At first glance, the court room and the rodeo arena don’t seem to have much in common, but for Brad West of The West Law Firm in Shawnee, they are both fields of competition in which he has practiced for more than three decades.
Brad is trial attorney by profession and a team roper for fun.
He and his wife Diane, a roper herself, live on a 300-acre ranch just outside of Shawnee. When Brad is not at the firm or in the courtroom, he can often be found in the roping pen.
Brad wasn’t raised to be a team roper, although he’s always lived a country lifestyle with horses and cattle. His family raised registered Herefords, which Brad showed. It was in the mid-1980s, after meeting his future wife, Diane Gatlin, that he begun to contemplate picking up a rope. “She enjoyed horses and was barrel racing at the time, and I wanted something that I could do with her,” Brad recalled.
The central region of Oklahoma is a hub of team ropers, and Brad quickly met several. “There were quite a few guys around Meeker that were roping recreationally. Then Diane’s sister Sheila married Micah Lynch, a really good roper, and he helped me a lot with it. Another friend of mine, Steve Friskup, is an auctioneer who roped all the time and trained horses, and he gave me a lot of help, too.”
Brad began his roping career as a heeler, as that end is easier for a left-handed roper. “I tried to heel left-handed, and I could just tell that wasn’t going to work all that well. So, one day I just threw my rope down, picked it up with my right hand and started learning to head right-handed,” he recalled.
Brad first started roping a bucket on the ground, then slowly graduated to a head dummy, gradually moving further from the target. “Everything I do, except rope and shoot pool, I do left-handed,” Brad said with a laugh.
While Diane was primarily a barrel racer early on in their relationship, she also began to rope. Soon, the couple could be found at many major ropings. “We’ve been to Salado, Texas, quite a bit, as well as Tunica to the east and up to Nebraska and Dodge City. We’ve roped in every state surrounding Oklahoma, plus Las Vegas,” Brad shared.
While the couple haven’t had any major wins together, they have put together several runs to place in the money, including a win at an Oklahoma Law Enforcement and Firefighters Rodeo Association rodeo. “At the time Brad was the city attorney for Meeker, so they got it approved for us to compete,” Diane explained. “Brad and Chris Sutton also won the year-end award, and he and I won reserve. We’ve had some other wins, but there is a curse with couples roping together. There’s so much pressure. We could go to a roping and him not miss a cow all weekend, and then he would miss mine.”
Brad added, “It shouldn’t be that way, but if you look back, statistically you can see it.”
It was while in Las Vegas for the Priefert World Series of Team Roping Finale in 2012 that Brad earned his biggest team roping check ever. He and partner Chris Littlefield made the short round, finishing ninth to win $20,000 a man. “Chris and I got a good check that year. Another year Harold Barnes and I were 9th call back in the short go but didn’t get anything done there. Most of the times I’ve been out there I’ve at least gotten my entry fees back,” he recalled.
Over the years, Brad and Diane have built an impressive herd of corriente cattle. It all started with purchasing 40 heifers in 1987. “My family had Herefords when I was growing up and had quite a bit of lease land. When my dad decided he wanted to get out of the cattle business, I decided to take over the lease land. We were roping and it seemed it was a good fit, and corrientes were in fairly high demand, so we bought that first set from an old friend named Wayne Jones.” Brad added, “It just went from there. We bought another set a year later, and then started raising our own. Now our program is to keep 12 to 15 heifers each year to rope, and then we turn them into cows.”
While it comes as a surprise to many of his fellow team ropers when they find out Brad is a lawyer, they do know his love for adventures, including skiing and fishing. “He likes to keep busy and go different places to do things,” Diane shared.
“There is a core group of guys that go somewhere more every year for fishing. We’ve been to Peru, Brazil, Coast Rica, Canada several times, Alaska, and Montana,” he shared. “That and skiing each year are our biggest trips.”
For more about Brad West, pick up the February 2020 issue of Oklahoma Farm & Ranch.