Colorado Ranch Qualifies for World Championship Ranch Rodeo Finals
The T-Cross Ranches (T+) and Norris Cattle (TX) qualified for its first trip to the Working Cowboy Ranch Rodeo (WRCA) 13th annual World Championships in Amarillo, Texas, at the Ride for the Brand Ranch Rodeo which was held over the 4th of July weekend in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Qualifying for the Ranch Rodeo is based on placement in one of the 24 sanctioned Ranch Rodeos held throughout the year. T-Cross Ranches and Norris Cattle were the only representative from Colorado at the 2008 World Championships.
T-Cross Ranches was started by Robert “Bob” Norris near Colorado Springs in 1950. The famous T-Cross brand was the first brand registered in the state of Colorado. Norris Cattle has been owned and operated by Bob’s son, Steve Norris, for the past 29 years. Steve Norris pretty much runs both operations now. Bob Norris still works the ranch, but he and his wife winter in Phoenix.
As Steve Norris tells it, “He told me about ten years ago, that he didn’t care if he never ‘laid another track in the snow’. It starts clouding up at home and he starts packing up to head South”.
T-Cross Ranches has grown to five non-contiguous land holdings totaling over 100,000 acres and grazing a little over 1000 mother cows. Beside the cattle and haying operations, the T-Cross has developed a breeding program of outstanding Quarter Horses. In 1999 T-Cross Ranches was nominated for the American Quarter Horse Association’s prestigious Best Remuda Award.
“We are foundation bred”, Steve Norris says, “Years ago dad bought a horse named Poco Pico from the Waggoner Ranch that goes back to Poco Bueno and Tee Cross is by a horse named Otoe. Right now we have expanded into more of the Cutting Horse blood with Doc Tari and Smokin Jose, which we now own.
In order to sponsor a Ranch Rodeo team, a ranch has to meet qualifications regarding its size and type of operation. Team members have to be full time employees. Smaller operations that do not have enough employees to field a team, can join together and compete. The T-Cross Ranches team was made up of full time employees and consisted of Steve Norris, Dave Senor, Vance Clifton, Owen Hiatt, Bill Waddoups, and Clifford “Dusty” Wells.
Although the T-Cross has had a Ranch Rodeo team for seven years, this was only the third Ranch Rodeo for Steve Norris. Asked about his impression of the sport, he said, “What strikes me is how much of a family sport it is. These guys all bring their family. It’s just a good get together for everyone. It also gives people from town something where they can go and see real working cowboys other than the rodeo cowboys – it’s a completely different set of guys. These guys actually make their living doing this type of work.”
Owen Hiatt, the manager of the T-Cross hay farm and the Saddlebronc rider for the team, summed up the heritage that the WRCA is trying to preserve when he said, “Lots of the cowboys that you see here are 4th and 5th generation cowboys”. Owen is included in that group as his ancestors homesteaded in Northern Oklahoma on land they acquired in the Land Rush.
As in everyday ranch life, things do not always go as planned, and the T-Cross had some bad breaks and did not finish as high as they wanted to. Owen Hiatt had some bad luck when his bronc reared in the chute and left him with a badly bruised chest when he was caught between the chute and the horse. In true cowboy fashion, he continued to compete and was given the Hard Luck Cowboy Award. That is an award that no body wants, but the $500, 100X hat that came with it made him feel a little better.
There will be at least three sanctioned ranch rodeos in Colorado in 2009. One will be in Denver in conjunction with the Denver Horse Expo, the Colorado Championships will be in Hugo, and the famous Ride for the Brand Ranch Rodeo will be held in Colorado Springs over the 4th of July. Bring a friend and show them what real working cowboys do.