A short true adventure
Cowboys began roping as part of ranch work to brand or medicate their calves. It became a contest to see which cowboy could do it the quickest. Their goal was to throw a lasso around a calf’s head, jump off their horse, tie three of the calf’s legs together, and finish the trick as fast as possible. This led to roping contests at rodeos and fairs.
Recently, a new type of roping sprang up. My first experience with this happened in a small town of about thirty people called Hachita, New Mexico. The only disturbance in this small town might be a dust devil coming down the street or a Border Patrol helicopter flying overhead.
One week in 1996, they decided to try this new kind of roping…a chicken roping. Yes, chickens, with feathers flying and beaks crowing. One roper told those watching, “If it has legs, it can be roped.”
Now this kind of roping would not be done from a horse and would require a different kind of lasso. Just a heavy piece of string is used, so they don’t choke the chicken.
Just like in the world of cattle, the chickens they roped all had names. The meaner the animal, the meaner its name. Names like Jalapeno Joe, Cholulu Chuy or Red Hot Flame were typical.
A large crowd of over fifty people gathered to witness the chicken roping. The chicken would be let out of a box and the cowboy would be timed to see how fast he could rope it. The one who roped it the fastest won a Chicken Roping Belt Buckle with a turquoise stone found in the Little Hatchet Mountains nearby.
Small towns often have fun in unusual ways. A mural of the Chicken Roping was painted by a traveling artist on the outside of the bar there. Inside on the wall were pictures of the winners. It soon became an annual event with even larger crowds.
And afterward? What else, but a good old-fashioned chicken BBQ.
Hachita Liquor Saloon was no longer in operation on my last trip west. The paintings on the building were done by an old friend, C.M. Scott, a cowboy artist.