Until now, Boogie Ray of Mabank, Texas, had a 2003 NFR qualification under his belt but not a Texas Circuit year-end title. With $29,181.61 won on the year, the 52-year-old heeler clinched his first-ever circuit title Oct. 13.
Ray entered the 2023 Texas Circuit Finals in Waco at the top of the standings. And when all was said and done, he was able to stay No. 1 after winning $3,871 at the event.
“When I started out just as an amateur rodeo guy, just making the circuit finals was a big deal when I was younger because all of our heroes were there—the Matt Tylers and all these people that we looked up to,” Ray explained. “Once I made the Finals the one time, then I was 16th a couple of times and I kind of came back home, and you can’t just make the circuit finals. Even to this day, the guys that go there pretty much are at the top of the game in the team roping world and, if you can go and be competitive against them, it’s definitely an accomplishment.”
Ray remembers a day when the Texas Circuit Finals had at least 40 NFR contestants entered. And the times when he was the odd man out as the only team roper at the Texas Circuit Finals who hadn’t also qualified for the NFR that same year. Knowing that history and taking a long, hard look at the talent Texas holds today adds to the significance of this win as well.
“My dad told me one time, ‘Anytime you have something that says Texas on it, that’s just a bigger deal,’” Ray said. “And I’ve never even considered changing circuits. It’s the one I’ve always been in; I’ve never been in another one. It still has a big feel to it. And that’s not putting down any other circuits—there’s great ropers everywhere now.”
Ray’s win also shows age is just a number.
“I was the oldest guy there in the team roping, which that didn’t matter to me,” Ray said with a laugh. “I don’t feel that way. Manny (Egusquiza), Evan (Arnold) and I, we were laughing, and Tyler McKnight was laughing about it. He’s like, ‘Man, I’m kind of the old guy here.’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, you aren’t even close.’”
During the regular season, when Ray realized he had the chance to enter the circuit finals in the lead for the first time in his career, he made it more of a priority.
“I’d never even went in in the lead before, so when I saw I had that chance, I thought, ‘You know what? I’m going to really go to these, maybe go to places I wouldn’t go,’” Ray said. “And I had a good year with a lot of people, and it gave me that opportunity.”
And by a lot of people, he’s including the, at least, 10 partners he roped with in 2023.
“Kolby Krieger, Dallas Owen, Casey Tew, Josh Torres,” Ray started. “Then I roped with Brad Lands at a few, Dillon Holyfield. I roped with Cyle Denison for most of the summer, really. I roped with Devon Johnson, and then I roped with Cash Duty at the last couple. I roped with Payden Emmett at the finals, and Payden and I had never roped together.”
There’s probably more, Ray admits, because it’s just what he does.
“I go to these rodeos, and it is just something that we do,” Ray said. “If I’m going to go, I’m going to find somebody to go with, and sometimes it also just works out that somebody needs a partner.”
In Waco, Ray was paired up with 35-year-old Payden Emmett from Ponca, Arkansas. They were able to place in the third and fourth rounds and the average of the circuit finals but didn’t have a true game plan, despite never having roped together prior.
“I knew Payden did a great job, and I knew that he had been rodeoing out some this summer,” Ray said. “He had kind of been in the mix with those people, and I also just felt like I knew he was going to try to just go do his thing and turn the steers no matter what.”
Come July 2024, Ray will be paired up with Coy Brittain at the NFR Open in Colorado Springs. Brittain was the reserve year-end champion header. And given the 28-year-old’s talent, Ray looks forward to it.
“It’s my first time to get to go to the NFR Open, also,” Ray said. “So, I’m excited about that. And Coy roped so good all this year and so good at the circuit finals. I’m really excited about roping with him. He’s got a great horse, a lot of the ability.He was a Mesquite season champion, so I got to see him a bunch. They’re still kids to me, but they’re grown-up kids now. He definitely could be one of the top headers there in the world.”
Aside from roping, Ray works for a stock contractor and is the chute boss at the Mesquite Championship Rodeos. Between chute bossing and his 32 years as a contestant in the PRCA, Ray knows a lot of people and tries to be the biggest supporter of the sport however possible.
“I’ve just met all these people and I just like going to them and really trying to build relationships to try to help support the rodeo and the team roping world and try to get equal money at places and things like that,” Ray said.
Finally getting the Texas Circuit title is special, and it has Ray hungry.
“I’ve never won a world title obviously, but Jake Barnes told me one time, ’When the NFR is over and you win the world, when you walk out of there, it’s like, damn, I’ve got to do it again,’” Ray recalled. “He told me that 20 years ago probably and, as I rode out [this weekend] and it was over, I was like, ‘Man, what are we going to do now? We’re going to try to do it again or what?’”
Though rodeoing full time again doesn’t appear to be on Ray’s radar, competing against some of the best team ropers in the world in the Texas Circuit for another year-end title is.
“I think trying to be at that level in the Texas Circuit, it kind of fulfills that [top competitor] feeling a little bit,” Ray said. “Every time you go to a rodeo here, basically, you’re roping against the best people in the world. During the summer that slacks off some, but pretty much during the rest of the year, you’re against everybody. So, it still fulfills that for you that you can compete at that level. I’d like to think that I could compete at that level. And that’s my goal—I want to make it again.”