eighteen-time World Champion Guy Allen will try to win his second Johnson crown. Allen, of Santa Anna, Texas, took the 1988 title and is currently 11th in the PRCA standings. His brother, Pawhuska Fire Chief Gip Allen, a two-time BJMSR champion (1994, 2005) will miss the event as he is to be judging the National High School Finals Rodeo in Gillette, Wyo.

Bryce Davis of Ovalo, Texas, and Scott Stickley, of Whitesboro, round out the Texans in the Johnson field. The third BJMSR entry who’s not from Oklahoma or Texas is Marty Jones of Hobbs, N.M. Jones is No. 6 in the latest World Standings.

OCCA-sponsored Junior Steer Roping and Kid’s Dummy Roping also will be offered Saturday afternoon. There is no entry fee, although handmade buckles and other prizes will be awarded to the winners of three age groups: 5 & under, 6 -8 and 9 -11. Goat roping for ages 12-15 is planned for Saturday night, 8-11 p.m., at the Outdoor Arena.

A Cattlemen’s Dance, featuring the Cripple Creek Band will follow the roping. Gates open at 6 p.m. just south of the west grandstand. Cost is $10 at the gate.

Another top-flight 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 is to begin at 10 a.m. It includes three levels of competition, with C ropers getting things started for the B and A division contestants.