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    Cowboy Culture | Spring 2014 Out Here Magazine

    Texas trick roper knows how to lasso a crowd

    Kevin jumping through a rope on the back of his horse
    World class trick roper Kevin Fitzpatrick’s most complicated trick is standing on the back of his horse, Chief, and jumping through a rope — all without falling.
    Out Here

    By Jodi Helmer

    Photography by Mark Mosrie

    Growing up, Kevin Fitzpatrick dreamed about being a cowboy. He idolized cowboys such as Roy Rogers and Will Rogers who starred in his favorite Western movies and loved watching his father ride bulls and rope cattle.

    To prepare for his cowboy career, Fitzpatrick found a worn-out rope and practiced making lassos and trying to rope cattle. His father bought him a book of rope tricks and Fitzpatrick intently studied it, attempting to master each one.

    A family friend who was a trick roper often watched Fitzpatrick practice and helped him perfect some tricks and taught him new ones, he recalls.

    Fitzpatrick continued practicing and by the time he reached his twenties, his cowboy skills were good enough to land him a job at the Mayan Dude Ranch in Bandera, Texas. He led horseback rides on the weekends and started incorporating rope tricks into the outing.

    "I loved having an audience and it just escalated from there," he says.

    Seeing the happiness on the faces of guests while he performed made Fitzpatrick even more determined to make a career as a trick roper.

    Dressed in cowboy boots, a big hat, and a belt buckle, he travels around the world to perform at dude ranches, conventions, weddings, schools, and birthday parties.

    Fitzpatrick has performed at NBA All-Star games, the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo, and the grand opening of Planet Hollywood, where he tossed a lasso over movie actor Demi Moore.

    His most complicated trick involves standing on his horse, an 18-year-old red and white paint named Chief, and jumping through a rope. To complete the trick, Fitzpatrick had to train Chief to stand still without reacting to the rope or his rider.

    Fitzpatrick also does such tricks as Texas Skip (jumping through a vertical loop) and Wedding Ring (a spinning rope encircling the roper) — all moves he's perfected over more than three decades.

    The impressive show led the roper to be named World Champion Trick Roper in 2008. His success, he says, comes from passion and practice; he still spends several hours per week working on his craft.

    The tricks might seem old-fashioned — Fitzpatrick admits that movie cowboys have been performing the same rope tricks on the big screen since the 1930s — but the audience recognizes the skill involved in turning a simple piece of rope into a twirling tool for fast-paced entertainment.

    There is another reason that Fitzpatrick's performances draw crowds.

    "There is something about the cowboy image that has worldwide appeal," he says. "I try to take people back to that era."

    For Fitzpatrick, a childhood fantasy-turned-pro roping career is a dream come true and he's just as energized by the performances as his audience.

    "I'm a showoff," he admits. "I just love to rope, to get out there and put on a show and have fun with it. There is nothing better."

    Jodi Helmer is a North Carolina writer.


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