By Bernard S. Mason
This is the headline roping trick of them all-the famous skip with which the circus cowboys never fail to thrill the crowds. Since it is the most spectacular of the tricks, it is the one which all ropers are most anxious to accomplish.
It takes a pretty good kind of individual to do this stunt; one who is somewhat of an athlete, and is willing to work and stay with it. It will require practice-to some many, many long hours of practice-but that makes it all the more worth doing. I know many boys and some girls who have mastered it.
It might have been a Mexican cowpuncher who introduced the idea that a rope could be spun, but it was the American cowboys who first jumped through a spinning noose. In fact, as we noted above, most of the difficult and intricate tricks of rope spinning, as our experts do them today, were originated by our American ropers.
Although it is not based on any of the other spins, it is best not to attempt the skip until some of the easier tricks, such as the body spin and flat spin, have been mastered. Having become thoroughly familiar with these and gotten the "feel" of the spinning rope in its various positions, you will be ready to accept the real challenge of roping which is offered by the skip.
The skip lariat consists of about 22 feet of No. 12 spinning rope of the best quality, equipped with a brass honda (Figure D, Picture 15). The rope used in the body spins and similar tricks will not do. Do not attempt to transform this old rope into a skip rope by adding a heavy honda save it for the tricks for which it is adapted and secure a new rope for skipping. A brass honda can be obtained through spinning rope manufacturers. Metal eyes ore obtainable for a few cents at hardware stores, but the chances are they will be too light. It will be better to send for a brass honda made for use on spinning ropes.
A rope of just the right size and weight is all-important for this trick-without it one cannot hope to succeed. Splendid ready-made skip ropes designed especially for this trick are on the market.
Hold the rope as in Picture 34. Note that the noose is rather small, the end extending over into the left hand. Later you can start it larger, but this is the size for now. Note also just where the honda is. Now give the rope a hard spin from right to left and let the noose go, keeping it spinning with a wrist motion.
Let out rope rapidly until it is all out as in Picture 35. If the rope is balanced properly, the weight of the heavy honda will keep it going in the vertical position much more easily than one might think. But you must give it its initial spin with a distinct circular motion, just as if you took hold of an inverted bicycle wheel and gave it a spin.
Do not attempt to jump through until you can spin it perfectly and easily in this position. When you have accomplished this, turn your left side toward the spinning rope as in Picture 36, and you are in position to jump. Now it is a case of perfect timing-unless you jump at lust the right moment the stem will be in the way, as you can easily see. As the stem is going down on its way around--just as it nears the bottom of its downward motion-is the time to jump and pull the noose toward you.
If you timed it right -jumped at the just-right moment-it will have passed around you without touching and still be spinning on your right side as in Picture 37. As the stem is going down, it, of course, is in the way of your jump; but by the time you have jumped it will have passed down and be going up in front of you, and hence out of the way.
The trick is not done by jumping toward the noose but rather by jumping straight up in the air and pulling the spinning noose toward you. Be sure to get your feet well up off the ground and out of the way.
With a little practice you will be able to tell when the time to jump arrives by the feel of the rope. There is no way of acquiring the ability to jump at the right time except by practice. Use your head as well as your arm-study each failure and attempt to find where the mistake lies.
When you have mastered this jump you have half of the trick learned; the second part consists of jumping back, bringing the rope back to its original position again. The rope is now on your right side, of course. Just as the stem is going down on its way around, jump and pull the rope toward you, bringing it back to the left side as before.
This is about all that can be told in writing about how this splendid trick is done. The many little knacks about it can only come through practice. No, you'll not get it the first time you try, nor the second, perhaps not the. hundredth, but keep at it. For everything that's worthwhile you must pay the price. The price in roping is hours and hours of practice. If you pay it, you'll get it.
Rope spinning, to do it completely and well, is a life-time proposition. There are so many different spins. Every roper, no matter how long he has been at it, is constantly learning some new knack about it. So don't expect to learn it over night.
