More than four decades have passed since Doyle Gellerman won the 1981 world team roping title with fellow California native Walt Woodard. With identical earnings on the year, they were co-champs, because that was back before world champion headers and heelers were named separately. Gellerman roped at 25 Wrangler National Finals Rodeos in his career, which come July 15 in Colorado Springs will be set in stone when he’s inducted with the ProRodeo Hall of Fame’s Class of 2023.
“It’s a great honor,” said Gellerman, 70, who was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area and now lives in Melba, Idaho, with his wife, Anita. “I’m thrilled to join all those great men and women who are already in the Hall. This means a lot to me.”
Gellerman hasn’t rodeoed hard since about 2000, and has worked the last 14 years as an oilfield inspector. For anyone who might be wondering why Woodard isn’t yet inducted with his second gold buckle won 26 years after that first one in 2007 and 20 NFR back numbers, my only guess is that it’s because he hasn’t yet called it a career.
As for Doyle, he was a renowned reacher in his era.
“When I roped, I threw caution to the wind,” he said. “Back in the day when we were roping, somebody on the team had to make up the time. I was the guy who reached and got ’em fast, which let my partners look ’em over and catch. Nowadays, it’s totally different.
“Team roping has changed 100%. Now both guys are roping fast. There’s no such thing as running up there and putting a good handle on one for your heeler. All the heelers want now is to get steers out of their way.”
He doesn’t get the Cowboy Channel at home, but Doyle does tune in in his travels every chance he gets. And he keeps close track of team roping today.
“I look at all the results every day,” he said. “When I know there’s a rodeo going on, I always pull up the results to see who’s winning, even though I don’t even know most of these guys today. I truly missed rodeo for a few years, and still like to see who’s winning what.”
Which header out there now grabs Gellerman’s attention?
“I have to go with Kaleb Driggers, because to me, he’s just a step above,” Doyle said. “There are so many good guys out there today. But he knows what it takes to win. He’s smart, he has so much ability and he’s always on a good horse. But I like to watch ’em all.”
Though Gellerman was a go-fast guy, he did win the NFR average in 1976 heading for Frank Ferreira Sr. And Ferreira’s who hooked Doyle up with one of his two all-time favorite head horses.
“When I was roping with Frank, he had a bay Driftwood-bred horse that had been bucking everybody off,” Doyle said. “He told me to come and get him, and try him. His name was Badger, and I loved that horse.
“I won the world on a horse I called Blackie that I bought from Demar Thurman. I stopped at Perry Blagg’s to buy some ropes, and the lady who worked there told me about a one-over-40 roping that day in Oakdale. I stopped by over there, and saw my dad. I didn’t have a horse with me, or time to go home and get my horse.
“Anson Thurman (Demar’s brother) was there, and asked if I wanted to rope. He told me to ride that black horse of his brother’s. I ran two steers on him—one with my dad and one with Anson—and that horse felt awesome. I asked Demar if he wanted to sell him. He said yes, and I bought him for $5,500. That was in 1980, and I won the first rodeo I took him to, which was Greeley. Then I won the world on him in 1981.”
Gellerman says there are three career highlights that really stand out for him, as he now eyes his rodeo days in his rear-view mirror. The first was winning the world. The second was roping with his dad, Leroy Gellerman, at the 1973 NFR. Leroy worked in the steel mill, and rodeoed on the weekends. Imagine the thrill of his son’s NFR invitation, at a time when the Top 15 individual team ropers could invite the partner of their choice. The third was an evening well spent with Hall of Fame tie-down roper Toots Mansfield.
“When I was a little kid, like 5 or 6, I always remember my dad and his friends talking about Toots Mansfield and how great he was,” Doyle remembers. “In the early ’80s, I had a roping school in Big Spring, Texas, where Toots was from. I was asking around about him, because I wanted to meet him. They said, ‘Guess what, he’s coming over here today to meet you.’
“Toots invited me to dinner, and when we sat down, he said, ‘Tell me about yourself.’ I said, ‘Oh no, I want to hear about you, your rodeo career and all your match ropings.’ We sat there and talked until they shut the restaurant down.
“Toots told me about having match ropings at a prison with all the inmates watching. That’s a night I’ll never, ever forget. I’ll remember it forever. From what I heard, Toots was the greatest roper there was. He was a great cowboy, and a super gentleman.”