(First published in the Cochrane Times on Sept. 5, 2015)
The Copithorne family ties to ranching, rodeo and the area of Cochrane date back to a time when John Copithorne’s great-great grandfather first settled in the Jumping Pound area in 1883.
He built and operated a ranch, and, by doing so, built ranching into the blood of his kin for five generations now.
“We’ve been in the agricultural industry since day one,” said John Copithorne, now 55, who continues to run the family ranch to this day.
The ranch raises beef, sells forage and up until 2008 also dealt in dairy.
His family’s history has kept him in the business and in the Cochrane area, but he also believes in the ranching lifestyle he grew up in and has transferred those values to his two children.
“It’s the greatest area in Canada to ranch,” said Copithorne. “I couldn’t really imagine being anywhere else.”
As tied to ranching Copithrone is, with it comes the rodeo.
In the 1980s, Copithorne was involved with the FCA Rodeo Association and competitively steer wrestled for a time before a prosperous career as a purebred cattle auctioneer began to flourish.
“I didn’t have the time to compete and took quite a few years off,” said Copithorne.
He continued to be involved with rodeo, specifically the Calgary Stampede where he had volunteered since 1987 and sat as a board of directors from 1997 to 2010.
For his work with the Stampede, Copithorne was awarded the title of honorary lifetime director.
“It’s basically a retired director who gets all the perks and not many responsibilities,” said Copithorne. “After 27 years they gave me that sweet spot.”
With a breadth of knowledge concerning rodeo, Copithorne began consulting with the local Lion’s Club.
He noted that rodeo started off as a way for agricultural industry workers to get together and blow off some steam, but the Cochrane Rodeo is evidence of the sport’s elevation to level were 90 per cent of those in attendance have no direct ties to agriculture.
“It shows the greatness of rodeo and it’s ability to bring all walks of life to a gather point to celebrate,” said Copithorne. “Anytime you can bring rural Alberta to urban Alberta and connect the two, is a wonderful time.”
His son, Ty Copithorne, recalls the first time his dad took him to the Calgary Stampede.
He wasn’t drawn to the bull or steer riding, but rather the calf roping, an event he saw everyday on the ranch.
“I didn’t want to play basketball or hockey anymore,” said Ty. “I wanted to calf rope.”
At the age of 10, Ty was getting into pens with calves, his rope in hand.
He got knocked down, a lot, but that never deterred him.
“I got back up and I wanted to do it again,” said Ty.
While riding on the ranch, there was never a time when he did not have a rope with him and this often caused him to straggle behind in his duties.
He father would be chasing cows all over the ranch, but all Ty wanted to do was practise roping fences.
“I’d get in crap because I wasn’t doing my job, but I didn’t care,” said Ty, who has now competitively calf roped for the past seven years.
Though he left the ranch to pursue apprenticeship welding at SAIT that did not keep Ty far from rodeo.
He became a four-time Canadian college qualifier, season leader of the 2013 season and second in average in 2014.
Copithorne said it is a family tradition that if you wanted to work on the ranch, you must first leave to work off the ranch.
“After a couple of years if it wasn’t what you wanted then you knew in the back of your mind and in your heart that [the ranch] where I need to be,” said Copithorne.
Now, Ty works the ranch with his dad, mom and sister during the spring, summer and fall, but is able to work as a welder during the winter months.
He knows exactly what he wants out of life and it lies on the same land four generations of his family worked before him.
“I always say anytime you can let kids raise livestock, livestock will end up raising the kids,” said Copithorne about his experience both as a child and raising children on a ranch.
He has continued to consult with the Lions Club to improve the Cochrane Rodeo with each passing year.
The whole Copithrone family has even been known to competitively team rope, which he said is rare to have a mother, father, daughter and son competing together.
For his efforts of promoting rodeo in Cochrane and exemplifying the values of a cowboy or girl, the Lions Club bestowed the honour of the very first Cowboy of the Year award last rodeo.
“Rodeo is an opportunity and a great reason for a community to gather and celebrate the western heritage and our roots,” said Copithorne. “It has always been the fabric of the Cochrane community.”