By Cathie Twisselman
Madonna Inn/Flying T Cattle Co.
SAN LUIS OBISPO, CALIF. – First of all I want to thank everyone who came to our WSTR Qualifier at Madonna Inn August 13-15. As all of you who were there already know it was a fantastic roping with an outstanding turnout. This was made possible due to of all of our loyal team ropers and their families and the great crew that we’ve had for 30-plus years. I’m so excited to say that we had over 1,400 teams and took in a total of $389,000 with a cash payout of right at $315,000 plus awards & prizes valued at over $11,000. That puts us to about a $400,000 roping.
As usual, a heartfelt appreciation goes out to all of our wonderful crew and sponsors. Every year (except for last year because of COVID-19) we are so fortunate to have this special crew that comes all the way from Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. They’ve been there for us…and all of you, through thick and thin, no matter what. We love them all so much that I want to name all of them and personally thank them. Linda Davis, Colleen Enk, Vicky Mounyo, Kelsi (Mounyo) Bramwell and Elena Clark. They are our announcers and office crew. Linda and Colleen are the fastest talkers I’ve ever heard. And Vicky, Kelsi and Elena are so pleasant and efficient that I don’t have to do anything. As usual, they did a splendid job taking care of all our ropers and friends with a cheerful laugh, giggle and smile.
Next are Troy Shelley, Aaron Shelly and Ray Siggins. We’ve been working with Troy since the beginning of the USTRC days. It’s true what they say, “you do get better with age.” We’ve known Ray for years, but this is the first time he’s been able to make it out here and it was so great to see him. Ray brought a new chute crew with him and even though we missed seeing all of our “older” crew, Ray’s crew was equally as great as our previous year’s helpers. Ray personally watched every single run and made sure that all of the cattle were even and sorted off anything that wasn’t. Of course, to have a good roping with an even playing field, this is a must and needs to happen. Besides Troy and Ray making sure everything ran smoothly, Aaron Shelley along with a “newcomer” flagger but long time friend to us, Johnny “Mac” Robertson did all the flagging and as usual, our flaggers did a spectacular job. As you all know, steers aren’t always perfect. That’s why we take great pride in making sure that we monitor each and every run and pull out the steers that don’t keep the competition the same for all ropers. To us, it’s important to be “roper friendly” and give each roper the benefit of the doubt and if need be, a new run. When ropers put up these amounts of money for entry fees, I feel they appreciate it when we try to make sure their value is always there.
For the first time ever, we didn’t own our own cattle. Because of the past year’s circumstances with COVID, the weather, etc., we were not able to purchase new cattle. But another really good friend, Steve Simons came to our rescue and supplied us with three truckloads of perfect cattle for this year’s roping. He sent a stronger, faster set for the higher number ropers, a medium running bunch for the middle numbered ropers and a slower bunch for the lower numbered ropers. Steve was there for us in a pinch and we appreciate that very much. I don’t think we could’ve gone anywhere else and gotten a more perfect set of cattle…from a nicer guy than Steve.
As for our sponsors, along with the usual sponsorship that the WSTR already has for every roping, we had a few that always seem to step up to the plate and make things even more special for us and everyone else at our ropings. Gist Silversmiths has been making our “custom” buckles ever since we’ve been putting on ropings starting in the 1970’s. Years ago, Gary Gist personally designed and made us our original Madonna Inn Buckles that are second to none. Every year from then on they have never disappointed. It really all started when my dad, Alex Madonna, had Gary design a very special buckle for my mom with the Madonna Inn stagecoach on it. It was beautiful as you can all imagine. Then when I asked Gary if he could do the same for our ropings, he said “not a problem.” From then on, we’ve had nothing but beautiful, handcrafted, very unique buckles with the Madonna Inn stagecoach on them. Of course, I have to also give credit to Gary’s son Chad. Since Chad has grown up and been working with his dad, the quality and service has stayed amazing. Thank you to all of you at Gist Silversmiths.
