Brice Chapman knows a trick or two — rope tricks, that is.
The Texas cowboy and his dog Sooner, a red border collie, brought them to the American Folk Festival this weekend.
Chapman also performs at rodeos around the West with his paint horse. Crossfire, however, was forced to stay home, the cowboy told the crowd Saturday afternoon, because “he wouldn’t fit on the plane.”
The son of a farrier — a person who shoes horses — Chapman grew up in Lubbock, Texas, where he still lives. He began teaching himself to swing a lariat at the age of 4. By the time he was 10, Chapman was performing in shows at the Ranching Heritage Center in his hometown.
Chapman began his 30-minute show with a few loud cracks of a bullwhip and some traditional rope tricks set to country-western songs. He swung ropes in an ever-widening circle over his cowboy-hatted head, then lowered them slowly until his body was inside the circling rope.
Wearing cowboy boots and spurs, Chapman hopped in and out of the ropes to the delight of the crowd.
As much as festival-goers cheered at the cowboy’s rope tricks, it was Sooner who won the hearts of old and young alike.
The dry and immaculately groomed canine waved to the crowd, jumped rope with his master and raced around chairs and a boy named Wyatt from the audience as if they were barrels set up in a rodeo ring.
For another trick that had the audience laughing, Sooner “stole” the cap off the head of a man brought onstage and refused to give it back.
After the show, Chapman invited children in the audience to scratch Sooner behind the ears and pet him. The cowboy even let some of the children who rushed toward the stage try on his cowboy hat.
The tricks of his trade, Chapman — like all good cowboys — kept to himself.