Us lucky ones have lived a lot of life in the Red Bluff Round-Up arena. I spent my childhood there watching my dad do his cowboy thing, and have fond memories like that one sunny Sunday afternoon he was 3.9 on his second steer to win the bulldogging average and go one-two with his great and now late dear friend Donnie Yandell. I remember turning one back off of that left fence that’s sometimes a factor in the team roping there on an ugly black horse named Magilla Gorilla for my little brother at the Red Bluff Junior Round-Up one fall. I lost my dear college cronie Alex Wilson in that arena one spring when a bull stepped on his head our senior year at Cal Poly. Then suddenly I was sitting in the stands at Northern California’s Tehama District Fairgrounds watching my sons win junior high state championships in that storied arena, and a blink later competing at the California Circuit Finals there last October. So naturally, I stuck my hand in the air to write about the winners of the 100th annual Red Bluff Round-Up, which crowned its centennial champs with a big bang yesterday. It was so fun to spend my Sunday evening visiting with 2021 team roping titlists Tanner Green and Clay Futrell. Such a story brewing with this brand new team.
Before I tell you all about Team Green and Futrell, I must first thank and brag on the Red Bluff Round-Up committee for a couple of really important contributions to the players in our cowboy sport. First, equal money in the team roping—in this case, $18,500 added per side, because it takes two to tango in the team roping, and each partner pays dues, Procom fees, entry fees, fuel and food. And second, the old-school cool four-steer format. In a world of so many one-head drawing contests, it’s so refreshing to see a four-header where horsepower and horsemanship matter, and you can draw a little of everything and still win if you execute. To me, those two things show respect for our California roping forefathers with last names like Camarillo, Rodriguez and Hirdes. And it’s what cowboys who sacrifice all to succeed in today’s ultra-competitive climate deserve.
Back to the 2021 Red Bluff Round-Up, Green and Futrell put together a $7,767 payday per man, including second in Round 2, fifth in Round 3, first in the short round and the average win. They actually had a leg in Round 1, and were 12.2. Then they rallied, and were 6.3 on their second steer, which led the round until the very last team of Cody Snow and Wesley Thorp scorched one in 5.4, which was the fastest run of the rodeo. Tanner and Clay were 6.8 on their third steer, then won the short round in 5.7. Their 30.9 on four finished them just ahead of Blake Hirdes (who’s the grandson of late Hall of Fame header Les and the son of late National Finals Rodeo header Ed) and Wyatt Hansen at 31.2; Colton Campbell and Jordan Ketscher’s 31.5; and Hayes Smith and hometowner Justin Davis, who roped four in 31.7.
“Red Bluff is such a cool rodeo,” said Green, 22, who roped there in 2019, then missed it in 2020 when it was cancelled for the first time since World War II by COVID-19. “With the Wild Ride, the Wild Horse Race and the Wild Pony Races, Red Bluff has the coolest perfs. And Red Bluff and Clovis are about the only four headers we get to go to.”
“Red Bluff is the coolest rodeo I’ve ever been to,” chimed in Futrell, also 22, who earned 2020 Resistol Rookie Heeler of the Year honors and last year finished 24th in the world heeling for his cousin Cory Kidd. “There was a huge crowd, and the crowd was into it. With all that’s going on in the arena and on the track, Red Bluff is good watching for the cowboys, too. I was a rookie last year, and it got cancelled by COVID, so this was my first year in Red Bluff. I’ll sure look forward to coming back.”
Green and Futrell just launched their brand new partnership, with week one including San Angelo and Red Bluff. No good at Angelo, but their strong showing in Red Bluff is a great start. In case you’re curious, Green started this season heading for Hall of Famer Rich Skelton, and Futrell was back with cousin Cory in the early going of 2021. What I didn’t know until now is all Green—who’s the son of four-time NFR heeler Chris Green and Amanda Lyne Gorham, which also makes him the grandson of living cowboy legend Phil Lyne—went through in 2020 to be back with us in 2021.
On January 3, 2020, Tanner cut off the thumb on his roping hand at the base.
“I was heeling slow Holstein muleys on a colt, right before we were going to leave for Odessa,” remembers Green, who grew up in Cotulla, Texas. “I dallied, bumped the steer and let him go, and when I let my rope go, it hung up underneath the rubber at the bottom of my saddle horn. I never even came all the way tight, but it got my whole thumb. I didn’t even look down. I thought I’d just burned it. But when I shook my hand, my thumb hit the back of my hand. It was only hanging by a little bit of skin.”
