For the entire 2009 season, rodeo fans and friends have approached Allen Bach to say something along the lines of, "How great it must be for you to be able to rope with your son Joel."
Bach, who is an outspoken Christian, always gives the short answer in reply, "Yes it's been awesome." While Bach feels the opportunity and the experience is awesome, the part he doesn't always have time to share in passing conversations and small talk is that it's been a struggle as well.
"It really has been an extreme strain on us," Bach said. "Of course, it's one of the most worthwhile things I've done in my life. I didn't realize it, but roping with Joel, I'm trying to be his dad, his best friend, his partner and his coach. I was wearing four different hats this year. You have to prioritize and say, 'I've got to be his dad first. I want to be his friend second, and his partner and coach after that.' All year long, I didn't do the perfect job and I'd keep getting those four roles mixed up. I did a pretty good job being dad first, the other three deals would get shifted around."
Bach essentially invited Joel to become a part of the family business. But in no other sport can a father and son actually compete as a team at such a high, professional level. Joel, 19, lives at home. When it's time to go to a rodeo, he and has father (and sometimes mother, Peggy, and brother, Tyler, too) load up, drive halfway across the country, sleep in the same rig, then head to the arena to rely on each other for the other's success and financial well-being. Then, win or lose, get back in the same rig together and drive to the next one.
"To be somebody's partner and friend is one thing," Allen said. "I've tried to pride myself on having some of the greatest partners I've had over the years. I've had so many guys that turned into brothers. To be a friend and a partner is hard, most people are doing well just to be a good partner. They travel in separate rigs and business is business. So it took a lot of our family supporting us."
And at first, the results were less than either expected. For years, young ropers have flocked to Allen Bach's house to take advantage of his generous teaching spirit as they prepared to launch a career in the sport. And no one benefited from the environment more than Joel. Naturally, he turned into a skilled roper who could rely on talent more than strategy.
"When you're 19, you're supposed to start thinking for yourself, standing on your own two feet and being independent," Allen said of Joel. "So, he's dealing with that. Being 19 years old, he would challenge the way I wanted to do things with the way he wanted to do things. I've been doing it 30 years, and I feel like I understand how to win. I keep trying to put those winning principles in him. It came down to the fact that he has a lot of ability to reach and he's always wanted me to turn him loose. He'd say 'Dad, if you just turn me loose I can reach two coils, run at the barrier and turn those steers for first place.' I would try to explain to him that at these big rodeos, the guys who get to the short go rounds and win the big money, place not just in one go round, but place in the go round and in the average. Those are the guys who win the big money. Being consistent, getting to the short go, catching that last one and being smart always pays off."