It is possible to run while skipping, taking a few steps between each jump. This requires much practice.
SKIP AND TURN
This variation is even more spectacular than the straight skip. It is performed exactly like the straight skip except that as you jump, you turn the body in the air so that the same side is always toward the noose.
Stand as in the straight skip with the left side toward the spinning noose (Picture 35) . Jump and pull the noose toward you as before, but as you do so turn the body in the air so that when the jump is over the left side is still toward the rope. Jump back and turn the body again, always keeping the left side toward the spinning noose. Be sure you have the straight skip thoroughly mastered before attempting this.
The butterfly requires the rope with the light honda used in the wedding ring. The trick consists of essentially the same movements of the rope as in the skip described above, except that it is done with a small loop in front of the body.
With a three foot loop and a short stem, not more than a foot .long, start a vertical spin at the right side of the body in a counter-clockwise direction. After it is spinning smoothly, shift it over to the left of the body by turning the hand to the left; this must be done just as the stem descends -the time to shift is when the stem is below the loop. When the noose has been transferred to the left, it is spinning in a clockwise direction. The loop is thus shifted from side to side with a figure eight appearance.
The true butterfly consists of two spins on each side. In learning, however, it will be necessary to take several spins on each side. There is another form of butterfly which consists of one spin on each side, the noose being rapidly shifted from side to side-this is sometimes called the turkey trot.
These intricate tricks with the small noose are more or less difficult, and should not be attempted by beginners until most of the other tricks are mastered.
The ocean wave is one of the most famous of the spinning tricks, and is based on the same principle as the butterfly and skip.
Using a three foot loop, start a clockwise spin in a vertical position on the right side of the body. When it is going evenly, pull it across to the left, just as in the skip, except that it is kept in front of the body. When the loop reaches the left side, it is spinning in a counter-clockwise direction, of course. Give it one full spin on the left side and at the same time bring the arm back over the head, thus carrying the rope back far enough to clear the body, from which point it is pulled across the back to the right side again. The ocean wave is thus virtually the skip with the rope kept outside the body. When skill is developed, a much larger loop can be used.
The trick is a spectacular, but difficult one, and will require practice.
The rolls are exceedingly difficult spins to master and require constant practice. They consist of spinning a small noose either horizontally or vertically, and rolling it over the shoulders when the head is bent forward, across the chest when the head is bent back, and over either arm. Many rope spinners do not consider the robs important or spectacular enough to be worth the effort required in perfecting them.
THE BIG LOOP
One of the fascinating tricks of roping is the spinning of the big loop, using anywhere from 50 to 100 feet of rope in the body spin.
One can easily spin 60 to 70 feet standing on the ground, but for the longer lengths it is usually necessary to stand on an elevation such as a horse's back or a stump.
These big loops require a small size of rope - cotton sash cord No. 10-and an extra heavy honda. Use a brass honda as on the skip rope (Figure D, Picture 15), but double the rope back around it so that it overlaps at least 5 inches; wire this end to the main rope with copper wire, covering it solidly with wire from the honda to the end. The honda and wire together supply the weight necessary to keep the big loop going.
Start a small noose spinning as in the regular body spin, and let out rope rapidly until the entire length is in action. It takes a lot of strength.
This exceedingly difficult trick which some professionals do consists of jumping in and out of. the spinning noose while sitting on the floor. It does not require so much in the way of rope spinning ability but is exceedingly difficult as a physical feat. Few men do it.
When one gets well along in roping and has mastered most of the standard tricks, he usually likes to try his skill at spinning two ropes, one in each hand. Use two short loops for this, about 12 to 15 feet long. Start out by doing a flat spin with each rope, then one vertical and the other flat. Later you may be able to spin one rope in one direction and the other in the opposite direction.
One of the best of the two rope tricks is to do the body spin with the left hand and the hurdle with the right.
As a rule, however, if a person wants to become a smooth, proficient roper with one rope, he will do well to let two ropes alone.
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Last modified: October 15, 2016.