I was watching an episode of ER this fall and a doctor was having dinner with her parents and current boyfriend. The father, as we often do, was interrogating the potential son-in-law. After careful scrutiny, the watchful father made the statement: "To know where you are going, you have to know where you've been."
It reminded me of tie-down roper Blair Burk.
The legacy of hall of fame roper Barry Burk and his son, Blair, is truly quite remarkable. Barry was a regular at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in the 1960s and '70s. Blair has not missed a Wrangler NFR since 1995. But the similarities in their careers do not end there. Barry was the reserve world champion an incredible nine times in his career and finished in the top three on three more occasions. But his career ended without winning that elusive world championship.
Blair has also proven he also has the knack for finishing near the top in the final Jack Daniel's World Standings, but like his dad, he is still missing that gold buckle. Blair has finished in the top three in four of the last five years. His best finish was last year when he finished second to Fred Whitfield.
But before you stick the bridesmaid label on the Burks you need to dig a little deeper in the story. Both have faced legendary rodeo figures in their career. Barry had to knock heads with guys like Dean Oliver, Phil Lyne, Glen Franklin, Tom Ferguson and even Roy Cooper. It has been even tougher for Blair. Few would argue that today's all-star cast of tie-down ropers is the best in history. Whitfield, Cody Ohl, Joe Beaver. These three alone account for 14 world titles. I won't even mention the all-around honors they've collected.
The tie-down ropers today have reinvented the sport. From first to 15th there is not a patsy in the group. A good example is Ricky Hyde who just blistered the field at the Pace Picante ProRodeo Classic. Thanks to Blair's appendectomy, which opened the door for Hyde to get in as an alternate, Hyde in turn became the first tour finalist to win every round of a tour finale.
The Burks do a nice job of putting the pieces in place to give themselves a chance to win a world championship. The Burk boys have always put a premium on good horseflesh. Barry has made sure Blair saddles as fine a roping horse as there is on the planet. Hammer, Turbo, and Old Black carried Blair through the late-1990s. Now Grumpy, a past AQHA-PRCA tie down roping Horse of the Year, could finally carry him to the promise land.
Blair roped his first calf from the back of a pony when he was just 3 years old. Oddly enough, Barry missed it having turned his back to walk away when he heard Blair yelling, "I got him, I got him, I got him."
Blair may rope the family's first world championship in a few weeks at the 45th Wrangler NFR. There's not a chance in the world Barry will miss that.