Rocky Mountain Roping Pioneer Bill Hogan

Those who enjoy a robust roping scene along Colorado’s Front Range can tip their hat to Boulder’s Bill Hogan, who hosted some of the first organized ropings in the 1970s.

[As seen in the March 2022 issue of The Team Roping Journal]

It might be hard to imagine Boulder, Colorado, as the birthplace of a team roping community, but 60-some years ago, that’s exactly what it was.

Bill Hogan grew up on the ranch his great-grandfather homesteaded in 1876—the year of Colorado’s statehood. Bill was a drywall finisher by trade, but had grown up with cattle and horses on the property, and entered up in rough stock and timed events when the rodeo came around.

“It really wasn’t all that different. It’s just not many people could rope very good,” he said in a stoic tone. “So it was kind of wide open for a long time until a few other guys from other states—Texas, California—started coming around. Then, we decided we had to get better if we wanted to rope with them.”

The thinking led to Bill building an arena—with the area’s first stripping chute.

“They roped the steers, and then they had to drag them around until somebody could catch a leg,” said Bill’s son, Chris, about his early roping memories from a practice session at the neighbor’s place.

When the arena was built, circa 1970, it became a roping destination.

“I started having practices here with a few guys and that evolved into having jackpots,” Bill said. “We did it for about 18 years. We put on ropings three days a week: Tuesday nights, Friday nights and Saturday afternoons for quite a while.”

The endeavor was a whole-family affair.

“My wife never roped,” Bill continued, “but she ran the office, took entries and announced and different things; kept the books and stuff. And it gave [my five kids] something to do. They was getting old enough to help do things, so I put them to work so I knew where they was at and what they was doing and it worked for quite a few years.”

It being well before the introduction of the handicap system in the 90s, the Hogans offered a mixed roping, a junior-senior division and, of course, an open.

“If you were under 15, you got to rope,” Chris explained, “And, if you were a lady, you got to rope. Otherwise, you competed against Dick and J.D. (Yates), Jay Wadhams and those guys. The Kirchenschlagers were roping really good back then. The Milligans were really good back in the day. And all the guys came out.”

They also hosted the first roping schools around.

“My dad had a guy named E.V. Dorsey come out and put on a school. That was probably the mid- to late ’70s, and then Walt Woodard came out and put on a few schools at our place.”

But after nearly two decades of hosting events, the Hogans swapped out producing ropings for attending them instead.

A few of the buckles Bill Hogan won throughout the years. Courtesy Hogan family.

“My wife was all for it,” Bill said of the change. “My kids was growing up and they didn’t want to run the chutes and work the cattle anymore as much. They had other interests. So we just kind of quit and started going other places.”

In the following decades, the Hogan men traveled near and far to rope. Oklahoma City, Cheyenne, Las Vegas. Together and individually, they amassed an impressive collection of trophy buckles and saddles.

“My youngest son, I roped with him a few years and then he gave it up,” Bill said. “Then I roped with my other son until about four years ago.”

According to Chris, the consequences of a few decent wrecks led to his dad finally putting the rope down, but the years spent chasing fast cattle across the arena together were cherished.

“It was a really good time,” Chris said. “And, that’s what he told me when I was real young. He said, ‘Let’s do something where you can grow old doing it and we can do it ’til we get old together.’ So, I think he was 73 or 74 when we made our last trip to Las Vegas for the World Series Finale.”

Now 80, Bill still runs cattle and horses on the family ranch, though he finds the limitations of a four-wheeler frustrating compared to a good cow horse.

“My dad is the original John Wayne,” Chris explained. “Truly, he’s a cowboy’s cowboy. You tell the truth and you do your job and you have a little bit of fun, but there’s gotta be some discipline.”

Luckily, the fun came in the form of roping.

“Spending the time down there roping every day was always a joy,” he finished.