NAMPA - Junior Nogueira grew up in Brazil wishing and dreaming to one day rope in the United States. He wanted to compete against the top ropers in the world, so he gathered his belongings and visited America in 2013.
Never could he have fathomed he'd soon partner up with the very same cowboy he grew up idolizing from South America. Through a mutual friend, Nogueira met Jake Barnes, a seven-time world champion, in Scottsdale, Ariz.
"He basically came over to visit, he just wanted to meet me," Barnes said at the Ford Idaho Center on Wednesday evening. "He said it was his dream to come over (to America) and rope, and so I said, 'Shoot. What the heck?'"
Nogueira began roping at age 4 with his father, Lucinei, who was an established calf roper in Brazil. He learned the techniques needed to be successful. Literally and figuratively, his father showed him the ropes, which made a sudden loss even harder.
While competing in a roping event, Lucinei suffered a heart attack and died while still mounted on his horse. He was 36.
"My mom has helped me with everything, given support," Nogueira said. "She is a great woman."
Searching for direction without his father, Nogueira entrusted his rodeo career to his religious faith.
"God is very great, step-by-step he was with me," Nogueira said. "I came just by myself to visit and I met Jake. I left everything, my family, to try and make it."
Retired at age 55 after joining the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association in 1980, Barnes was inspired by Nogueira's infectious passion.
"More so than anything is (his) attitude," Barnes said when asked what influenced his decision to return to rodeo. "He's just a good guy, and he's fresh - so that helps. I've been doing this for 35 years, and at times I get burned out and sour. He has none of that."
Barnes, who was inducted into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in 1997, has little left to accomplish. With his former partner Clay O'Brien Cooper, Barnes won world championships from 1985-89 and in 1992 and 1994. They tied the National Finals Rodeo team roping aggregate record of 59.1 seconds in '94, and their seven championships ranks second all-time.
The two roped for 15 years before parting ways.
"Times in our lives," Barnes said. "Sometimes you get a little stagnant."
Through 2013, Barnes ranked 17th in career earnings at $2,148,293. Still relatively healthy with a newfound opportunity to contend for another NFR appearance, Barnes wasn't about to ask for senior citizen discounts on the golf course.
"I feel my ropin' is as good or better than it's ever been," Barnes said. "I'm roping with a new kid, so that's sort of put a spark under me right now. I want to make the NFR again, but I'm doing it more for him."
Barnes is eagerly attempting to qualify for the NFR in order to undergo knee replacement surgery. He needs two months to recuperate. But he hasn't lost focus on channeling his attention to mentoring his young partner.
"He lost $10,000 in the tour standings because of a technicality. We're going to push to get him to get to NFR.
"It would be nice for a world championship, too," Barnes winked.
Nogueira quickly packed saddles into their trailer after finishing with a time of 6.2 seconds - the third highest at the Snake River Stampede - as Barnes hurriedly unbuttoned his shirt. No time for showers. They're expected in California tomorrow.
And Nogueira wouldn't have it any other way.
"It's my dream come true," he said. "I'm roping with my idol."
Trevor Phibbs: 377-6424; Twitter: @IDS_Phibbs