More amazing sponsors and friends to Rowly and myself for more years than I can remember, are Dustin Noblitt, Denis Carroll and Barry Berg of Cactus Ropes, Cactus Gear, Stetson and Resistol Hats and Clothing. They have always made sure that they send extra prizes for all our events too. And this year we were very excited to be able to present the prettiest, most efficient and different style “pulling breast collars” to our second place winners. I’m not sure if everyone realized exactly what they were getting with these breast collars, but I’m sure when they use them they’ll see that they are the best kind of breast collar on the market. Of course, that’s my humble opinion. I love this type of breast collar and have been using them for about 10 years. I like the way they lay at the same angle of the shoulder into the neck. It is basically just what they’re called, “pulling collars.” They’re designed more like the actual pulling collar that the farmers and ranchers used to use on their work horses back in the 1800’s. They’re designed to help the horse “pull” and not have so much friction against their shoulders.
I want to thank my family. Rowly, Caleb, Teale and Tara who are always there for not only me, but every single roper and their family. I can’t express enough how fortunate and blessed I am to have them as my family. Then there’s my mom (93 years young) and my youngest sister and her family, Connie, Clint, Audrey and Dalton. If it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t have a place to put on a roping…not to mention the Madonna Inn’s Restaurant, Hotel and Gift Shops.
The Madonna Inn Arena concept all started years ago when I was 16 years old. My dad got together with Cotton Rosser and decided to build the arena and put on RCA Rodeos. That was the beginning of our families love of the sport of rodeo and team roping. My dad loved it and he made sure that we all had the opportunity to learn and participate in these sports (as did he). Of course everyone in my family, as well as Rowly’s, have become avid team ropers and lovers of the sport. This has to be a true testament to how team roping is such a great “family” sport that anyone at any age can learn to do and participate. My dad has been gone for over 17 years now, yet his love of the sport, animals, his family and friends have lived on throughout the years. The only person in my family who did not rope was my mom. That was primarily because she didn’t have the opportunity to grow up around horses and livestock. She was born and raised in Long Beach, California. and was a “city girl.” She’d never been around livestock until she met my dad when she was about 21 years old and they got married. Yet my mom, from then on, has gone to every roping, clinic and/or event that had anything to do with horses and cattle and she still does today. In true fashion, mom was at this roping, sitting on the hill watching and visiting with old friends and had the time of her life.
Connie worked her tail off to make sure that everything at the arena and the Inn was as good as possible for not only my family but also all of the contestants as well. She made sure the electrical and sound system, lights and arena were all ship-shape and even had the Inn’s staff on hand 24/7 if we needed anything. And the people that work in the room reservations were on top of everything. It’s not easy having rooms for everyone when they want them because there are always many changes, yet they seemed to make it work. And it’s not as if the Madonna Inn isn’t busy, they’re always busy. A lot of the rooms still need at least a one year in advance reservation. Along with the room staffers is Amanda (who has been with the Inn and my family for more years than I know) and Cheri in the Gift Shop who’s like a little sister to me. Whenever I need anything shipped or received, they are always there. I know this might not seem like a lot, but it really is to me. Organization is key to being successful and I wouldn’t have a chance of getting everything done right if not for all these people. My other sister Karen and her family, Tim (Rowly’s brother), Tristan, Sterling and Lexie are also always here for us. If we ever need any help with equipment, etc., they’re there. The same goes for my brother John and his family. When it comes right down to it, I’m so fortunate and blessed to have the family I do. I am very grateful.
A few others I can’t leave off this “long” list of people that helped make our roping be the success that it was is Mitchell and McKenzie Thompson. They both used to work for us on the ranch but last year had to go back to Texas for other job opportunities. I have still been in contact as they have had a major impact on our cattle and horse operations. They came back specifically to help us take care of all the stalling needs of all you ropers (a thankless job). Doing stalls (pens) is always a nightmare but such a necessity. First they put up and take down all the pens and try to accommodate every roper’s wants and needs. They did a fantastic job. Hopefully everyone who dealt with them had a good experience and realize how difficult it is to make this work. I know that we didn’t have enough pens for everyone but Connie made it possible so anyone who wanted to could set up their own pens on the grass field, something we haven’t been able to do for a long time. Only problem was, we didn’t know this until the end of the first day of the roping and we’d already told a few that they couldn’t set up there. It wasn’t our intention to be inconvenient or harsh with anyone and we hope that all is forgiven and that everything worked out. McKenzie and Mitchell did go around and try to let everyone know who they’d talked to before that it was okay to set up their own pens. Great job Mike and McKenzie.
