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Jake Barnes: Back in the saddle after injury
Friday, Jan 26, 2007
By Tricia Allen

XENIA, Ohio (BP)--Jake Barnes grew up wanting to be a cowboy.

Both sets of his grandparents were ranchers in New Mexico. His dad was a cowboy (roper, to be exact), and he was named after his great-uncle Jake McClure. There was never any doubt he’d grow up doing the same thing.

“It was just something I was infatuated with, the environment I grew up around,” says Barnes, a professional cowboy for 26 years.

Years prior to turning pro, Barnes began his career in junior rodeo (comparable to Pee Wee Football or Little League Baseball). He then moved on to rodeo in high school before competing in college at Eastern New Mexico University.

Born in Huntsville, Texas, Barnes grew up in Bloomfield, N.M., and was 20 years old when he began competing professionally in 1980. Considered a professional cowboy, this lifestyle is all Barnes has ever known. He has never held another job.

“This has been my profession and the way I’ve provided for my family all my life,” Barnes says.

The husband to Toni and father of five kids, Barnes has won seven team roping titles at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas — the “Super Bowl” of rodeo . He is one of the rare few who is known simply by his first name. Just say, “Jake,” and everyone knows who you’re referencing.

Of the seven events in ProRodeo, Barnes competes in team roping, the only true team event in pro rodeo. Working together as a team, the header ropes the steer by its horns and the heeler ropes both of the animal’s legs. Barnes has spent his career as a header.

On tap to win his eighth world team roping title in 2005, tragedy struck in the fifth round when Barnes lost the thumb on his roping hand and was sidelined from further competition. Two months after what was considered a “major injury,” Barnes began roping again. But he was only at 60 percent. He suffered a shoulder injury that was far more troublesome than this thumb injury and endured much therapy and frustration, both physically and mentally.

“I probably had some [thoughts] there was a chance that I couldn’t compete again,” Barnes says.

He also began to question whether or not he could continue to provide for his family. Although the cowboy lifestyle is fast-paced and requires great sacrifice of being away from family regularly, it was still the Barnes family’s livelihood.

Despite the severity of his injury, Barnes sees the adversity as a good thing. He grew up attending church but it wasn’t until the late 1970s that he realized he didn’t know if he had eternal life through Jesus.

“I was at a college rodeo in Alpine, Texas, in 1978 or 1979 and went to a church service there. I believed in God but wasn’t in the Bible,” Barnes says.

So, he walked to the church’s altar and placed his faith in Christ. When he turned pro in 1980, his first team roping partner was Allen Bach, a man who was also a fellow Christian. Working closely with his new partner allowed Barnes to be spiritually mentored by him.

And it was his faith that helped him overcome the tough injuries last year.

“God says He’ll never leave you or forsake you,” Barnes says.

Suffering the two injuries really stretched his faith and ability to trust God. However, what seemed initially unfortunate allowed good to follow.

Barnes’ injury affected many lives. The day he was discharged from the hospital a 12-year-old boy cut off his own thumb in a rodeo accident. The boy’s dad called and asked Barnes to come visit his son. Seeing the boy’s face when he explained his own situation was worth more than winning his eighth world championship. He had the opportunity to explain his faith to many other young kids too.

It’s because of his extraordinary character, values, integrity and faith that he received The Legends of ProRodeo Award at the inaugural 2006 Legends of ProRodeo breakfast held during the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas Dec. 1.

Although Barnes was disappointed that he didn’t make the 2006 National Finals Rodeo because of the setback from his injury, he has high intentions of heading to Las Vegas in 2007 and winning his eighth championship.

“As far as walking away from rodeo I could do it right now. But I still have the passion,” Barnes says. “You grow up dreaming about national finals, being a pro and making a living. When I joined [the Pro Rodeo Cowboy Association], who knew that I was going to escalate to the success I’ve had in the industry?”

And successful he is. ProRodeo wouldn’t be the same without the man everyone knows simply as “Jake.”
Originally published by Athletes in Action. Reprinted with permission.

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