Unlikely Duo Ropes In A Win


At first glimpse, the two might resemble an odd couple on the team-roping circuit, but no one is going to poke fun.

They're simply too good at what they do to be chided.

Tonto Basin cowboy Eddie Conway, 58, and his 14-year-old partner John Ewing, a Payson High School freshman, make up one of the most unusual but successful teams to ever join forces to heel and head a steer.

The roping team reached the pinnacle of success -- the "big money," Conway calls it -- at the US Team Roping Championships held Oct. 30 in Oklahoma City, Okla.

There, the Rim country duo split $66,000 in prize money, which is the largest pay-out ever for a first-place finish, USTRC officials say.

The roping runners-up -- Robert Jordan and Myron Toledo, both of Bloomfield, N.M. -- shared "only" $35,000.

In winning -- with Conway heeling and Ewing heading --the champs' total time on four steers was an impressive 35.75 seconds.

In addition to the hard cold cash, Conway and Ewing returned to the Rim country with a myriad of other prizes including trophy saddles, gold belt buckles, watches, framed western prints, boots and tickets to the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City.

The windfall is especially meaningful to the teenager who says he's going to stash the money away until he's old enough to drive, then he'll buy himself a new truck.

Conway will only say he has plenty of good uses for the prize money.

In order to earn a berth into this year's Team Roping Championships, also known as the "National Finals Shoot Out," Conway and Ewing participated in a series of qualifying events held throughout the year in Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada.

The seed they earned into the nationals wasn't their first. Last year, they qualified and won a preliminary round for which they received about $4,500 each. The prize money earned in Oklahoma represents a huge pay day for most any cowboy, but Conway believes there could be even larger ones for his young partner.

"If he stays with it (roping), he can go a long way," Conway said. "The USTRC organization has made (the sport) profitable."

The seeds of the friendship between the championship duo were sown years ago when Conway roped with Ewing's father, Billy Jack, in the Ewing family arena located in Tonto Basin.

At the time, Conway was a seasoned cowboy and rodeo performer but relatively new to roping competition. Years before, he was a professional bull rider who twice advanced to the RCA (now Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association) National Finals Rodeo.

With his young partner, the bull rider turned roper experienced newfound success winning jackpots around the state.

Last weekend, the two traveled to Laughlin where they competed with one another, and other partners, in a team-roping event.

Next up, the duo could enter a USTRC competition in December in Las Vegas. After that, both say they'll hit the road in search of the best competition and hopefully return with another hard-earned purse of prize money.

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