Next…and even though they may not see this article because they’re always so busy working, I want to thank Bob, Linda and Rick Rohrer of Rohrer Hay & Feed Sales for all the great alfalfa hay that they brought. I know it seems trivial to be talking about feed, but it’s a big deal to us that we always have premium quality hay for all our animals including our steers and especially since these weren’t even our steers. They were Steve Simon’s and we always want to make sure we take care of everyone else’s animals as if they were our own, maybe even more. Bottom line, the hay was excellent.
There were also two very important vendors at our roping. So very much needed and appreciated were Bonnie and Claude Loftus and their family with “Little Jimmy’s” Food Truck. We’ve known Claude and Bonnie “before they were born,” and Bonnie has done our ropings and horse sales way back in the years, but got so busy with their own food businesses that they couldn’t come back until just this year. We’re so thankful for them being here and supplying everyone with delicious and quality food. It’s also just so wonderful to be able to work with more family (yes, they are also related). We have a huge family and an even bigger circle of friends.
The second vendor that always comes to our events is Jimmy Pfeffer of Ropes Galore Tack Trailer. Jimmy’s always there to help everyone out with any of their wants and needs as far as tack goes for you and your horse. He has oodles and oodles of gorgeous quality tack, roping dummies (by Cactus) and, of course, Cactus Ropes “galore.” Jimmy is also like family and though not related by blood, he seems like it. We’ve known Jimmy since Caleb was in diapers and Jimmy’s predecessor, Judy and Ozzie Gillum were the owners of Ropes Galore based out of Oakdale, Calif. They were Caleb’s first sponsors as a wee kid and we’re all most grateful for that. Since then, Jimmy bought the Gillums out when they moved to Arizona, Jimmy has kept up their great traditions and support of team roping through thick and thin, good and bad. Even today, you can see dozens of kids roping Jimmy’s dummies and using his ropes. Ropes Galore has always been family oriented and there for all the kids in the same fashion today as when Judy and Ozzie were the owners. Thank you, Jimmy.
One more company, or should I say sponsor, that doesn’t seem to get the recognition they deserve is C and N Tractors of Paso Robles. For years, the people at C and N Tractor have been there for us when we needed a tractor to drag our arena. Certainly a very important part of our operation in keeping our arena in tip top shape. In case you’re not familiar with C and N Tractors, they’re the dealer for the Kubota tractors. No matter where you’re from, if you need a great tractor and a great deal, call the guys at C and N Tractors. Like us, they’re very family orientated and always there to help. Besides being such amazing people, their products are “top of the line” in the equipment business. So a great big thanks to C and N Tractors. We very much appreciate your support and help in everything we do.
There’s a few more people I’d like to thank because if it hadn’t been for him and them, we’d never be having such great ropings as we do today. That’s Denny Gentry, his wife Connie as well as John English. I know that Denny has stepped down from the WSTR as of last year, but I want you all to know how much he’s influenced not only our lives, but the lives of all of you team ropers and horse enthusiasts. We met Denny 35+ years ago (late 1970’s) when he brought USTRC to California. I think we were one of the first people to put on a sanctioned USTRC Ropings. Denny made the expectations and quality of team roping what it is today. You had to have first rate quality roping steers and run an organized, on time event. Such things were not heard of in those days. Most ropings at the time didn’t always have good, even cattle, a first rate arena with “good ground” or an efficient crew and office staff that started on time. Yes, there were always good announcers but when Denny started the USTRC, you had to have great announcers that were fast, efficient in their times and timing and didn’t make mistakes. Of course, no one’s perfect, we all make mistakes, but Denny’s high expectations and quality control made us all better. We started having a lot better ropings and ran a much tighter ship. The result of this was more ropers, happier ropers, happier producers and more. Denny’s USTRC eventually sold and then he started the WSTR. The WSTR