The acting career of Buck Taylor has spanned the decades, featuring parts in too many titles to name, but of particular and popular note are Gunsmoke, Tombstone and, most recently, Paramount Network’s Yellowstone. On set before he was even 10 years old, the Hollywood Westerns have provided Taylor with a lifetime of cowboy roles, but beyond the camera, he’s a dedicated team roper, too.
In the past several years, Buck Taylor has had the opportunity to rope at the Spicer Gripp Memorial Roping in Hereford, Texas, heeling for rodeo greats like Speed Williams, Joe Beaver and, in 2021, World Champion tie-down roper Caleb Smidt.
“I missed,” Taylor admitted. “I got one leg out of four runs, and I was really mad.”
While he had hopes of getting more done in the roping, Taylor did celebrate his catch with Smidt, too.
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“I told Caleb, I said, ‘Man, I caught one leg for you and it’s like me winning the NFR.’ And he said, ‘Mr. Taylor, I’m going to win it for you.’ And I’ll be damned if he didn’t win the calf roping at the NFR.”
The win tickled Taylor, but it also motivated him to revisit orthopedic surgeon and Justin Sportsmedicine member Dr. Tandy Freeman for a consultation on a shoulder he’d broken a few years ago that just wasn’t performing the way he wanted it to. Freeman talked him down from trying surgery again and Taylor wasn’t game for the recovery time a new shoulder would require and found himself frustrated with his options until Freeman offered him some perspective.
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“He said, ‘You’re 83 and you get to run down an arena with a World Champion and you caught one. You ought to be screamin’ and yelling and thanking God.’
“I said, ‘Yes, but I’m going to get better.’ I want to win something. I want to win a buckle. I won them in my 60s and in my 70s, now I want to win one in my 80s.
And I’m going to. There ain’t no if or not. I’m going to.”
Taylor is a longtime friend of the Guy family—NFR calf roper Tommy, World Champion Lari Dee, and their Hall-of-Fame father, Larry—and has even been heeling some for Tommy’s son, now 11. Together, they’ve been working on how to minimize Taylor’s shoulder’s limitations.
“Larry said, ‘When you rope with me, I don’t want you to watch how I head because it ain’t the right way, but it’s the only way I can do it. And you might have to adjust also.’ They said, ‘Okay, here’s what you gotta do. It won’t be pretty, but you’ll catch,’” Taylor remembered with a laugh.
Lo and behold, they’ve figured out a way to get Taylor’s swing back in the game and, with the new rope horse Tommy found for Taylor after he had to retire his good mare, he’s more than ready for his next run.
“I’m figuring it out. If everything’s going right for me, if a header will go out there and set that steer and let it hop three times, and then turn to the left and I come in … I can only crank my rope maybe four times before it gets real heavy. I can hear it on the third time, and I can catch, so I’m really happy to be figuring that out.”
Taylor is living his best life with his wife, Goldie, who he credits as a real hand who’s helped him tremendously with his horsemanship and who has a few solid barrel racing mounts of her own.
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“She’s a lot younger than I am, too, which is good,” Taylor noted. “It makes me want to succeed.”
In the background of the conversation, Garth Brooks’ “Beaches of Cheyenne” is playing while Taylor crafts a painting of wagons at his easel—a talent he’s possessed since even before he accompanied his father on set and for which he was trained at Los Angeles’ Chouinard Art Institute. When he’s not roping, he can be found there unless, of course, he’s working in front of the camera—a calling he’s answered for the past six decades.
“I’m blessed. I’m living the life that I want to live.” TRJ