Three-time world champion claims third Ben Johnson roping title

Mike ErwinJournal-Capital

Hometown favorite Chet Herren was one steer away from winning it all in Saturday’s 63rd-annual Ben Johnson Memorial Steer Roping at the Osage County Fairgrounds Arena.

Entering the fourth and final round, the Pawhuskan held a 1.24-second edge over Rocky Patterson. Herren had tied his first three steers in a combined 44.36 seconds, which included the fastest catch of the day (12.59 seconds, in round two). Patterson, the three-time World Champion from Pratt, Kan., was in second place at 45.60 seconds, while pro roping’s 18-time champ, Guy Allen, was another 1.55 seconds back in third (47.15).

Ora Taton, the defending Ben Johnson champ, opened the short go with a 14.09-second effort. None of the next 10 ropers could eclipse Taton’s time — although Allen (14.46) and Patterson ((14.79) came the closest.

Herren went into the chute for the final attempt of the competition with the fastest steer of the day already in the bag. Now, he needed to record a time of 16 seconds or better to come away with the average title — and the first BJMSR championship of his 15-year pro roping career.

Unfortunately for Herren, a no-time knocked him out of the top five finishers. His hard-luck last run gave Patterson his third BJMSR title. Allen, of Santa Anna, Texas, was second, with Oklahomans Darin Suit of Ames and Brody Poppino of Big Cabin getting third and fourth, respectively.

Despite major success as a roper — including an average title at the 2002 National Finals Steer Roping, a second-place finish in the 2014 World Standings and wins at major rodeos all around the country — Herren has yet to win the local event. (He was runnerup in 2012 and 2009.)

“I know how bad Chet wants to win this — being from here,” said Patterson, who is one of Herren’s best friends on the steer roping circuit.

Patterson also knows how quickly things can unravel in a roping’s last round. A year ago, he had led a 90-man field down to the 276th and final attempt — only to miss and drop to fifth place.

“A lot of times, everything turns upside down at the end — that’s just the way steer roping goes,” the veteran said.

Six fathers and sons competed at this year’s BJMSR event, which has been held annually since 1954 on Fathers Day Weekend. Osage County cattlemen started the roping in 1954 in honor of the father of actor Ben (Son) Johnson. (Ben Johnson Sr., a world-renowned steer roper, had died two years earlier.) The Ben Johnson event is held in conjuction with the Osage County Cattleman’s Association Convention.

Father-son entries included: Shorty and Brady Garten of Pawhuska and Chelsea, respectively; Tom Smith and Thomas Smith of Barnsdall; Marty and Brody Poppino of Big Cabin; C.A. and K.W. Lauer of Buffalo; Dan and J. Tom Fisher of Andrews, Texas, and Ora and Tyrell Taton, of Rapid City, S.D., and Beaver, Okla., respectively.

In the original roping order, Herren was No. 31, with Patterson 33rd and Allen 35th (last). Sallisaw’s J.P. Wickett had the fastest time of the opening round (13.25 seconds) and Herren’s 12.59 led the second, while Allen (13.52) led the third and Taton the fourth.

Patterson won a BJMSR trophy saddle that was made by Yocham’s Custom Leather of Bartlesville. For tying the fastest steer of the day, Herren received trophy spurs made by Lenapah’s Doug Cook. The spurs were presented in memory of Doyle Altaffer.

Luke Potter from Maple City, Kan., won Saturday’s matched calf roping competition over Dillon Sherrick of Welch. Potter roped six head in 97.06 seconds (a 16.18-second average).