Thursday, August 16, 2012


Today I’d like to pay tribute to the string of rodeo-champion horses that were instrumental in the careers of the Camarillo boys.  Some were more famous than others, but all were equally valuable in the shaping of our success.

As I think back on each of the horses we shared through our 20-year run (1968-1988), it’s hard to single out or place one above the other.  They were all better than average horses, distinct in very, unique ways.  I did, however, have my true favorite. 

Picking up the leg just after my full-time career was a palomino gelding I almost passed by.  I was leaving my good friend, Dan’s (Fisher) place, and as we were shaking hands and hugging good bye, he went and loaded the horse in my trailer.  I tried to explain how I didn’t need a heel horse, but Dan would not hear it.  He insisted I needed this one, telling me, “That’s alright.  You take him anyway, use him, and if for some reason you still don‘t need him down the road, well then, just bring him back.”    

When I first got on this horse, we struggled, because he could run, I mean RUN.  He ran harder than any horse I’d ever been on.  He ran so hard all the time that I had to recondition my roping.  But, the more I roped on him, the better I got.  And the better I got, the better we got.  Soon we just seemed to fit each other.  Not only was he the fastest horse in the pack, he could really square up to help me heel a steer as fast as possible. 

Commencing semi-retirement, I’d begun toning down my tour, weeding out the county fairs, etc. and just going to the better ropings.  This was also the time when team roping was making its transition from yester-year’s methods to modern-time heeling.  Because I was semi-retired and not going so hard, plus I had just turned 50, it was easy to fall out of the momentum of progression, so I needed a horse who could make up the difference for me.  This (Danny Fisher) horse was “Magic”.  He was the golden ticket, one of them horses that just “got it.”   He knew the play and got off on giving it to me.  I took him to the Timed Event and won my second Timed Event Championship (1989) on him.  I took him to Salinas, and won on him.  The Mike Booth match roping in Oakdale, was no match for us--Cha Chinggggg.  I roped on him at the Cal Palace with Walt Roddman.  We were one of the first teams out and we strung our steer in 4 (seconds), when 4 was unheard of winning ourselves the first day-money.  I would’ve won the Bob Fiest on him, but my header broke out on our last steer.  These are just a few of a long list of triumphs Magic and I accomplished together.  I think I ended up giving $6,500.00 for Magic, but I wouldn’t take a million.    

God works in mysterious ways, they say, and you never know where a blessing’s going to show up.  The least expected ones seem to offer the greatest rewards, hence I was extremely fortunate to have Magic come along when he did.  He is the reason I was so competitively successful at age 50 and semi-retired.  He was a modern-type heel rocket, that really squared up to help me heel a steer in the first jump.  Magic fulfilled my need to out-mount my competitors, he met all my progressive demands, and he made doing what I do…fun..

To have a great horse come along in life is a genuine blessing.  My brothers and I have always been grateful for the dynamic, 4-legged partners we were multi-blessed to have throughout our career.  And with each one’s passing goes a chunk of our hearts.  Losing Magic, the last of our champions-dynasty, brings the deepest sorrow.  He was to me like one of my favorite songs, “This Is The Last Cowboy’s Waltz” (Ed Bruce & Willie Nelson)…and I’ll never forget our dance.

Wild Fire
Double Tuff

That’s all I know…

Rope Smart,

The Lion

Monday, August 6, 2012


Many “rodeons” consider the 4th of July “Cowboy Christmas,” but to me, the week after the 4th embarks on the best 2 - 3 rodeo-weeks of the year.  Besides the winter rodeos, the mid-July rodeos offer the most opportune time of your season to get hot.  Nampa, Ogden, Salt Lake, Salinas, Cheyenne, to name a few, are all major money hits with more than one head.  The beauty of multi-heads is that rope-ability outshines the luck-of-the-draw.  If a guy plugs along in each round, he can usually place on at least one or two, and if he has the ability, stay in the hunt and pick up the average to rake in a good size check.  And of course, there are a lot of other rodeos around these biggies that are available for a guy to stay busy.

