By: Kendra Santos
Southpaw tie-down roper Jaxon Clegg has something to prove to himself and all the people along the way who told him he’d never make it as a straight left-hander. His 8.81-second win of the third performance here at the $562,500 Utah Days of ’47 Rodeo in Salt Lake City advanced him to Monday’s Gold Medal Round, where the champs’ checks will be worth $25,000 and the champs’ necks will be fitted with gold medals.
“I do it James Zant-style,” said Clegg, referring to the fact that he ropes, flanks and ties left-handed. “I talk to him a lot, because we have different things we deal with than the right-handed ropers.”
Zant is the last of the lefties to qualify for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, and there have been six ever. Grady Allen was the first in 1960, followed by Bob Ragsdale (1961-75), Ronnye Sewalt (1961, 1963-75, 1977-78), Butch Bode (1976), Tom Walker (1986 and 1998) and Zant (1987-88, 1990, 1995). Clegg hopes to be #7, and is using World Champions Rodeo Alliance events to springboard his way into world-class rodeo waters.
“My goal is to make the Finals one time,” said the 21-year-old sophomore business management major at Ranger College in Stephenville, Texas. “I got told when I was little that it wouldn’t be possible being left-handed.”
Sometimes it’s the little things, like always getting to tie the calves right before the performance you’ll be roping in. No one else would think of it, but that long-standing rule based on keeping things fair for all has extra implications for the rare left-hander, who if not allowed that simple option can surprise calves by coming from the opposite side.
“They have an even playing field here,” Clegg said. “I get to tie my calf before every perf every time. That’s not always the case at all rodeos, but it does make it more fair for everyone.”
He bought his bay horse, Mouse, who’s 12, from Clint Cooper. Clint’s one of Super Looper Roy’s boys.
“Mouse is my man,” Clegg said. “This horse has completely changed my everything, and made a huge difference in my roping.”
Clegg grew up roping with neighbor Sonny Smith. Mark Holder and his family helped him in a big way also. When Jaxon’s rodeo days are done, he plans to join in his own family’s Clegg’s Contruction business in their hometown of Coweta, Oklahoma.
But first, a college degree and a shot at the cowboy big time.
“Just one time,” he smiled.