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Natchez-native focused on making a name in rodeo world

Berry III pulls down the calf he roped. The 20-year-old professional calf roper participates in events across the country. (Ben Hillyer \ The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — Like most good cowboys, James Berry III started out as an outlaw.

“My sister had a pony named Chico, and when I was 3 or 4 years old, I took him from her and learned to rope,” Berry said.

Sixteen years later, Berry is a professional rodeo calf roper who holds a handful of titles and spends his days and nights practicing at the arena his father built him at their home in Natchez when Berry was a boy.

“Five years from now I see myself with three or four gold buckles (signifying championships), and being where my dad won’t have to work as hard,” Berry said. “Because he helped me so much when I came up, so I want to make it easier on him.”

Natchez native James Berry III dismounts his horse, Sweet, after roping a calf while practicing at the arena his father built for him when he was a young boy. Berry III participated in two separate rodeos Saturday. (Ben Hillyer \ The Natchez Democrat)

Berry’s road to glory continued Saturday as he participated in two separate rodeos. Berry’s first event of the day was the seventh annual Ernest and Evan Theriot Memorial Roping event in Hattiesburg. Berry then traveled back home to ride in the Heritage Dodge Best of the Best rodeo at the Wayne Johnson Covered Arena.

He failed to place in Hattiesburg after he had some trouble with his calf, but in the Natchez event, Berry finished in second place overall.

Berry, 20, said it was a busy day, but he is used to competing — and winning — in multiple events in one day.

He said traveling the country and participating in as many rodeos as he can is his passion.

“It’s fun to travel all over and meet different people and sponsors,” he said. “It’s great to make money doing what I love to do.”

Berry said San Antonio, Texas, is his favorite place to perform, but he has also enjoyed trips to Colorado, California and Oklahoma. He will head to Texas and California next weekend, he said.

John Berry Jr. has been instrumental in his son’s development as a calf roper, and the two practice twice a day every day at their arena.

“I built it for him when he was probably 3 or 4 years old,” Berry Jr. said. “It’s fun. I’ve watched all his life, and he has worked hard to get to this point.”

Berry Jr. bragged that his son has always been at the top of his age divisions and has won several competitions in his young career.

Berry III said his father comes to almost all of his events, and his sister Ciera makes most of them, but he was excited about performing in front of a large number of his hometown fans Saturday night. He said the large crowd would not bother him though.

“I’ve roped in front of 50,000 people before,” he said. “I used to get nervous, but you get used to it and get comfortable in front of that many. It feels like I’ve been in over a million rodeos, so it got easy.”