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Age is just a number for two Octogenarian rodeo stars - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Age is just a number for two Octogenarian rodeo stars

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Bud Clemons, 80, from Colorado and JW Campbell, 84, from Alberta, Canada went head-to-head in the Darby arena. (MTN News photo) Bud Clemons, 80, from Colorado and JW Campbell, 84, from Alberta, Canada went head-to-head in the Darby arena. (MTN News photo)
"I rodeoed professionally for about 25 years and then I retired," said Clemons. (MTN News photo) "I rodeoed professionally for about 25 years and then I retired," said Clemons. (MTN News photo)
Campbell's been riding and roping for 65 years. He says, while there's a rope in his hands, nothing is off-limits. (MTN News photo) Campbell's been riding and roping for 65 years. He says, while there's a rope in his hands, nothing is off-limits. (MTN News photo)
DARBY -

Whoever said rodeo is a young man's game has clearly never seen the National Senior pros do their thing. That was proven on Tuesday in Darby where a pair of Octogenarians went head-to-head in a calf-roping contest for the ages.

Cowboys and cowgirls from all over North America were in Darby for the Senior Pro Rodeo. This year, a special competition was added to the regular roster of events: The Young at Heart calf-roping match. 

Bud Clemons, 80, from Colorado and JW Campbell, 84, from Alberta, Canada went head-to-head in the Darby arena with the winner walking away with a prize buckle - and $1,000 cash. 

Both men have a storied history in the sport. "I rodeoed professionally for about 25 years and then I retired," said Clemons.

That retirement lasted 30 years until a neighbor convinced Clemons to get back in the saddle, but Clemons says the old saying "it's like riding a bike" does not apply to rodeo.

"No, sir, it wasn't,” assured the cowboy.  “Everything is timing and coordination, and you remember the basics: how to ride a horse and how to swing a rope, but all the little finite things kind of slipped away.  And I'm still trying to regain them!"

Campbell's been riding and roping for 65 years. He says, while there's a rope in his hands, nothing is off-limits.

"Hell, I'd rope turkeys or anything that moves or wiggles!” he laughed.  “The odd good-looking girl, school ma'am.  We were driving cattle over some mountains and there's this good looking school ma'am and I roped her.  She wasn't too pleased with me!"

Though these men are skilled with a rope, they say the horse is doing most of the work, "a good rope horse can save you a second by working good.  You know, that's just the way it is," said Campbell.

The cowboys say roping doesn't take any real talent.  It’s just a lot of practice, "no real secret to it, it's just swing that rope and throw it in the right direction," said Clemons.

"Keep your eye on the back of the head and it's like throwing a baseball, you know?” agreed Campbell.  “You've got to follow through!  Whap!"

Although Clemons walked away as the winner, experience has taught these cowboys that it just doesn't matter who wins -- in the words of Campbell, rodeo is competition, not war.

After claiming the prize, Clemons donated his $1,000 between the National Senior Pro Rodeo Association and the Canadian Senior Pro Rodeo Association. But he kept the buckle.

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