Tradition runs deep at the California Rodeo in Salinas, which between the 35-foot longest scoreline in rodeo, both partners coming from the same box on the left side of the steer and the five-head marathon average is like no other in our sport. Family traditions run deep at this old-school cowboy classic, too, and the Boyle Bunch has had a lot to celebrate over the years. Last summer, fifth-generation California cowboy Pat Boyle and his follow Golden State native heeler, Jared Hixon, struck for a pair of the most coveted buckles ever when they won the Salinas team roping title. This year, Pat’s son, Karson Boyle, got an early jump on taking the torch when he won a Salinas buckle of his own in the 5 & Under Dummy Roping.
“Salinas is like a national holiday for my family,” said Pat, who as Cow Boss for Rick Machado Livestock takes care of cattle all over Cali. “It took me 14 years of entering Salinas just to make the short round, so to win it was a big deal. Every kid from California—and every team roper in the world—dreams of winning a Salinas buckle. Salinas is my favorite rodeo, it always will be and it’s in a league of its own. I don’t think I’ve missed it six times in my whole life (he’s 36).
“Salinas is the greatest rodeo in the world to team rope at, and it’s like nowhere else. Besides the longest score and both guys coming from the left, it has the longest boxes. They’re 27 feet long. That’s huge. The greats who ride high-caliber horses don’t struggle with the cowboy conditions at Salinas, but a lot of the young guys do when they first start entering. The degree of difficulty is very high.”
This year, Pat’s son, Karson Boyle, got an early jump on taking the torch when he won a Salinas buckle of his own in the 5 & Under Dummy Roping.
“I’m Karson Boyle from Shandon, Cowboyfornia,” declared the happy champ, who’s 3.
“Watching my son win a Salinas buckle was the greatest feeling ever,” Pat said. “It put tears in my eyes. My dad (Mike, who roped at Salinas forever) was sick this year, so my parents had to stay home. It would have been my mom’s 50th trip to Salinas. She trick rode there with her brothers and sisters the first time when she was 16 (back when she was Shelley Peterson).”
There’s a special 8-year-old sorrel stud behind the Boyle boys’ buckle bonanza. Pat’s been riding Masters Cracker Jack since he was 4. Cracker Jack or CJ, as they call him at the barn, was raised by World Champion Auctioneer Rick Machado, who’s also raised Cody Snow’s signature mount Burt and John Chaves’s renowned Six Pack, to name just a couple.
Pat won Salinas on Cracker Jack last year, and got a check on him with Hixon again in the second round there this year. Boyle and Hixon placed eighth in the average at the 2019 BFI in June, also thanks to this horse. Last week—again riding Cracker Jack—Boyle finished off the California Mid-State Fair Country Rodeo in Paso Robles in a three-way tie for the all-around with Kyle Lockett and Lane Karney, while riding Cracker Jack in all sorts of events, from ribbon roping to the ranch sort and rope, and team roping.
Earlier last month, Boyle and his Vineyard Mountain Ranch crew—which also included Cole Burton, Jeremy Pinheiro and Nathan Sanders—took the overall team title at the Bridgeport Ranch Rodeo. At that one, they competed in everything from trailer loading to backward team roping, calf branding, ranch doctoring and double mugging. They did all of those things as a team, with Boyle aboard Cracker Jack. There are also two events at the Bridgeport Ranch Rodeo that require just one member of the team to step up. Burton answered that call by doing work in the ranch bronc riding, while Boyle and Cracker Jack handled the stock horse class.
“It takes a pretty good horse to do all that,” Pat said proudly. “And you wouldn’t know he’s a stud unless I told you. Rick showed Cracker Jack yesterday in the Alisal Class (where you cut a steer out of the herd, then cut him, pen him and lastly rope him) at Fiesta (Old Spanish Days Fiesta in Santa Barbara, which is a popular, longstanding tradition on the Central Coast of California). I’ll rope on him at the rodeo there at Santa Barbara tonight. CJ gets ridden every day, and we use him for everything.”
He’s also pretty cool to Karson, which might be Cracker Jack’s most important trait. Pat and Karson make their home in “Shandon, Cowboyfornia” now, but there’s a good chance they’ll head south sometime down the line to carry on the family ranching tradition in Simi Valley. Pat’s great great grandfather settled the Tapo Alto Ranch—which means tall yucca—in 1868. He shared the rural ranch country, which is now rather rare for Ventura County in Southern California, with the Chumash Indians back then. Pat’s dad, Mike, and Uncle Tim run it now. One day, it’ll be Pat’s turn. Then Karson’s.
“Karson digs everything to do with ranching, rodeo and the Western lifestyle,” Pat said. “Cowboy stuff—whether it’s watching cowboy movies or roping the dummy—is all we do. And he loves it. Karson’s too young to realize how big a deal it is right now, but when he’s 30 he’ll get it about how cool it is to have a Salinas buckle. He’ll treasure that buckle the rest of his life, just like I will mine.”