is of the same utmost high quality, but he figured out how to make ropings pay even higher than they did before. We no longer were just a bunch of small time team ropers going to small time weekly jackpots. Although there is still a place for the weekly, lower cost jackpots everywhere. The one thing that Denny did create though that still stuck is the efficiency of how the ropings are run. Nowadays, I think just every roping, big or small runs like the quick, efficient, quality ropings that Denny introduced us all to. I could go on and on about all the things that Denny Gentry did for team roping but that would be an article in itself. I want to tell you that behind every great man is a great woman (of course I like this part…I’m a woman). All kidding aside, Denny’s wife Connie is an amazement in her own right. Most people don’t really know and appreciate all the tasks that Connie Gentry does. She’s the person behind the curtain like in The Wizard of Oz. She makes sure everything is running in the background and keeps track of everything. I’d like to say she’s the “grease” for the “wheel” and hopefully that doesn’t offend her. I just know that grease is a necessity, correct? Well that’s how I feel about Connie because she’s a very welcome and appreciated necessity. Another person that’s been with Denny for years and still is, is John English. He’s the guy I call when we want to schedule a roping, need help with a roping or just plain anything. He’s always been here for Rowly and I from the beginning and is still here today. As a matter of fact, he’s the person I will be calling to schedule our 2022 roping at the Madonna Inn. We’re scheduling early this year just because we don’t want to cross or overlap anyone else’s events. So tentatively, our date for the WSTR at Madonna Inn will be August 12, 13 & 14, 2022. Please put it on your calendars now and if you want a room at Madonna Inn, I suggest that you book as early as possible, even now. Though it seems too early to do this, the way things have been going for the past couple of years with COVID and all, people are planning way ahead because they’re so sick and tired of doing nothing.
COVID and our government, do I dare touch on these subjects? I’d probably be in trouble if I did so instead I want to wish each and every one of you health and happiness to your whole family. One thing I know for sure is that the number one thing in all of our lives is our health.
Thank you again to everyone who came and participated in our 2021 Madonna Inn WSTR. It was so good to see everyone and I for one had the best time just seeing and visiting with friends, old and new. I hope you all can say the same. Happy trails and God bless!
Results of the 2021 roping follow; payoff is per team.
Fast time short go: Preston Burgess and Brandon Bates, 6.76, $300.
Average: 1. Cutter Machado and John Chaves, 27.26, $3,850. 2. Cutter Machado and Dalton Pearce, 27.72, $2,570.
Fast time short go: Layton Oswald and Todd Hampton, 6.35, $200.
Average: 1. Franky Martinez and John Chaves, 30.7, $3,860. 2. Zach Crofoot and Spencer Mitchell, 30.91, $2,320. 3. Wyatt Bourdet and Kyle T. Locket, 31.13, $1,540.
Fast time short go: Kyle Manes and Rodney Rivera, 7.06, $300.
Average: 1. Parker Jones and John Chaves, 32.21, $7,270. 2. Troy Shelley and Cesar Ochoa, 33.58, $5,450. 3. Preston Burgess and Will Cowden, 35.09, $3,640. 4. Wyatt Bourdet and Todd Hampton, 35.18, $1,820.
Fast time short go: Buster Berna and Anival Guerrero, 6.33, $300.
Average: 1. Cutter Machado and Will Cowden, 29.42, $8,420. 2. Cersten Branquinho and Todd Hampton, 31.66, $6,320. 3. Guy Payne and Troy Shelley, 34.6, $4,210. 4. Ryan Browder and Rodney Rivera, 34.89, $2,110.
Fast time short go: Ali Bilkey and Zach Varian, 11.13, $1,000.
Average: 1. Gene Harry Jr. and Steve Smith, 30.65, $10,440. 2. Dominic Patino Jr. and Will Cowden, 34.21, $7,280. 3. Gene Harry Jr. and Brian Arave, 37.69, $5,380. 4. Sean Pascoe and Carl Wilken, 38.22, $3,800. 5. Ben Dukes and Zach Varian, 40.23, $2,840. 6. Gary Christensen and Val Ericson, 40.31, $1,900.
Fast time short go: Mark Warrack and Tony Boggs, 18.96, $1,000.
Average: 1. CR Wilken and Noah Brown, 34.12, $12,420. 2. Ernie Cardoza and Luke Cardoza, 37.47, $8,440. 3. Bart Bonfantini and Steve Smith, 37.63, $6,650. 4. Summer R. Tex and Carl Wilken, 38.53, $4,880 5. Dusty Gravatt Sr. and Art Belis, 39.12, $3,990. 6. Butch Pope and Tyler Friday, 39.29, $3,550. 7. Drew Tilton and Dan Engler, 40.0, $2,660. 8. Cersten Branquinho and Jeremy Pinheiro, 43.69, $1,70.
