By RICKY TREON
Calf roping is no longer a young man’s sport for Jeff Copenhaver.
It was, back when he was 9 and dreamed of being a world champion. Back when he
went to his first national finals 13 years later, and when he competed in that
prestigious event for the last time at 29.
But now, at 59 years young, Copenhaver has decided to return to calf roping
competition, something he thought he’d given up long ago.
Copenhaver, who runs the Cowboy Church at Billy Bob’s in Fort Worth and also
works with kids, did win that world championship in 1975 and he continued to be
one of calf roping’s premier competitors and teachers for two more decades.
It seemed age had finally caught up with Copenhaver in 1995, when it became too
painful to mount a horse. And at the time, not being able to practice calf
roping in any capacity was something he could deal with.
"I really didn’t think I had any more desire to do it," he said of the skill
that he’d nearly perfected throughout his life. "I was just minding my own
business in 2006. And then, bam, the desire came back."
Copenhaver said that desire was subtle at first. But in October 2006, he
scheduled a double-hip resurfacing, a new procedure that allows less bone
removal and more mobility than a total hip replacement. The hope was to
eliminate the pain and regain the abilities he thought he’d lost forever.
Turns out he had to wait until the following August to finally have his surgery
done by Dr. Theodore Crofford at Fort Worth’s Texas Hip and Knee Center.
It was tough, waiting all that time, he said.
Copenhaver hasn’t had any complications after the surgery last Aug. 27 and said
he’s feeling better physically than he did at age 36 when he’d last sat in a
"They know so much more about the body and how it works nowadays," Copenhaver
said. "I’m just way more fit."
So fit that he wants to start competing again. Though it sounds like a pipe
dream, Copenhaver is doing everything he can to make sure he doesn’t end this
comeback disappointed or hurt.
Riding a horse and roping a calf is hardly like riding a bike.
"It’s going to take a certain length of time to get riding again with an edge,"
he said. "The hip is just now, at 11 1/2 months, starting to feel strong