While working in business engineering in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Robert Callaway started tinkering with the thought of making ropes for the burgeoning roping industry, when a friend bet him that he couldn’t design a motorized piggin string machine.
“My mother, Tommie, was the motor to start with,” Steve Callaway, Robert’s son, laughed. “You know, how you do the old Boy Scout hand-crank thing. It took my dad a year or so to get it running.”
Pretty soon, Callaway was making more money from the piggin string machine in his garage than he was at his engineering gig, and Callaway Ropes was born.
While the business was on the rise in and around Texas, Steve was a young kid matching for quarters on a roping dummy in the parking lots of jackpots in Texas. And he couldn’t get enough time in the rope shop.
“I was in there every day thinking I could help,” Steve said. “I guess at about 12 years old I started putting out the coils of rope. That was way back before we were using machines. We had 32 alleys and there were 40 coils to an alley.”
Steve went into business with his dad and roped until his mid-30s, when the rope-making business and being a dad became more important than jackpotting. Callaway Ropes became a leader in poly ropes, ranch ropes, team ropes, and strings, under the Callaway family’s leadership.
Robert passed away in 2012, a year before the Callaway Ropes shop and wax room burnt down. After the fire, Steve and his wife Nikki moved the business to Lipan, Texas, where he and his three children churn out a ‘couple hundred’ ropes a day that they sell everywhere from National Roper Supply to Coolhorse to Teskeys to Frontier Roping Supply and beyond.
“It took a couple years to get everything built and moved,” Steve said. “We went smaller after the fire. It’s a family tradition, and we don’t want to let the company and tradition go. At one time, we were the biggest. I don’t want to be the biggest anymore; that’s not important. We do the same things that work. You can change colors and weight, but the general public can be easily led by marketing. We might come up with something different every couple years, but we believe in doing the same things that work.”
Today, Callaway Ropes sells nationwide and in five countries, and offers calf ropes, team ropes, ranch ropes, youth ropes, strings, and more. n
More info: callawayropes.com,