The Burk family has long been famous for their roping, rodeoing, and outstanding Quarter Horses. For more than eight decades, the name “Burk” has echoed across rodeo arenas from coast to coast and Canada. Whenever rodeo, past or present, is the topic, “the Burk boys from Oklahoma” are always among the first to be included. Uncle Clyde, was four times World Champion Calf Roper and his tragic death during competition at the Denver National Western in l945, ended a flourishing career at the age of thirty-three. Barry’s father, Dee and other uncle, Jiggs, were also widely respected for their calf roping abilities as they traveled the professional rodeo circuit in the l940's. Dee Burk gave up the rodeo circuit to start a career in the horse business as an outstanding horse trainer and horse show judge. Barry also has been involved in the horse show industry, having shown the AQHA Champion Calf Roping Horse at many major shows, including Denver, Ft. Worth, and Houston. In l981, Barry showed Pawnee’s Eagle to the AQHA Senior World Calf Roping Championship. Barry’s own rodeo horse, Bay Bandit Bar, was named the PRCA Calf Roping Horse of the Year at the National Finals Rodeo that same year.
In l957, Barry joined the American Junior Rodeo Association and was on his way to becoming one of the all-time great rodeo competitors. That year, at the age of fifteen, he won the Calf Roping and All-Around Championships for that association and for the next five years he dominated that level of the sport of rodeo. While still a junior rodeo star, he also captured the International Rodeo Association World Championship Calf Roping award in l960. When Barry’s junior rodeo career ended in l961, he had won hundreds of buckles and saddles, including sixteen Championship titles.
Upon graduation from high school at Wagoner, Oklahoma, he had used his athletic ability to earn himself three college scholarship offers: football at Oklahoma State University, basketball at Northeastern Oklahoma State University and rodeo at Hardin-Simmons University. He chose the basketball offer at NEOSU, but the rodeo spirit was too strong in his blood and he was back on the road to a professional rodeo career.
After joining the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association in l963, Barry was consistently ranked among the National Finalist. Few other calf ropers have been among this elite “Top Fifteen" more times than Barry, having competed in seventeen PRCA National Finals Rodeos. Although the World Championship title eluded him, he was seven times runner-up for the Calf Roping Championship and in l973, he won the coveted National Finals Calf Roping Championship. Barry has won the average at virtually every rodeo in the U.S. and Canada, .including Cheyenne Frontier Days, Calgary Stampede, Denver National Western, Houston Astrodome, San Antonio, Phoenix , Oklahoma State Fair, New Mexico State Fair, Canadian Western, Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben and the San Francisco Cow Palace. In l971, he set a new calf roping arena record at the National Finals with 8.5 seconds, which remained unbroken for an impressive ten years. Barry also won the Calf Roping and All-Around Championships for the Prairie Circuit in l977. Because of his personable appearance and willingness to work with the public and the media, Blue Bell Wrangler selected Barry as an official endorsee for their products and the relationship continued for the twenty years of his active rodeo career. He still never misses a chance to promote Wrangler and they now are the title sponsor of the BB Championship Jr. Calf Roping Roundup.
As the miles began to add up, Barry turned his attention to rodeo-related businesses. Each of his endeavors, whether designing horse trailers or roping saddles, or conducting roping schools and clinics throughout the U.S. , have always allowed him to stay close to the sport of rodeo. Legendary for riding only the best roping horses, a life-time of national exposure, and his God-given ability of salesmanship have all combined to lead to a successful business in the training and selling of top-quality performance horses. A steady stream of people come to his ranch in Durant, Oklahoma to purchase a horse or to seek his expertise and advice, as they strive to be better calf ropers or just improve their horsemanship. Many of the more advance ropers, some in the PRCA Top Fifteen standings, come to him to polish or fine-tune something in their roping program that is just not working for them at the time. He is the master at getting the best out of a roper or a roping horse!
Back in l986, Barry came up with an idea to showcase the junior calf ropers of the nation in what is now known as the BB Championship Jr. Roping Roundup. Since that year, this idea has grown into a project of monumental proportions. For four days, each Memorial Weekend, hundreds of young ropers and their families come from all over the U.S. to the Hardy Murphy Coliseum & Fairgrounds in Ardmore, Oklahoma. They come to compete in this special gathering to have fun, rope good cattle, visit with other ropers from around the nation, win prizes and large sums of money. In 2018, the 33rd Annual Roping Roundup, with nearly 600 entries representing more than twenty states, roped for a payoff of over $60,000 plus numerous awards, to the Champions in the seven divisions.
Barry is joined in both his rodeo and horse business by his wife, Cheryl, who was raised on a ranch in the Texas Panhandle and now spends most of her time with the grooming end of the horse business or handling the paper work for the Roping Roundup. Their son, Blair, now 45, is busy with his own professional rodeo career. He, like his father, started out as a junior, high school, and college champion, and is now a perennial face among the PRCA Top Fifteen Calf Ropers. Blair has a beautiful fifteen year old daughter, T'Lee. Blair has now an active role in the production of the Annual Roping Roundup.
Barry’s love for the sport of rodeo has been exemplified by his willingness to “put back into the sport” more than he has taken out and he is rewarded for his efforts by the high esteem in which he is held by the entire rodeo industry, whether it be the public, committees, producers, or other ropers themselves. In l994, he was inducted into the PRCA ProRodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs. This great honor is indicative of the kind of person and competitor he has been in his long association with roping and rodeo.