A Day’s Work

Nick Griggs and Blane Chapman combine to win the Wildfire Businessman’s Roping and $75,000.
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Nick Griggs and Blane Chapman combine to win the Wildfire Businessman’s Roping and $75,000.

Two weeks later, his phone is still blowing up. You see, when Nick Griggs won the Wildfire Businessman’s Roping with Blane Chapman—worth $37,500 a man—the entire industry reached out to give the ultimate guy-behind-the-scenes a pat on the back. 

In full disclosure, Griggs is an employee of the company that produces this magazine. Part of his job, of course, is to know everyone in team roping—and he does. The team roping world is small, though, so there’s lots of folks who are well-connected. But being completely biased, I imagine that Nick is one of the most respected out there.

Credit: Lone Wolf Photos “When you can win $75,000 for a hobby, that's a pretty dang good hobby.” - Nick Griggs

Credit: Lone Wolf Photos “When you can win $75,000 for a hobby, that's a pretty dang good hobby.” - Nick Griggs

Here at Spin To Win Rodeo and The World Series Roper, Nick is an ad salesman. But he’s not like any salesman I’ve ever worked with. Most are slick: high on promises, fast-talking wheelers and dealers. On our staff, he plays the role of a wise uncle. He has an uncanny knack for saying the right thing at the right time. Whether it’s personal advice or professional, he’s got a feel for folks. I’ve shared many a conference room and conference call line with him and it’s easy to forget he’s there as conversation swirls around him. Then he’ll clear his throat or lean forward and the room will go silent. Whatever he says is right, wise and timely.

“I’ve got a history with everybody I do business with in the industry,” he told me. “I’m on a good, first-name basis with them.” 

Despite his subtle approach, in 2013, he was the high-grossing salesman on the team.
“Spin to Win Rodeo would not be where it is today without Nick Griggs,” said Publisher Benjie Lemon. 

When those of us who work with him heard he won the $37,500 at the Businessman’s in Salado, we went abuzz with joy for our wise uncle. 

“We were in the third rotation and were straight up on three head,” he said. “We were 25.27 on three. I figured we’d be back in the top six or eight. We came back high team and had about a second-and-a-half. After we roped that second steer, I got a real good feeling. I told Blane, ‘You know what, I think we’re going to be blessed today.’ He said, ‘I think we are, too.’ I just kind of relaxed then. When we backed in the box for our last one, we had 10 seconds to rope him. I roped him with a good, safety run and we won the roping.” 
He was riding a horse that belongs to Hugh Atkins. 

“This horse is hard to be around, he tried to jump out of the stalls at the World Series Finale in Vegas,” Nick said. “He’s not treacherous but he will buck. I worked with him a bunch, rode him outside and played with him and got him to where you can score on him and get by him. Now he’s a really nice horse in the arena. He can really run and really face. He hurts my back he faces so good. Phillip Murrah, the flagger, said that horse makes his job easy.”

Right away, I knew I wanted to write the story of Nick’s win—but I was a little nervous about how I could get it done. Knowing him for the past 10 years, I figured he’d be a tough interview. He’ll visit with you—that’s not the issue—but his conversations are low, slow, and measured. Plus, he’s humble. He’s not a quote machine. I started brainstorming creative ways to get around the assumed reticence on his part to go on the record. Then I got on the phone with him. In a half hour conversation I probably contributed less-than three minutes worth of conversation. Then he called back to add more. At one point, he said, “I could talk about it for an hour.” 

An Industry of Praise
I sat back in my chair a bit amazed at what happened. Then it dawned on me just how much this win means to my friend Nick Griggs. 

A couple of years ago, Nick was diagnosed with a treatable form of cancer. About the same time, his marriage was ending. Between the doctors and the divorce, the debt piled up. Nick’s not one to air his dirty laundry, so most people in the industry didn’t know what was happening—or just how bad his health was. To call it a rough patch would be a significant understatement. The Wildfire win went a long way in cleaning up some of that mess. 

“After being sick and everything, I’ve had a lot of bills and stuff,” he said. “It really helped pay off a lot of my debt. I’m not the most religious guy there is, but I do try to walk the walk. I did go and tithe with it.”

But as much of a blessing as the money was to him, I got the feeling it didn’t mean as much as what happened in the days and weeks after he won.
The flood of recognition and congratulations he received from his friends seemed to affect him more than the change in his bank account.

“I walked out of the arena and was pulling the boots off my horse and Chip Bruegmann with Heel-O-Matic had already posted it on Facebook,” Griggs said. “He walked up there, grinning. And my phone started blowing up before I even got the boots off my horse. At one o’clock in the morning it finally quit, and then it started the next morning about six. I got texts and phone calls for the entire eight-hour trip home. I’m still getting calls and texts. Every day I get more congratulations.”

Denny Gentry, who took Griggs under his wing hauling him to ropings when he was 13 years old, called him first thing on Monday morning to tell him not to be filing any classification appeals this year. Just after that, Denny’s wife Connie called. 
“I was there when they first started dating,” Nick said of the Gentrys. “It’s unbelievable what they’ve done with that organization in such a short amount of time.”

Nick’s praise of the Gentry’s isn’t as much from the perspective of a grateful competitor as it is an admiring friend, not to mention godparents of his daughter Tara.

“I’m blessed by all the friends I have and everybody who’s helped me. Bottom line. I just want to thank everybody who has World Series ropings and I want to thank Billy Pipes and Wick Thomas for putting the Businessman’s roping on and I want to thank God I won it. It’s amazing. It really is. It’s fun.”

And that’s why we rope.

Second Thoughts Pay Off For Chapman
Nick Griggs didn’t have a second partner for the Wildfire Businessman’s Roping in Salado, Texas. He got a list of ropers and just started going down it. Blane Chapman is just lucky his name is so near the top of the alphabet.

At first, Chapman decided not to rope at the Wildfire. He and his wife, Kim, would be near Salado helping her sons with some home-improvement projects, but she’d have to be at work in Lubbock early Monday morning and he had to be to Guthrie, to shoe horses at the 6666s. So he told his regular partner, Todd Hughes, that he didn’t want to have to drive all night after the roping, so he’d just pass.

“Then Nick called me and I told him no, too,” Chapman remembered. “Then, a couple of days later another guy called me for another run. I said, ‘I’d love to go and we’re just not going to make it.’ After those calls, my wife said, ‘If you want to go, you should.’”
First he called Todd, who’d already filled his runs, then he took both of the other runs—one with George Harlan and the other with Nick.

“Being at the right place at the right time, it just was my turn,” he said. “I was fortunate Nick called me.”

Before the roping, he, Kim and her sons were planning a ski trip. Blane popped off and said if he won the roping, he’d pay for the whole thing. Of course, no one was counting on it, but they figured out dates and reserved a cabin to ski at Wolf Creek. 

“After we won the roping, I told them to put their ski clothes on, I’m going to pay for it all,” he said.