It's rare for anyone to do anything 30 years in a row.
To be competitive at a professional sport that long would seem highly unlikely, if not impossible.
These four guys were gearing up to go to BFI '07 when I visited with each of them. And they were just as excited about this 30th annual event as they were about the first one. Completely competitive, too.
This isn't a case of a few hangers-on throwing their names in the hat for old-time sake. Allen's the defending world champion heeler, and Walt is the reigning reserve champ of the world. Denny and Doyle Gellerman darn near won BFI '06 when they finished second only to titlists Brandon Thone and Chad Harper. And Mike's giving the team roping pack a serious run for the 2007 gold buckles with his son, Brandon.
A whole herd of today's best ropers hadn't yet been born 30 years ago. These guys were already dominating. And they keep proving that they'll still take your money today.
Allen, 50, Mike, 48, Denny, 51, and Walt, 51, have taught and mentored 30 years worth of ropers. They practice what they preach on a daily basis, and apparently there's something to it. They talk the talk at their roping schools, then turn around and walk the walk at the ropings and rodeos. The young guns respect them, and rightly so. They've earned it.
I find it an amazing feat that these four have failed to be derailed from the BFI contestant list in three decades. How, I had to ask, is that even possible? Clearly, this roping is a priority for every person who ropes for a living. But there's more to showing up to anything that long than just desire.
"Bob established the BFI as the most prestigious, best roping of all time right off the bat," Allen explained. "It was instilled in everybody's minds that you have the NFR (Wrangler National Finals Rodeo) for rodeoing and the BFI for roping. If you rope for a living, you have to be there. It's been engrained in us that if you rope for a living, you do not miss the BFI. It's continually grown and gotten a lot better."
"I would have never thought I'd be going to the BFI 30 times, much less that I'd still be competitive at this point in my life," Mike said. "There have been times it was tough to gather up the fees. One year, Shain Sproul and I won our entry fees to the BFI at a roping up in Olds (Alberta, Canada). One year, my close friend Bob Scott sponsored me. But thick or thin, I found a way to get into the BFI. It's the best roping in the world. It's the most prestigious. There are other great ones, but this is the best day of roping there is.