SHERIDAN — Hundreds of cowboys and cowgirls walked their horses into the Sheridan County Fairgrounds with ropes wrapped around their saddles.
For many, Sunday was one of the few times this year they would participate in competitive team roping. Several participants were local ranchers and horse owners who wanted to test their skills and compete with and against friends and family.
Officially, it’s called the “Bob King Memorial Roping,” and it’s put on by the National Team Roping Tour. However, many refer to it as simply “The Bobby King.”
The crowds didn’t fill the stands like they did the night before during the final night of the Sheridan WYO Rodeo, but the team roping event was something Bob King would have loved, according to those who knew him best. It’s a mesh of competition and camaraderie synonymous with King’s life.
The Bob King Memorial Roping was more than just about winning a payout.
It honors a man who was a friend to many and a person whose quality craftsmanship contributed to the rodeo world.
Robert E. “Bobby” King was born April 4, 1950, as the third of four sons raised by Don and Dorothy King.
Bob King spent his entire life in Sheridan; he went to Woodland Park Elementary and graduated from Sheridan High School. He went on to attend Sheridan College.
Throughout his youth, King had a profound interest in rodeo and agriculture.
According to his obituary, King was a member of the 4-H while in grade school and worked with horses and leatherwork. He participated in the local rodeo club as a steer wrestler, calf roper and team roper. King continued his rodeo career at the college level and beyond.
He held a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association card.
But Bruce King, Bob King’s brother who currently owns and operates King’s Saddlery, King’s Ropes, said Bob King always had an interest in making ropes.
“He kind of started the rope business with Dad (Don King),” Bruce King said. “It was his passion to put out good ropes for the ropers.”
After he graduated college, Bob King led the rope shop at King’s Saddlery, King’s Ropes. According to the company’s website, he was responsible for ordering the materials that went into making the ropes, including coils of nylon, grass or polypropylene rope and nylon thread. He also oversaw the making and treating of the rope. King and his father were also the first to design and sell a rope for left-handed ropers.
His work became well-known among cowboys and those in the rodeo world. It’s still renown to ropers today.
“He took the ropes around and sold them at events,” said Kenny Knutson, a team roper from Arvada who knew King. “He made great ropes.”
In the early 2000s, King was diagnosed with cancer of the bladder.
“The cancer went into remission, and Bob was doing great until last spring when he started having a tremendous amount of pain in his back,” King’s wife Debbi told The Sheridan Press in an April 2003, article. “Up to that point, he rarely missed a day of work.”
King passed away April 15, 2003, at 53. Hundreds attended his memorial at the Bruce Hoffman Golden Dome at Sheridan College.
The next year, longtime friends of Bob King launched the inaugural Bob King Memorial Roping.
Originally, the event took place prior to the Sheridan WYO Rodeo. However, as the rodeo grew, the Bob King Memorial Roping was moved to the Sunday following the rodeo.
According to archives from the Sheridan County Fulmer Public Library’s The Wyoming Room, the original Bob King Memorial Team Roping event had just 21 competitors. As word spread of the event, it tripled to more than 60 teams in three years.
It has continued to grow annually. While a final tally was not available at press time, hundreds of teams participated in the 2017 roping with a payout exceeding $50,000.
The event consists of several different categories, which allows for both the top-tier ropers and the recreational ropers to participate. Team ropers are given a handicap and placed according to skill level in each division.
The competition also consists of the Century division where competitors who are 50 and older compete in team roping.
Zane Garstad, Sheridan WYO Rodeo board member and former bull rider, admits his roping skills aren’t anything to shake a stick at, but he always rides in the event as a tribute to the man who is a rodeo icon.
“I’m not a great roper,” Garstad said. “But I still come out because it’s Bob King — you are paying tribute to someone who is an icon in the rodeo world.”
While King may be gone, his legacy lives on through the sport he loved.
“He was a hell of a guy,” Bruce King said. “He was an avid roper and loved rodeo.”