Bob Burris of Chino Valley, Ariz., is a familiar face amongst the Arizona team roping community. He is currently the ranch manager at the Deep Well Ranch in Prescott, where they raise Corriente cattle, but many know him as the man behind the former Rope America association, which was a start-up membership organization that he operated for roughly 10 years (1998-2008). Rope America sanctioned and produced events throughout Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, but was as far-reaching as Oklahoma, Nevada and other surrounding states, and even crossed the Mississippi at one time.
Bob Burris, left, won the #12 Division at the 2014 Dynamite World Series qualifier in Buckeye, Ariz., with partner Warren Spradlin.
Burris recently won the #12 at the Dynamite World Series qualifier in Buckeye, Ariz., with partner Warren Spradlin of Stanfield, Ariz., roping four steers in 32.58 seconds to split $11,610. Just prior, he also placed first in the #13 and fourth in the #11 at the January Casa Grande, Ariz., Qualifier, bringing his 2014 World Series total, to date, to $15,075.
With his interesting perspective as a rancher-turned-businessman and producer, we caught up with Burris to get the 411 on the best part of getting to just show up and rope—and win—as a World Series competitor.
World Series Roper: Bob, you grew up ranching, then managed the Gray Ranch in New Mexico for 12 years, but didn’t start roping until you were 45. What made you take the leap?
Bob Burris: Well, I just worked on them big ranches before and I had moved here to Prescott and it was a smaller job, smaller ranch, and there were a lot of team ropers around. It was really something I always thought I’d like.
WSR: Do you ever regret it… becoming a team roper?
BB: Haha, no not at all. I’ve always enjoyed it. There are some weekends you wish you’d stayed home, but then you’re ready to go to the next one.
WSR: Tell us a little bit about why you started Rope America when you did.
BB: Oh, I don’t know, at the time I just thought that the US ropings held out too much money for the amount of fees, too big of a percentage. I just thought I could do it, so I had to go and try it.
WSR:You’ve been married to your wife, Darlene, for 50 years now. Did she play a role in Rope America? Did the rest of your family?
BB: Oh yes, we had a little office here in Chino Valley and my wife worked in there. My daughter-in-law Gena, she worked in there, and then we’d hire another girl to help with filing and stuff. We had our own little newspaper, SmartRoper. It was kind of a family deal more than anything.
WSR:What was the best part of being involved on the business side of the team roping industry?
BB: Just the people that I met. There really are a lot of neat people out there. Every night I’d be having to call and talk to people about numbers, then I’d go and produce a roping in that area and get to know ’em. I know a lot of people. I got to see a lot of places that way as well.
WSR:Was there a ‘worst’ part of running a membership association?
BB: Haha, I don’t know what I’d say there. The nature of the human never changes, that’s a constant. You’ll always have the complainers, the people taking advantage, and all them kind of goodies, which will never change. You got a little bit of everything.
WSR:What is the biggest change you’ve seen in the industry in the last decade or so?
BB: The ropers have gotten better. Absolutely. Of course in the World Series you’ve got to be 21 to rope, but there’s tons of little 13- and 14-year-old boys out there, and girls too, and their dad will buy them a really good horse and they’ll go stay with Tyler Magnus or Allen Bach or somebody for two weeks and when they come back they’re a totally different roper.
WSR: Now that you’re more of a full-time competitor, do you practice much?
BB: You know I do. I should practice more, but when you get to be 72 years old, it’s hard to practice much. A buddy used to have 20 head of cattle, we’d wrap ’em and run ’em twice. Now I’ve got 11 head and wrap ’em and I score six of them, and I just rope five. Well I guess I had 12, one of ’em quit.
WSR:What’s your practice versus competition philosophy, especially as it relates to the World Series?
BB: I try to set my chute up the way I know the World Series chute is, you know, kind of start with the gate. I try to rope five on each horse for at least three or four days before I go. I just try and get all the clutter out of my mind. That’s the hardest thing about roping, your brain gets cluttered. If I go to the roping without any surprises coming up, I know the start, I know everything else, I can keep my mind pretty straight that way.
WSR: You still work full-time managing the Deep Well Ranch. Do you think you’ll ever fully retire?
BB: I doubt it. I really don’t see any reason to retire. I enjoy what I do and the fact that I can still do it.
WSR: You used to be on the road a lot with Rope America. Do you still like to travel? How many ropings would you say you get to now as a competitor?
BB: I probably get to two or three ropings a month, you know. I don’t travel much anymore; about the only state I get into is Nevada when I go to Las Vegas. They have enough ropings in Arizona to keep me content. When I was doing Rope America, I really enjoyed traveling, but boy, at the end I got to where I really hated it, so yes, I like home. For 10 years we were on the road every weekend, or flew somewhere. We were always going. It was kind of fun until I got old.
WSR:Now that you just get to show up and rope, has that made a difference in your appreciation for the sport?
BB: That’s the best part. I just load up and go, and when I get through, I just go home. I don’t have to worry about anything. That is pretty nice. But I always warn my partners, I’m old, and I have senior moments, so anything could happen. When you ask me to rope, it might not be good. I love trying!