Two teens stormed the 10th annual Wildfire Open to the World Roping for a record-smashing $100,000 February 9 in Salado, Texas.
Kelsey Parchman, 19, and Paul Eaves, who turned 18 at midnight and just a minute or two before roping their high-team steer, are the talk of the team roping town after rising from relative obscurity to outdistance the veterans at the rich roping.
Parchman's from Cumberland City, Tenn., and Eaves is from Lonedell, Mo. But both are currently calling the Lone Star State home, in the name of climbing the professional team roping ladder. Eaves' folks, Russ and Joyce, flew in from the Show-Me State to celebrate their second of four kids' 18th birthday. They honestly had no idea the Wildfire Roping was on their itinerary, but were great sports about foregoing the traditional candle-clad cake party for the Wildfire victory celebration.
"You don't get to rope for $100,000 every day," said Parchman, who won back-to-back International Professional Rodeo Association team roping titles with Stephen Britnell in 2005 and 2006, at 17 and 18. "This is as good as any roping there is. The steers are good, the arena's great and everything's so organized. This much money will buy a lot of diesel."
"I'm so happy to win this roping," Eaves added. "I'm glad to have the money, and winning a deal like this will hopefully help me get more good partners."
Parchman's now a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association rookie, and he's been roping with Cole Bigbee. He's riding an 11-year-old sorrel horse, Dakota, that he bought from reigning Champ of the World and fellow Tennessee titan turned Texan Chad Masters when the horse was 5. It was Parchman's second Wildfire Open to the World Weekend, and Eaves' first. They've roped off and on together at jackpots about three years now. Both categorize Eaves as "a catcher."
Eaves, who was home schooled since first grade by his mom, is now flying solo in his academic pursuits. He attended Allen Bach's month-long roping camp last October, and never returned home. He rents a house in the town of Millsap, Texas, and keeps his horse, 11-year-old dun Spanky, at Bach's. Eaves has only owned Spanky since December, and planned to set aside some of his Wildfire earnings to pay the horse off.
Eaves, who won first and second at the 2007 Junior World Team Roping Championship in Durant, Okla., last Thanksgiving with Oklahomans Andrew Ward and Blake Hughes, expects to fulfill his high school graduation requirements this spring. His goal is to make the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo "in a year or two." Not one to procrastinate, he sent off for his PRCA permit a few days before his 18th birthday.
Eaves' heeling heroes include Bach, Clay O'Brien Cooper, Walt Woodard and Rich Skelton. Eaves, who's a USTRC No. 9 heeler, said Bach offered up helpful advice throughout the duration of the Wildfire Open, ranging from how to better ride his horse to reminders about roping sharp.