Fast time short go: Tappy D. Anthony and Jeff Jones, 9.17, $1,000.
Average: 1. Pam Wilken and Guy Payne, 42.46, $12,020. 2. Frank Brancato and Steve Hatcher, 42.73, $8,410. 3. Troy Shelley and Jerry Stutts, 43.79, $6,410. 4. Jeremiah Kaiwi and Rory Souza, 45.25, $4,800. 5. Zane Denio and Steve Hatcher, 46.08, $3,600. 6. Cersten Branquinho and Cliff Garrison, 46.69, $2,800. 7. Randal Shepherd and Glenn Teixeira, 47.48, $2,000.
Fast time short go: Bronc Rowland and Rick Fausone, 7.62, $200.
Average: 1. Travis Pierce and Travis Caron, 28.68, $3,800. 2. Adrian Cervantes and Ty Shintaku, 28.72, $2,720. 3. Adrian Macias and Rick Fausone, 29.79, $2,070. 4. Kawohi Schutte and Derrek Hee, 30.89, $1,520. 5. Meghann McNulty and Ty Shintaku, 32.27, $760.
Fast time short go: John Christman and Dusty Gravatt Sr., 17.39, $1,000.
Average: 1. Zach Crofoot and Jessica Crofoot, 37.68, $13,780. 2. Chris Hanneken and Chad Krainock, 44.26, $9,540. 3. David Zepeda and Toby Willis, 44.82, $7,420. 4. Aaron Shelley and John Baxter, 47.29, $5,830. 5. Fausto Valenzuela and Rooster Salazar, 47.94, $4,770. 6. Ashley Troncatty and Travis Caron, 49.58, $3,710. 7. Melvin Rogers and Tim Gaither, 50.35, $3,180. 8. Doyle Thompson and Reed Rider, 52.62, $2,650. 9. Jose De La Riva and Christian De La Riva, 55.98, $2,120.
Fast time short go: Mike McGhee and Steve Hatcher, 10.49, $1,000.
Average: 1. Georgene Mielke and Colin McTaggart, 48.04, $14,380. 2. Bill Porcher and John Redeagle, 50.56, $11,110. 3. Mike McGhee and Steve Hatcher 52.21, $7,840. 4. Nathan Roth and Bill Kaufman, 54.67, $5,880. 5. Fernando Real and Robert McGalliard, 57.34, $5,230. 6. Rick Thompson and Shannon Finch, 59.22, $4,580. 7. Keith Blevins and Cliff Hyder, 67.52, $3,920. 8. Chris Hanneken and Stephanie Evetts, 38.08, $3,280. 9. Heidi Durant Payne and Jim Petersen, 41.46, $2,610. 10. Mikey Rogers and Jose De La Riva, 43.32, $2,610. 11. Mitch Brown and Dick Richard Tuson, 44.42, $1,960. 12. Macey Cox and Kullen Burk, 47.55, $1,960.
Fast time short go: Tammy Lewis and Colby Smith, 8.55, $200.
Average: 1. Mitchell Thompson and Tara McNamee, 35.18, $3,760. 2. McKenzie Frey and Kolton Matthews, 38.56, $2,820. 3. Kendall Patterson and Colby Smith, 38.69, $1,880. 4. Mitchell Thompson and Kolton Matthews, 39.39, $940. ■
Zach Crofoot and Jessica Crofoot were the winner of the #9.5 Roping.
#11.5 Roping winners were Noah Brown and CR Wilken.
#10.5 Roping winners were Pam Wilken and Guy Payne.
Georgene Mielke and Colin McTaggert, #8.5 Roping winners.
Gene Harry, Jr. and Steve Smith won the #12.5 Roping.
Johnny Chaves and Parker Jones, winners of the #14.5 Roping.
#13.5 Roping winners were Cutter Machado and Will Cowden.
Mitchell Thompson and Tara McNamee, winners of the #9.5 Add-On Roping.
Open winners were Cutter Machado and John Chaves.