– Wolf in cowboys' clothing –
Inspector, plow driver leaves leaves his mark
at National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas
What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas - unless you win big at the slots, hit the trifecta, roll snake eyes…or compete in the National Finals Rodeo (NFR) on the 50th anniversary of that great event.
Such is the case for Jim Wolf, an inspector on the District 3 Region 1 construction team and ITD employee since the spring of 2001. He recently returned from Las Vegas with a gold buckle from the 50th NFR. Wolf and partner Cody Jail participated in team roping.
Wolf, who also works each winter plowing snow for Boise Maintenance, has been competing in rodeos competitively since 1989, and has only had two roping partners that entire time – Jail for the last seven years, and former Ada County Sheriff Jay Huert before the latter married and moved away. Wolf grew up on a ranch and spent 32 years roping recreationally.
Wolf and Jail qualified for the national finals by finishing among the top six roping teams in the country, as determined by prize money won through the rodeo season or cumulative ranking.
Wolf and Jail made it to the seventh round (of 10) in Las Vegas before bowing out – only the top 10 advance in each successive round.
“Jim is a valuable employee in Region 1,” says supervisor Merrill Sharp. “He is very dedicated to the things he does. That he performed so well at the National Finals Rodeo is no surprise to me – the quality of work he does for the state is outstanding.”
Team roping is pro rodeo’s only true team sport … success depends on the two competitors, their horses (ropers need to be top-notch horsemen), and near-perfect timing.
Team roping is a traditional rodeo sport with practical roots - when cattle in the open range needed to be doctored or branded, one cowboy would rope the head and another would rope the two hind feet to bring the animal to the ground because the job was too much for one man.
In the rodeo arena, a steer is released from a chute and given a head start, determined by a line that the header cannot cross until the steer reaches the end of the head start and releases the barrier.
The header then ropes the steer around both horns or the head/neck, dallies (quick ties) the rope on the saddle horn, and uses the horse to slow down the steer and create space for the heeler to work by pulling him away from the heeler. The heeler – usually Wolf’s chore – then follows and attempts to rope both hind feet of the steer and stop his horse to pull the rope tight.
Time starts when the steer is released from the chute and ends when both ropes are on the steer and tight.
If the header gets antsy and leaves too early, he is assessed a 10-second penalty – essentially killing any chance of winning that round. If the heeler only catches one of the animal’s hind legs, a five-second penalty is assessed.
If either roper fails to rope the steer, they receive “no time” for the round. A fast run will only take about five to eight seconds, and even the slowest runs usually don’t last more than 15 seconds, especially at the highest levels of competition such as the NFR.
Wolf and Jail recorded their best time of 5.1 seconds in the third round, but were in the “5.6- or 5.7-second neighborhood on average,” Wolf said. In the seventh round, when they were eliminated, they “missed the steer all the way around,” Wolf said.
It was Wolf’s second trip to the NFR - he also competed in 2005 but was eliminated in the first round. “We didn’t catch anything at all,” Wolf said.
He has competed in many local rodeos, including the Bruneau, Weiser, Cascade, Homedale and Pendleton events, and has “roped a few times” at the Caldwell Night Rodeo. For each of the last five years, he also has volunteered at the Snake River Stampede, working with the kids in Mutton Bustin’ competitions (sheep riding), and running the bucking chutes.