When I’m around mi rodeo compadres, I talk to the ones on top, I also converse with the ones on the lower end.  I hear about who’s going for world championships, and I see at the top of the Standings list the usual battle going on.  During my Salinas visit, my buddy Jade (Corkill) and his partner Caleb (Driggers) took the lead for the World.  The very next day, Patrick Smith and Trevor Brazil took it back.  At the conclusion of Cheyenne Pat and Trevor extended their lead even further and are now coasting into the 2nd half of the season with a substantial lead, which, by the way, will never be too overwhelming, because a guy can win $100,000 at the finals and swing back on top. 

I had a long conversation with Jade Corkill, and I told him, “Whenever I see rodeo results, you guys (Corkill/Driggers) are first or second, and I expect you’re winning the “World” by a landslide.  Over the 4th you won day money at Prescott, and more at this and that rodeo, making it seem as though your sailing on top, when in actuality you hold only a short 8-hours lead, not even enough time to put in print.  Every time you look over your shoulder, here comes Trev and Pat back again.”  For instance, Jade won Nampa Saturday night and they were holding the World.  They came back the very next day (Sunday) as 2nd high team at Salinas, broke out on their last steer allowing Patrick and Trevor to go on and win the rodeo.

Now, Trevor and Patrick are way back out in the lead again.  Those two are stealthy.  They kind of coast along for a ways, and then bang, they take a major rodeo.  After Salinas, they went a little further along winning 2nd here and 3rd there, and then bang, they won Cheyenne. To me when you hit the major rodeos like Patrick and Trevor have, rodeo’s easy, but when you have to crawl along and win all the pumpkin-roller, Tom Greene county fairs, you get a little of every arena under your fingernails, and you’re really earning your stripes.  In any case, watching this race for the world reminds me of another story. 

Back in the day, when I was in a heated battle for the World, Walt Woodard approached me and said, “You know, this race for the World title is all fine and dandy for you all in the upper echelon of the leader board.  Everybody is watching and wondering which one of you will be the Champions of the Word this time.  But, while you’re all competing for gold buckles and NFR supremacy, let me tell you something about the scene where I sit.  There’s a real, heated battle going on down here around 15th place that reminds me of the war they’re having in Nicaragua.  It’s bad and bloody, yet nobody outside of it really gives a shit.”  And generally speaking, he’s right. 

I have my young buddies at the top that I’m pulling for, but I also have my young buds at the bottom that I’m pulling for (just to make the Finals).  I know what a grueling road it is for them all, at this second half.  Travis Graves and Clay Tryan are another fiery team right there at the top, going toe-to-toe with Smith/Brazil and Corkill/Driggers making an exciting race.  However, the lower echelon of the leader board is weighted with gunners. Charlie Crawford is a salty header, and Russell Cardoza is a sharp-shooting heeler, young gun who works three events.  Both are trying hard to make the cut.  Together they made the Finals last year, but can Russell do it this time without the steady spin of his ex-partner, “Consistent-Charlie Crawford“?  I’ve also got my eye on Ceazar de la Cruz, Dugan Kelly, Rich Skelton, Broc Hanson, Derrick Begay, Arky Rogers, and Manny Egusquiza Jr., to name a few. 

Manny Egusquiza Jr. is a first time guy, who hasn’t had much notoriety.  He’s never been to the finals, but he ropes and rides really good.  He comes out of the east, where nothing grows, and maybe I identify with him culturally, but he seems like a nice guy (like Paul Eves who heels for Dustin Bird), who’s out there working his ass off, just like all the rest.  I know the price they’re paying, so it’s hard to pick a favorite.  I want to see them all succeed, unfortunately, they only take the top 15.   

Thanks to modern technology, I can dial up my iphone and check the rodeos that are significant and follow the course of each of my buds.  After every weekend I check the rodeo stats to see who did what, so I plan to keep you posted.  Until next time… 

That’s all I know,

Rope Smart!

The Lion