In his quest to go where no 62-year-old team roper has ever gone before, Walt Woodard took another large leap into roping’s record books with his win at the 2018 James Pickens Jr. Foundation Charity Roping, held April 24 in conjunction with the Clovis (California) Rodeo. Woodard and Kaleb Driggers, who were last year’s reserve Pickens champs, roped five steers in 34.08 seconds to take the win and $6,040 a man by a tenth of a second over Riley Minor and Travis Graves.
“It’s unbelievable to be out here at his age and still second to none,” said Driggers, who at 28 is less than half Woodard’s age. “It takes a lot of determination to still have the fire Walt has in him. He heeled every steer before the second hop today. He never one time was out of position, and he never one time took a bad shot. He did an outstanding job.”
Walt’s got a one-word explanation for the win—“best”—and he’s not bragging on himself.
“I was roping with the best header, and I was riding the best horse,” said 20-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo veteran Woodard, who won gold buckles 26 years apart in 1981 and 2007, and has been storming the rodeo world with another two-time champ of the world, Matt Sherwood, in 2018. “Driggers and Nogueira have been the best team. and Kaleb’s been the best header the last two or three years. Who’s better than he is? No one, if you’re asking me. All they need is a little luck in Las Vegas.”
As for that horse of his, Blueberry is the product of the Woodard family rope-horse program, which is based on generations of horsemanship and wisdom. The only two to touch this gold-standard 10-year-old in his lifetime have been Walt and his fellow BFI champ and son, Travis.
“Driggers is the best header, and Blueberry is the best heel horse,” Walt said. “This horse does not do anything wrong. He doesn’t cheat, shoulder, check off, and he’s not pulling on you going down the arena. He’s just a great horse. He nor Driggers made a mistake all day long, and we won first. Simple as that.”
Driggers rode a 13-year-old sorrel horse he calls Ole Son, that he bought from another BFI winner, Zac Small, last November.
“I love all these spring-run ropings,” Driggers said. “And this horse makes jackpotting really easy on me. If you’re going to be gone from home, you want to be roping and competing. It keeps you sharp and gives you something fun to do.”
Fun is the fact that Driggers and Nogueira—with 55 years between them—split the second round at the Clovis Rodeo with Sherwood and Woodard—who total twice as many years between them at 110—each team with a 5.5-second run.
“I love California,” said Walt, who grew up in the Golden State. “The weather out here is beautiful. I bought some fresh strawberries, and they were wonderful. The drivers here hate me, for some reason. I’ve counted this trip, and have gotten the finger three times so far. But I love it here.
“And I love all the ropings out here in the springtime. That’s one of the reasons I’m here. I like the long scores and the hard-running steers. I have a great horse. So the harder and tougher the conditions, the better my horse shines. I like that. And I love this lifestyle. I don’t do it for the money. I do it for the challenge.”
2018 James Pickens Jr. Foundation Charity Roping Results:
Average: 1. Kaleb Driggers and Walt Woodard, 34.08 on five, $6,040 per man; 2. Riley Minor and Travis Graves, 34.18, $5,034; 3. Andrew Ward and Kollin VonAhn, 35.35, $4,026; 4. Jeff Flenniken and Jonathan Torres, 36.37, $3,020; 5. Aaron Macy and Wyatt Cox, 38.27, $2,013
Round 1: 1. Garrett Rogers and Russell Cardoza, 6.17, $1,510 per man; 2. Coleman Proctor and Billie Jack Saebens, 6.28, $1,006
Round 2: 1. Andrew Ward and Kollin VonAhn, 6.25, $1,510 per man; 2. Joshua Torres and Cody Hogan, 6.42, $1,006
Short Round: 1. Jr Dees and Nano Garza, 5.91, $600 per man