Walt Arnold roped competitively from the time he was 14 years old until well into his 77th year, when his battle with cancer forced him out of the arena.
“I had seven weeks of radiation and six weeks of chemotherapy,” the now-survivor said. “That kind of took the strength out of me.”
Cancer has a way of doing that to a person, but it sure didn’t take the cowboy out of Arnold, who enjoyed a long career as a professional roper and had just come in from checking water for the 600 head of cattle he runs on his Silverton, Texas, ranch, where he was born.
“The doctor came out 25 miles from Tulia and delivered me in 1938,” said Arnold, whose birthday is Sept. 1. “My dad was making a dollar a day, and I asked him, ‘What did that doctor charge you to come over here and deliver me?’ He said, ‘He charged me $30 and I didn’t pay it!’”
Though almost lost to the bank twice—once during the Depression when Arnold’s grandaddy owned the ranch, and once when his mother was battling cancer without insurance—the Arnold Ranch is poised to become a fourth-generation operation as Arnold’s son takes the reins.
“I’ve had a good life,” Arnold said. “I’ve got three kids, seven grandkids, and eight great-grandkids, with another one on the way. I get to see them pretty regular. I try to make all the grandkid’s birthday parties.”
It will be Arnold’s 80th birthday party the family has next, which isn’t his only big celebration this year, as Arnold was inducted into the Texas Rodeo Hall of Fame at the end of June. He was also inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 2009, as well as the Pendleton Hall of Fame in 2005.
Arnold is the 1969 Steer Roping Champion and a 19-time National Finals Steer Roping qualifier, as well as a two-time NFR team roper. He won the average at the NFSR in ’65 and ’78, the All-Around at Cheyenne in 1972, and the All-Around at Pendleton twice. He also served as the PRCA Steer Roping Director from 1974 to 1977.
Arguably more impressive, though, is the nearly $13,500 Arnold won in his final roping season, which came hot on the heels of his $24,550 payout when he roped 34.49 on four and came in third in the #10 Shoot-Out of the 2015 Cinch USTRC National Finals of Team Roping.
“I got to rope for 64 years,” said Arnold, who spent 35 of those 64 years as a team roper, “so I’ve been blessed.”n
*To Walt and his fellow WSTR Legacy Members who are also celebrating their 80th birthdays this month —Gary Metcalf of Pagosa Springs, Colorado; and Curt Smith of Cottage Grove, Oregon—we wish you the happiest of birthdays.