Photo by Kirt Steinke
You roped with 2013 Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Resistol Rookie Heeler of the Year Will Woodfin last year. Why didn’t we see you guys in Vegas?
Derrick Begay: We just didn’t do good enough. When you’re out here rodeoing you have to get a break every now and then. It seems like we never could get one. Or two. Or three. I can’t come up with one single reason or thing that sticks out in my mind why we didn’t do it. It just didn’t happen.
KS: How’d you get hooked up with Champ this year?
DB: I finally got up the nerve to ask him. We talked about it, and he said, “Let’s do it.”
KS: You’re 31 now. Do you see yourself on NFR track a decade or two from now?
DB: No, but team ropers never really retire. That’s for roughstock riders and rich guys. I’ll be around forever, but I might slow down sooner than what everybody might expect. I like being home more and more.
KS: You were a little nervous roping with Champ at the start, weren’t you?
DB: Yes. Anybody who knows anything about team roping grew up watching him. Me being me, and having been to the Finals six times, I’m not supposed to be nervous. But I was. I still kind of am to this day. Clay’s somebody I’ve always watched and looked up to. I was so nervous the first steer we roped together—in the first round at Denver this year—that I roped myself. I can’t remember the last time I blew my spoke before that. But the story changes now. It’s not him—it’s us.
KS: What’s helped you get past those jitters?
DB: It’s just the way you think about it. I’ve been around Clay a lot more and have talked to him a lot more now, which helps a lot. Clay’s 53, which is the same age as my dad. And my dad’s the person I’m most comfortable around. So I look at it that way.
KS: I’ve never met a nicer person than Clay. Why do you think he’s so intimidating to so many people?
DB: Everybody has a lot of respect for who Clay is. He doesn’t try to intimidate people. And he’s actually a pretty funny guy. Clay’s a jokester.
KS: As we get ready to print this issue the first of April, you guys are second in the world. So far, so good, huh?
DB: Yes, so far, so good. I grew up watching Clay rope, I felt like I finally got good enough to ask him to rope with me, and so far this season we’re having success. It’s a pretty cool deal. The first time I got Clay’s number and put it in my phone I thought I was somebody then. Now I’m roping with him.
KS: What do you consider your 2015 highlight so far?
DB: There’s not really one thing. I didn’t do very good at Denver or Fort Worth. Then we went to San Angelo and San Antonio, and put a lot of clean runs together. We won second at both of those rodeos in the same weekend. So that weekend has to be the highlight. We had a pretty good winter, and I’ve never had one of those before. The most I’ve ever gone to Reno with in June was $18,000, and usually I have more like $12,000 or $15,000. We have about $24,000 won, and we still have the spring to go.
KS: It’s a tall order, but I’m going to ask you anyway. Tell me something about Clay O that I don’t already know.
DB: That’s a tough one. I’ll answer that after we’ve spent more time in the truck together or spent a night in a bunkhouse.
KS: I know how the cattle market’s been going. How’s the wild cattle business going for you?
DB: It’s good, but it’s getting hot here in Arizona already. I don’t want to talk about wild cattle again until I get Clay out here with me to chase a few across the desert.
KS: Do you have any yet unmet roping bucket list items?
DB: I really don’t think like that, but I’ve never won the BFI, the George Strait or the Wildfire. I came back high call with Cory Petska at the Strait the other day and missed. We had to be 4.1 to win it, I tried it on and missed. They say that roping changes your life if you win it. Maybe there’s a reason I missed. Maybe I didn’t want my life to change.