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Dudley recounts roping history at Raymond Stampede

Posted on June 6, 2024 by admin

Submitted by Ron McMullin
Raymond and District Historical Society

To help celebrate the region’s ranching and rodeo heritage, the Raymond and District Historical Society is launching a series of stories about the local cowboys of the past.

Count one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine! If you are a calf roper, that’s all the time you have to rope and tie your calf, if you are going to do well at the Raymond Stampede. Picture yourself on your horse in the box next to the calf chute getting ready for your shot at winning the calf roping in front of the cheering audience. Before the timer starts, you eye-up your calf to figure how fast it is going to run and how challenging it will be to get that calf rolled over on its side and tied. Then you figure out how far you are going to let the calf move out of the chute before you spur your horse to get it up to a full gallop. You’ve done this a hundred times or more, but you’ve still got nerves to calm. Now, you’re poised for the release of the calf. The chute flings open and there goes the calf. The timer’s going. Here’s what you are going to do in the next few seconds:

• spur your horse out of the box, while making sure you don’t break the barrier, that is, make sure that the calf gets out of its chute before you are out of your box or you get a 10-second penalty,

• you’re already twirling your rope as you leave the box,

• catch up to the calf which is running at top speed and when the calf is in range, 

rope it; a good roper will usually be in range in three twirls, 

• as the rope goes over the calf’s neck pull the slack out of the rope; you wave that slack up into the air as you are stepping off your horse, 

• your foot hits the ground and you’re off and running, sliding your hand down the rope until you reach the calf,

• as soon as your hand hits the head of the rope securing the calf, your other hand goes over the calf to the other side, the flank, then you lift and pull the calf onto your knee and grab its front leg, 

• you grab the piggin’ string out of your mouth, and put the loop of the piggin’ string over the front leg, 

• quickly, you bring up the back two legs, and in the same motion, wrap the three legs together, while holding the back legs in place with your knee,

• make one wrap, then the second wrap, and then pull the piggin’ string through to form a knot called a hooey,

• triumphantly, you throw your arms into the air, signaling the job is done.

The judge on a horse in the arena drops his flag so the timer in the stand stops the watch. Then you get back onto your horse, give the calf some slack and the judge starts a timer. The calf needs to stay tied for 6 seconds. 

What was your time? Nine seconds, right! You hear the cheering of the crowd and feel the flood of emotion.

Brian Dudley is one of Raymond’s own who has had the thrill of winning the calf roping at the Raymond Stampede. It all started when he was a youngster in Magrath. 

“I had a love of horses ever since I was a kid. Dad always had a horse out on our farm but, when I started school, we moved into town and Dad sold his last horse and colt to the RCMP.  I told my dad I wanted to buy some horses. Matkins had a tall thoroughbred I had my eye on. They were so kind as to loan it to me for the summer. The following year Ted Hawking, who owned a ranch on the ridge south of Magrath, said ‘I know where there’s a horse that you can buy. Clyde Bennett has a horse he will sell for the feed bill, $32.’ I knew I wouldn’t have too much of a feed bill — back in those days, we would just take our horses out in the country and let them go get their own feed.

“I didn’t get into roping until after I was married and teaching in Fort Macleod. A couple special people made that possible. We developed a close friendship with Alma Orr, who had a bunch of horses. Diane and I would go out to his place on the river and there we would ride his horses. One day Alma said, ‘Brian, I would like that ToteGote you have, so my kids can ride it. I’ll tell you what. I’ll trade you this small horse for it.’ So once again, I had my own horse. That quarter horse, though small, had potential to be a rope horse. Another fellow, Royall Sullivan, trained roping horses and he volunteered to train my horse and me. I was about 22 or 23 at the time.

“Then I got a job in Raymond. Of course, I brought my horse along to see if Raymond had any roping. They not only roped, but had a roping club. Members included Bill Nalder, Cliff Williams, Denny Jessop, Dale Mortenson, Duke Helgerson, and Bob Gibb. I got Jack Hicken roping as well, to round out the club. 

“I went to a lot of rodeos – as far away as Arizona and Nevada in Senior Pro, plus many of the amateur rodeos all around here — Cardston, Taber, Wrentham, Writing-on-Stone, Leduc, Rockyford, and all those places around Calgary and Edmonton. When I started on the Circuit, entry fees were about $20. Gas was quite cheap so you could afford to go. Sometimes we’d save money by sharing horses with our roping friends: we just took the two best horses to an event. But if the rodeo was not too far away, we’d take our own trailer.

“Sometimes we’d win, sometimes we’d lose, but win or lose we had fun. One year I was leading the Circuit and was part of the Chinook group team that competed at the Calgary Stampede. In our event, two ropers went out and roped at the same time (two separate chutes and two calves). The best team-time won; unfortunately, not ours. But it was great fun to participate in the grand daddy of rodeos, the Calgary Stampede, even though we didn’t win our event. 

“When I roped in Raymond my adrenaline was double. I wanted to do good for the home town crowd, but over the years I missed a few calves. One year, I was not thrilled when I saw that my draw was a bigger calf. (You could see your calf prior to the event.) Fortunately, the owner of the calf told me it was a good calf. There went a lot of the tension and the negative thoughts that had been stuck in my mind. I changed my thinking. When my turn in the box came up, I was less tense and my mind was clear. I roped that calf good; I flanked it quick. My time was a record in Raymond, 8.7 seconds. That time stood for a long time. It was a thrill to win in my home town. My next best winning time was 10.16 seconds in 1981.

“In 2010, the Senior Pro Rodeo finals were held in Claresholm. I won the calf roping that year at age 68, and I won the breakaway roping too. (Breakaway roping is similar to regular calf roping, but the end of your rope is tied to the horn of the saddle by a string which has a flag on it. Once you rope the calf and the horse stops, the string breaks and the flag signals the timer to stop. No need to dismount and tie the calf.) 

“The greatest thrill in my rodeo career was sharing many good times with my boys, Tim and Kevin. When Kevin started to rope, he had a good horse and was athletic so he picked it up quick. He won the calf roping in Raymond twice. I was roping against him both times, but the kid won. Tim rode bareback horses and placed at Raymond two times. One time was a bit scary: he made a good ride, but when he got off, he banged his head and could hardly remember anything.

“For the Dudleys, rodeo is a family affair. Not only have we enjoyed practicing and competing together, but all the relatives come to the Raymond Stampede to cheer us on.

“Rodeo is in our blood. Rodeo is surcharged excitement. But what really kept me going for 45 years was my love of horses and the camaraderie of family, friends, and fellow competitors.”  

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