Two ropers. One young. One older. The younger one drove for two days to get to the heifer roping jackpot. The older roper came from his home ranch nearby. The young roper had a partner, and they were a money winning team. However, this time, his partner was not able to come at the last minute.
Having heard the news while he was already on the road, the young roper decided to stay on the road and had faith that there would be a partner there for him to rope with. Everyone likes to take home some prize money, but for him, the roping and time spent with other cowboys was important too. Fellowship amongst those who spoke the same language of the rope and the horse. We'll call this young roper Trapper.
The older roper always came to the ropings. Even when the younger, faster ropers would snicker at his beat up old truck and dusty trailer. He didn't saddle his horse fast, and got on even slower. Once on board, however, he was strength and grace. He and his horse had many hundreds of hours in the saddle together and knew each other perfectly well. The gelding knew when the older roper, we'll call him Leroy, was resting and when he was ready to rope.
Leroy often had no partners at the ropings, but he enjoyed going and sometimes he'd get to toss a loop or two. More often than not he would spell the time keepers or be a judge. Many times he'd just sit on his horse, alongside the arena, and watch. Glove on, rope ready and waiting.
Trapper arrived, tired from a long drive, and unloaded his horses. He always brought a young horse with him to these far away ropings. Nothing like time on the road to season a horse, and it was always good to have a back up horse. He got there a bit late and the only parking spot was next to a beat up old Chevy truck pulling a dusty stock trailer.
He got the horses unloaded, watered and brushed off. As he was cleaning out the last of the horse manure from the trailer Leroy walked over to introduce himself. Trapper was happy to see a friendly face, and Leroy sure seemed to know everyone by their horse and rig. Leroy didn't get off his horse, but leaned down to shake Trapper's hand.
"Let me know if you need a partner today son," he said, "I'm not the fastest heeler but I'm steady."
Trapper said thanks, and said he would see if there was anyone on the roster needing a header. Leroy nodded, he understood. Young fellers didn't want to be saddled with the old man.
As he walked his sorrel heading horse to the timer's table, Trapper couldn't help but thing about Leroy. He seemed like a seasoned old hand, probably learned to rope on the job when he was young. Something about him prickled at the back of his mind. Getting his number and signing the releases distracted him and he forgot the not quite formed memory at the back of his mind. He asked if anyone was needing a header. The girls shook their heads, no. The older lady said, "There's Leroy. He is a steady heeler. And he always needs a partner."
Trapper paused, and it came to him. Something his grandpa had said years ago, leaning on a round pen rail chewing on a toothpick. "Son, don't pick a horse or a partner for their speed or fancy nature. Always find someone steady."
Smiling, Trapper, said sure. Sign me up with Leroy. A couple of young guns snickered when they overheard him. They thought there was no way, no matter how good he was, that this new guy was gonna take home more than a chewed off ear from listening to Leroy's stories.
Riding over to the blue roan that was dozing alongside the arena, Trapper coughed. Leroy looked up, and smiled.
"What can I do ya for son?" he asked.
"Well," Trapper started, "I was hoping you'd be my heeler today. I hear you are steady."
The grin that lit up Leroy's face make him look years younger. He sat up a bit straighter and tidied the coils on his rope.
"Why sure. That'd be fine." he stammered slightly, "That'd be just fine."
They roped that day. And visited. Trapper shared about growing up with his Grandpa on the ranch. Leroy shared about young horses and pretty girls. They laughed. They roped. And they were steady.
Trapper soon learned his only job was to keep the barrier unbroken and catch the head. Leroy never missed. He wasn't the fastest but there were no empty loops, single hocks or wasted dallies.
They found themselves in second place going into the last go-round. The snickering and talking had long since stopped. Everyone looked at Leroy like they had never seen him before. Trapper had to smile. Grandpa would be proud.
The last heifer was a bit wild, long line of range cows beget her, and she wasn't going to forget it in the arena. She dashed out of the gate and Trapper was quick to toss his loop on her horns and she ducked, just a bit. Enough that he had to fish the loop back on. When he had her caught and turned, Leroy did his job and caught her. That little wobble was a three-tenths of a second onto their time. That was almost exactly what they lost by.
At the after roping bbq, as the teams got their buckles and cheques, Leroy and Trapper were talking at a back table. They knew they'd get some gas money out of the day, and that was always good. The friendship they were forming, however, was priceless.
The next year Trapper came down to the roping, and his partner was able to be there. They agreed, however, to pay the extra fee and ride with Leroy if he was still around. Leroy was still around, dragging that old trailer behind the beat up Chevy. They parked next to him, and found him on the same old blue roan. He was sporting a new shiny buckle that was inscribed with his name, and with a gold team on it, with this written underneath: He's steady.
Trapper smiled, so glad that his friend was enjoying his anonymous gift. What a joy to give him something without him needing to know who is was from or to think he was in debt for it. Seeing his joy was thanks enough. After all, Leroy had given him more at that one roping than he would ever know. He helped Trapper renew his faith.
They roped again. And this year they won. That was Leroy's last roping. Trapper kept in touch, as best as busy men can, and when he got news of Leroy's passing he went down for the service. A young man came up to him at the graveside and shook his hand.
"You must be Trapper!" he exclaimed. "You are the fella that Grandpa told us about. Thanks for coming."
Trapper, after everyone had gone, stood looking down at the stone. His face pinched as he tried to force back a tear. Someone had carved Leroy's buckle image on the stone. His epitaph was: He's steady. And underneath: He's riding for the Lord now.
You see their talks, while waiting for their turn at those ropings, turned to things beyond horses and cows, girls and trucks. They talked about being steady for God, about witnessing in the oil patch and bunk house. About how God doesn't want us to be the fastest or the hardest running, He just wants us to be steady. To be there.
God is steady. He is always there. You don't need to look over to know, you can trust Him to be there with you. As close as your breath away.
Do not be afraid, for I am with you
If you are looking for some great fellowship with Christian cowboys and cowgirls I invite you to visit Save The Cowboy and join us via internet, in person or by radio every Sunday. We have found great fellowship there and many blessings across the miles.