Roping Legend Guy Allen: 40 Years of Big Wins, Big Checks and Breaking Records

Guy Allen won a record 18 world steer roping championships between 1977 and 2004, which puts him second only to Trevor Brazile in all-time gold-buckle count. Guy qualified for a record 33 National Finals Steer Ropings in five different decades—the last in 2016 at 58. For all he’s won in his signature event, Allen, of Cross Plains, Texas, actually won the check of his life at 64—$195,000—roping at the Ariat World Series of Team Roping Finale in December.

Q: You’re Guy “The Legend” Allen, so we have to talk a little steer roping first. In 1977, you became the youngest world champion steer roper of all time at 19. Were you a natural?

A: I don’t know that I was a natural. My brother and I worked a lot of horses with and for Dad, and grew up roping and going to ropings with him. 

Q: In 1983, you, Daddy James and brother Gip became the first-ever father-son-son trifecta to qualify for the National Finals the same year. What did that mean to your family?

A: It was special that we all three made it. Gip was way up in the standings, then broke his leg right before the Finals. He roped at the NFSR in a walking-heel plaster of Paris cast, and got along pretty good for a crippled guy. 

Q: Looking back, what was your dad’s most valuable advice when you were learning to rope?

A: He always said, “Rope ’em with the long one, tie ’em with the short one and hurry every chance you get.” He kept it pretty simple, and he always let me do it my way. I set runs up leaving the box, where a lot of guys before me set things up when they caught the steer. 

Q: Did you and Gip drive each other to be better growing up in the same practice pen?

A: Yeah, pretty much. But it wasn’t a contest between us. I’m a year and a half older than Gip, and we have two older sisters. Daddy had a lot of horses to ride, and it was our job to get them ridden. Gip and I roped together all the time. He became the fire chief in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, and just retired last summer. 

Q: You won the world in four different decades, and 11 straight gold buckles between 1991-2001. No one has ever owned any event like you did yours. How’d you do it?

A: I had a really good horse, Jeremiah. I started riding him in the early 90s, and he was just phenomenal. Jeremiah was the best. 

Q: You won a record 48 NFSR go-rounds, but also a record five NFSR average titles (in 1989, ’91, ’97, 2000 and ’04). Most cowboys are either known for speed or consistency. What made it possible for you to have it all?

A: I just roped ’em with the long one, tied ’em with the short one and hurried every chance I got. Sonny Davis was my idol, and he was a go-round roper. Walter Arnold and Olin Young were the average ropers I really looked up to. Walter and Daddy traveled together, and Sonny and Olin traveled together when I was a kid. I looked up to all those guys. I just wanted to do my best on each steer. That’s all I could do.

Q: Let’s talk team roping. How much have you team roped in your life?

A: When I was a kid, I team roped at the amateur rodeos quite a bit. I headed some for Tee (Woolman) at the junior rodeos and jackpots, and roped with my brother some. I got to rope with Leo and Jerold (Camarillo) at some jackpots, and head for Jerold at a few rodeos. But I quit team roping back in the 1980s to focus on roping steers. I headed for Trey Johnson one winter when he won rookie of the year (in 2000), but I never sacrificed my steer roping for team roping. 

Q: You won first in the Ariat World Series of Team Roping Finale #9.5, splitting $390,000. You’ve never really fancied yourself as a heeler, have you?

A: I loved heading when I was young. I like roping horns, and when we practiced at home, I got to rope every steer, because my brother and dad heeled every other one. I started heeling a little more for the Timed Event, but I’ve been lucky to catch four steers at a jackpot if I was entered four times. People who’ve seen me heel know how shocking it is that I caught four in a row in Vegas.

Q: What was the biggest check of your career before this one, and what have you done with the money from this windfall win?

A: The biggest check of my career before this was winning $26,000 for second at the Timed Event behind Paul Tierney one year. I headed for Paul there that year, he rode my tripping horse and it was pretty cool that we finished 1-2. I’ve been pretty stingy with this $195,000 since the bank took the 10-day hold off of it. I made a land payment, and paid Scott Welch a little mount money for letting me ride his heel horse (Hummer). Now I have to save some back for taxes. 

Guy Allen and his great horse Jeremiah were a force for years. | David Jennings

Q: The thrill of winning never gets old, does it? 

A: No, and after not winning anything in Arizona on the way to Vegas and not doing any good at the Finale until the day we won that roping, I was ready to quit and go home. When we won that roping, all I could think was, “What would Clay (Cooper) do?” He was so humble, and he just roped. I had really good years when I didn’t win $100,000. To win twice that in one day—I cried. 

Q: You were inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 1996. It was very special to you to be inducted into the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City last November, wasn’t it?

A: It really was. When I was a kid, that was the only big rodeo hall of fame, and I remember driving by that hall with my dad. That place was something great to me, and I wondered if I’d ever be good enough to make it in. 

Q: You’ve had an extraordinary life and career. How do you hope to be remembered 100 years from now?

A: God gave me the ability to do what I’ve done, and I hope to be remembered as a humble, good person who helped people and gave it my all every time. I always wanted to be a cowboy, and a guy who shook someone’s hand and that was my word.

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