Q: Tell us about your ranching operation.
A: We run about 250 cows. The calves are born in the spring, and we market them each fall. We run them on a combination of state leased and private land.
Q: Is the country around Tombstone as rough as it sounds?
A: No. Tombstone got its reputation from all the gunfights. But we’re right on the divide between the San Pedro Valley and Sulphur Springs Valley, so where we are is quite a bit nicer than Tombstone itself. It’s high desert grass land and rolling hills right on the north end of the Mule Mountains, which originate by Bisbee. Our house is exactly 25 miles north of Mexico. The border patrol can actually search our house without a warrant. We’ve been fighting the illegal issue since 1976. We’ve been to Washington eight times with the Federation for American Immigration Reform. We’ve done well over 200 radio interviews on this subject in the last eight years, and this year set a record and did 32 interviews in two days. We’ve also been part of several documentaries on illegal immigration; 12 of them produced by crews from other countries.
Q: How big a deal has roping been in your life?
A: Very big. I’ve had my (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) card for over 40 years, and have my Gold Card now.
Q: You heeled for Colorado’s Scott Laramore at the 1980 NFR. What stands out about that almost 40 years later?
A: The Finals was held at the Myriad in Oklahoma City that year. I roped the first seven steers by two feet. That was the year they didn’t pay go-rounds or an average. They gave you points, then paid every team something according to their points. We placed in two go-rounds—a second and a fourth, I think. The drive there was no problem, but it was darn sure a long ways home. I think we ended up 13. Ron Graves and I were the 15team after the regular season in 1982. We entered the Finals and ordered our jackets, but then the team ahead of us (Bill Parker and Lee Woodbury) split up and took different partners, so we were out. I’ve always felt bad that Ron never got to go. Ron and I have roped together off and on for the past 52 years.
Q: Have your responsibilities at the ranch made it tough to rodeo over the years?
A: I went to Cal Poly for a year back when Larry and Tom Ferguson were there. I decided it was too expensive for my parents. Then I went to Arizona State for a year and a half. My dad had emphysema, so I needed to go home. I went to 48 rodeos the year Ron and I were the 15th team. Some of the guys ahead of me went to 125. I couldn’t leave the ranch long enough to try to go to 100 rodeos. I went to Denver, Tucson, Phoenix, Albuquerque, Salinas, and the Cow Palace, but I couldn’t just stay gone. I had to be home in the fall for weaning and shipping.
Q: What do you consider your roping career highlight?
A: Ron and I won the Turquoise Circuit in 1979, and I qualified for the circuit finals 10 times. Roping at the NFR was a highlight, of course. And I got to win Prescott, Payson, Globe, Wilcox, Sonoita, and second at Tucson and Phoenix. My biggest monetary win to date was $17,000 for ninth in the #11 with Don Seifert from Queen Creek at the World Series of Team Roping Finale VI in Vegas six years ago. The biggest feather in my roping cap was winning the Oakdale 10 Steer with Ron in 1980. We were the first team that broke 100 seconds at Oakdale, and it was the roping’s 25anniversary. It paid $5,300 a man, and that was back when we were riding dinosaurs. Beating Leo (Camarillo) and Tee (Woolman) was pretty special. That was Tee’s rookie year, and they won everything that year from the BFI to a lot of the rodeos. We were the only fly in their ointment.
Q: How great is it to have three generations roping in the family arena right now?
A: Roping with my grandson and granddaughter has me invigorated. That’s as much fun as the law allows, and they’re learning that it takes perseverance. If you want it, you can achieve it.
Q: Who’s the best roper you’ve ever seen in your life, and why?
A: Bobby Harris is, without a doubt, the prettiest roper. I’d have to say Clay (O’Brien Cooper) is the best, because he doesn’t miss. He has the focus and intensity that none of the rest of us have.
Q: You’ve done a little cowboying in the movies, right?
A: Yes, Peggy’s dad (George Draper) got me a job in 1977 in Colorado on the movie “Comes a Horseman,” and I’ve been doing movie work ever since—wrangling, stunts, and bit parts. I’m a member of the Screen Actors Guild, and have probably worked on 40 movies over the years. One of the best-known movies I worked on was “Braveheart” in 1996.
Q: What makes a good horse in your book?
A: Talent and disposition. They need both. Our family raised, broke, and trained every horse I’ve won on. The horse I rode at the NFR, A.J., was related to (Charmayne James’) Scamper and J.D. Yates’ gray horse Little Gray. I had a bay stud—his registered name was Otos Desire, but we called him Cunado—that was a grandson of Montana Doc. Everything we’re riding is either his direct offspring or a grandson of his, and they’ve all been good horses. He was 14.2 hands tall, weighed 1,210 pounds, and was a hell of a horse. He loved people.