I’ve begged my sons all their lives to “either dally or don’t,” because that little half-dally bump deal makes me cringe. Take it from Tanner, everybody—Either dally or don’t. What was originally expected to take about three months to heal up from cost him most of the 2020 season and a fully functional right thumb.
“They put in two pins during the first surgery,” Green said. “Six weeks later, they went back in to pull the pins out, and accidentally rebroke it. My physical therapist figured that out. So I had a second surgery using eight screws and two plates. I went back six weeks later and it still wasn’t healed, so I waited another month. That was during COVID when everything was shut down, so I couldn’t go to physical therapy. Right at 12 weeks after that second surgery, my thumb swelled up and started oozing pus. That went on for a month, so they put me on penicillin. But I couldn’t see my doctor because of COVID. I ended up having a bone infection, and having to go back for a third surgery to take out all the screws and plates. I finally got to rope again seven months later, last July.”
Green did get to keep this thumb, though that main middle knuckle does not bend even a little bit.
“It was a little hard to head at first,” he said. “Roping the neck wasn’t hard, but I still can’t figure out how to tie when I rope calves. I’m pretty hit and miss with my tying.”
Green—who rode an 8-year-old roan horse, Punk, that he bought from Jeff Hilton last fall at Red Bluff—enters the team roping, tie-down roping and steer roping, though those first two are his priority in 2021. Oh, and did I mention that Red Bluff was Punk’s first rodeo, and that he’d never been through a rope barrier before?
“My goal is to get to the NFR in both events,” said Green, who set the arena tie-down roping record at the 2018 Texas Circuit Finals in Waco with a 6.8-second sizzler. Also worth an honorable mention is that Green let Madison Outhier ride his calf horse, Legend, at Red Bluff, and she placed in both rounds and split third in the breakaway roping average on him.
The heeling half of this hot new tandem is from Union Grove, North Carolina, and hangs his hat in Stephenville, Texas, these days. When Green stayed behind in San Angelo to rope calves last week, Futrell and Jake Edwards drove the horses to California, with a layover at Trey Yates’s place in Arizona. Futrell is riding a young one now, too.
“My good sorrel, striped-face horse, Cutter, tore his suspensory this winter,” Futrell said. “So I started riding my young sorrel, striped-face horse, Shotgun, who’s 6. When my cousin cut me (said with a smile on his face, so not stirring the pot here), I texted Tanner to see if he wanted to rope. He came to Stephenville to practice with me, and away we went.
“I like our team’s chances. Tanner can do it all. And I’m pretty proud of my young horse. Cutter isn’t as fast and he’s cowy, so he sometimes cows down in the corner and puts me a little bit behind. Shotgun’s not as fancy or flashy as Cutter, but he gets there fast and puts me in a good spot.”
Green was the 2018 Resistol All-Around Rookie of the Year. Both of these young guns recognize that as a “once in a lifetime” honor. Now it’s on to the next one—which is literally this week’s four-header at Clovis, starting with the two long rounds in Tuesday and Wednesday slack—and the next goal.
“Like Tanner, my goal now is to make the NFR,” said Futrell, who’s the son of renowned bucking bull breeder Bart Futrell, who partners with Dillon and H.D. Page of D&H Cattle Company on all of his yearling prospects. “I just need to keep getting better. Red Bluff was a blast. I’d never been to California before, and I’d never been to a four-head rodeo before. It was cool seeing (92-year-old stock contractor icon) Cotton Rosser ride in the grand entry for the first time, and my favorite thing was Bob Tallman being the announcer there. I love that guy. Red Bluff is just a cowboy rodeo, and it’s so great to get to stay in one spot and hang out. And you can’t beat the weather. It’s beautiful out here.”
Thanks for the memories, old and new, and for all you continue to do for my cowboy and cowgirl friends, Red Bluff! And congrats to all the 100th annual Red Bluff Round-Up champs, who also include California bareback rider Clayton Biglow with 88 points on Powder River Rodeo’s Black Leg; California steer wrestler Josh Garner with 19.5 seconds on four steers; saddle bronc rider Stetson Wright with 88 points on Powder River’s Miss Valley; tie-down roper Tuf Cooper, 35.8 on four; breakaway ropers Lakota Bird and Jimmie Smith, 5.5 on two; barrel racer Jessie Telford, 34.63 on two runs aboard Cool Whip; and bull rider Shane Proctor—who could hardly wait to get home to his baby girl, Coulee, who’s name after his Northwest hometown up in Washington—with 88.5 points on Flying U Rodeo’s Bringin Trouble. Good times for our rodeo family. Thanks again!