Back When They Bucked with J.W. Stoker
For seven of his eight decades, J.W. Stoker has entertained rodeo and western fans. The Weatherford, Texas cowboy has criss-crossed the nation and the globe, […]
Roper Kiesner is a man of many talents.
The twenty-one year old cowboy who lives in Ripley, Okla., rides saddle broncs, makes and sells knives, and is a former trick rider.
He grew up the son of a saddle bronc rider and barrel racer, and when his parents, Phillip and Julie, quit rodeo competition, they wanted to stay involved in rodeo.
By then, Roper’s older brother, Rider, had learned to trick rope. So the boys’ parents formed a specialty act, the Kiesner Family Wild West Revue.
Rider did the trick roping, Phillip did the cowboy mounted shooting, and Roper wanted to be involved in some way. “I wanted to do something,” he said, “but I’m not quite the ‘sit down and practice it’ like my brother, for hours on end. I’m more of a ‘get on and go’ person.”
The family acquired two Shetland ponies and Roper learned to roman ride, his contribution to the family’s act.
After he outgrew the Shetlands, he began trick riding. “I had fun with that,” he said. “I always liked adrenaline and going fast.”
The Kiesner Family Wild West Revue was popular, performing at some of the biggest rodeos in the U.S. They took their show across the globe, entertaining in all of the 48 contiguous states, in Lebanon, China, Japan, Dubai, France, and for the Sultan of Oman in 2006.
In 2010, when Rider, who is two years older than Roper, turned 18, the act slowly dissolved as he went out on his own.
But Roper’s involvement in rodeo didn’t end. He had ridden sheep and steers when he was younger and always wanted to ride bulls. But he felt his size was a detriment, so he tried saddle bronc riding. During the second saddle bronc ride he made, at age 17, he got bucked off and broke his arm. After sitting out six weeks to let it heal, he got on three more horses. The third one bucked him off and shattered his collarbone, requiring surgery.
Roper was deterred. “After that, I thought I’d hold off,” he laughed, but he didn’t hold off for long.
He began drinking protein shakes to “make myself more durable” and put on some weight. He went from 95 to 130 lbs, and at the age of 19, got on a few more horses. “Fortunately I didn’t break anything,” he said.
Now, two years later, he’s headed to his third Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo, going in this year in sixth place, higher than he’s ever been ranked.
Roper attributes much of his saddle bronc riding success to his trick riding abilities. “The trick riding helped a lot with balance and problem solving,” he said. “When I was roman riding, if I’d ever slip a foot down or backwards, or fall down, or lose my reins, I’d have to think on my feet really fast and get up, while the horses were going full blast, or I’d have to turf it. That’s helped me out a lot in saddle bronc riding. If I get out of position, I can get back down in the saddle.”
The cowboy is also an artist. He designs and makes pocket and fixed blade knives and sells them via Facebook and word of mouth.
It began when he needed a birthday present for his dad. He had the idea to make a knife. “I grabbed a horseshoe rasp and with a hand grinder, roughed it out and put a blade on it.” It was the beginning of his knife business. “Some people saw it and thought it was really cool, and wanted one, so I made more.”
He’s refined his business to include better tools than hand grinders. Expert knife maker Jerald Nickles from Perkins, Okla. has taken Roper under his wing, teaching him the art and letting him use his equipment.
Roper uses superior quality products for his knives, which started out as ranch and rasp knives and now are high-end. The blades are made of Swedish Damascus steel, which is folded and has layers, giving it swirls and patterns. The handles are made of mammoth, hippo and elephant ivory and exotic fossils and other bone. He estimates he’s made a couple hundred knives, and he loves it. “My whole life, I’ve loved dinking around making stuff, whatever I could think of. I’ve always liked knives. Knives are something you can go as crazy and wild as you want to with it.”
The artistic talent runs in the Kiesner family. Roper’s grandpa and uncles made bronzes and did some drawing, and making knives works well with his rodeo schedule. He has a Facebook page which shows his products.
When he has any spare time, Roper likes to hike and play the ukulele.
Roper is living the dream; rodeoing, making knives, and living out life as a rodeo cowboy. Not bad for a boy who started roman riding on Shetland ponies.
Rodeo Newstm (ISSN 1934-5224) is published 12 times a year, semi-monthly May-Nov; once in Dec Jan, Feb., March, and April by Publication Printers, 2001 S. Platte River Drive, Denver, Colo., 80223. Iris Ink, Inc., parent company of Rodeo News is located at 3604 WCR 54G, Laporte, Colo., 80535. Subscriptions are $30 per year. Periodicals postage paid at LaPorte, Colo., and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Rodeo News, 1612 Laporte Ave. Suite #2, Fort Collins, CO 80521
Canada Post (CPC) publication #40798037. Material in this publication may not be reproduced in any form without permission. Rodeo News carries advertising and editorials as a service to the readers. However, publication of advertisements and editorials in Rodeo News does not commit Rodeo News to agree with or guarantee any of the merchandise or livestock advertised.