Two team ropers were inducted November 12 with the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum’s Class of 2022. Tee Woolman is a three-time world champion team roper who qualified for 26 Wrangler National Finals Rodeos and 19 National Finals Steer Ropings. Gary Gist of Gist Silversmiths fame joined the Rodeo Cowboys Association at 12 back before there was an age requirement, and qualified for his first of 12 NFRs in 1964 when he was 16 years old.
Woolman won his first gold buckle as a rodeo rookie in 1980. He took 42 National Finals victory laps, won five NFR team roping titles and the 1998 NFSR average.
“I want to give the good Lord above all the credit for this,” Tee said last Saturday night in Oklahoma City. “And my partners—Leo (Camarillo), Rich (Skelton), Bob (Harris), Clay O (Cooper), Martin (Lucero), Monty Joe and Cory (Petska)—deserve this more than anyone. It’s truly a blessing to be honored here, and to be inducted with one of my best friends in the world, Guy Allen, is extra special.”
Gist first joined the RCA at 12, and won first and second at his first pro rodeo in Lone Pine, California with Chick Davis and his dad, Byron. Gary heeled for Byron at six of his 12 NFRs, and when they won the NFR average together in 1964, when Gary was 18, Gary was the reserve world champion. The Gist boys won $1,170 apiece for winning the NFR that year, and Gary’s $11,652 was second only to Billy Hamilton’s $12,394 on the year for the gold buckle. By today’s standards, Gary would have been the world champion heeler.
“This is the icing on the cake with a cherry on top of it,” said Gist, who won California’s Oakdale 10-Steer Roping heeling for Daddy Byron in 1957, and again 51 years later in 2008 with (my son) Lane Karney, who won it heeling for his brother (and my other son), Taylor Santos, in 2012. “This is the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me.”
Gary got drafted by the Marine Corps right after the 1965 NFR, and was sent to serve in Vietnam from January 1966 until he returned home in 1968. That’s when he started making buckles, and he’s been the exclusive buckle maker of the USTRC and Ariat World Series of Team Roping since the start. On a little side note that he shared with the crowd on Saturday night, the experience of Gary waiting for that 1964 NFR average buckle until September 1965 helped make Gist famous for beautiful buckles AND on-time deliveries.
Other members of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum’s Class of 2022 included Tad Lucas Memorial Award winner Martha Josey, Directors’ Choice Award winner Jeff Medders, Ben Johnson Memorial Award winner Chuck Sylvester, Guy Allen, Ben Bates, Cleo Hearn, The Kirby Brothers, Tom Reeves, Tee Woolman and Jake Beutler.