The crossfire rule came into play in the late 70s and what is surprising is you could do it at amateur rodeos and all amateur jackpots, but it was the PRCA that banned heeling steers before they were turned. I personally practiced roping steers going straight down the arena for four years…and I don’t mean in the switch, but as soon as the head loop went on! And not just in rodeos, but in averages too.
There was a man named Sonny Hendricks that could rope them going straight down the arena and he was a real hand and inspired me to try it.
Me and one of my childhood heroes, Sonny Hendricks. He could heel steers as soon as the head rope went on!
JB Getzwiler could also rope them going straight down the arena. One time at Branco’s big roping before the Chowchilla 8 steer, which was one of the biggest ropings in the world in the 70s and 80s, JB Getzwiler won the roping and beat the best ropers in the world and he heeled 5 in a row as soon as the head rope went on. Not that many people could do it because you needed a great horse, fast hands and a lot of confidence.
The reason the PRCA said they needed to stop heelers from roping so fast was too many people would miss steers if it got so fast that everyone had to try to rope the steers going straight down the arena. But I believe the old guys were afraid of the young guys and the old guys got the rule put in. I do know this, that over the 4th of July run in 1978, I was roping with Bob McClelland at Prescott, which was a four head rodeo. I crossfired all four steers and had four runners. I won three go rounds and second in the average. And then we went to Greeley and I crossfired the first one, won the first day money and let the second one turn and won second in the average.
We got to Cody and there was a rumor they were going to ban the crossfire and I believe it was because the old guys at that time didn’t like getting beat. Jack Hannum, who was the head over all the judges sent me a message saying, “have fun over the fourth because we have called an emergency meeting and after Salt Lake City you can’t heel a steer until he has turned.” I went to Salinas and crossfired to place in two rounds and then went to Salt Lake. Wayne Thaulley and I both crossfired and split the first round and that’s the last steer legally crossfired in the PRCA.
You know, I read articles all the time that say team roping is not a spectator sport, so why would any contractor or association care if you roped the steer going straight down the arena? Instead they keep flaggers mixed up and they have different ideas of what is the legal shot. Can you imagine telling Roy Cooper when he was getting off on the right that he needs to get off on the left and go under the rope because getting off on the right makes the sport too fast? Well, that’s what happened in team roping.
Now, you hear things like “he has to make forward motion after the turn” and to me that’s just dumb. If you actually wanted to know the correct way to make a rule and be able to flag the rule correctly the rule should read: the rope cannot touch the legs until the feet have hit the ground in the corner. I’ve been flagged out many times for crossfire because I started my delivery when the head loop went on but my loop never touched the steer until he was leaving the first jump.
Lots of times a steer might take three jumps through the corner and flaggers flag guys out because the flagger isn’t watching the feet as intensely as the roper. I’ve told some flaggers I roped the steer on the second jump and they flag me out for crossfire because the steer ran left. That makes the corner last forever and it looks like you roped on the switch but you didn’t. I’ve told flaggers, “you’re not watching the legs as closely as I am!” and they would say, “oh yes we are!” And then I would say, “I don’t get a paycheck if I miss or make a mistake and you do, so there’s no way you’re watching as close as I am.”
That’s why I think we should make it easier on the flaggers where they don’t have to watch the steers head. As some associations would say, he just has to bend his neck. Now tell me, does that make any sense? The steers neck has to be bent before we can heel him. What difference does it make if his neck his bent? I’ve been flagged out when the steer was completely turned because my horse wasn’t turned. I was flagged out for crossfire in this run at Santa Maria!
Since everybody agrees that team roping is not a spectator sport, I think the only rule should be that the heeler has to heel the steer after the head loop goes on. That would make it so much easier to flag! There would be no crossfire rule and if you broke a barrier or roped one leg you could get back into the roping by crossfiring a couple steers. And I know this is probably not going to happen because your weekend roper doesn’t want to have to learn to do this and he doesn’t want the competition to get tougher. So I think the best thing to do for the crossfire rule in our sport as it stands right now is say the rope cannot touch the steers legs until his feet hit in the corner.
As a flagger, it doesn’t matter when the heeler starts his delivery or if his horse is turned in or not as long as the rope doesn’t touch the legs until the feet hit in the corner. I still think it’s fun to rope one going straight down the arena like Chowchilla with a 35 foot score…but you have to have a lot of rubber!