Back When They Bucked with Butch Morgan
Written by: Siri Stevens< Back to Articles
Butch Morgan believes his biggest accomplishment in life was marrying his wife, Charlene, 55 years ago. His life, like most, is a series of opportunities and change, culminating in doing the very thing he is best at – promoting the Western way of life through the trophy business and his more than three decades with Western Horseman.
Albert Lewis Morgan was born June 13, 1940. He was nicknamed Butch by the Baggs Postmaster because of Butch Cassidy, the outlaw, who ran in the same country as they ranched. His dad, Lewis, was a rancher, running sheep and cattle near Baggs, Wyoming. His mother was killed in a water-heater explosion when he was nine months old. His father remarried but Butch was mostly raised by his sister, Carol Laramore Gipson. When he was in high school, he played basketball, selected twice to be on the all-state team. When he was a teenager, he moved in with his sister and her husband, Bill Laramore, who taught Butch how to rope. Since there was no high school rodeo, the only place he could compete was at the little local ropings.
He went to Casper College on a basketball scholarship, but was pulled to the rodeo side of things early on. “I grew up in the western way of life and thought the rodeo life was cool,” said the 77 year old, who is only 5’10”. “I wouldn’t have made it as a basketball pro.” He competed in tie down roping and steer wrestling. After earning his associate’s degree, he transferred to Colorado State University and won the CSU men’s All-Around title in 1961, the same year teammate Charlene Hammond, received the All Around Women’s title.
They met at the party after the awards. “I had a nice horse and she liked him. A year and a half later we got married.” Charlene’s brother, Dick Hammond, was a trick rider and wanted Butch to try it out. Turns out, he was pretty good at it and the couple started traveling with a group called the Fireballs, Dick and Deb Hammond, Karen Womack Vold and Butch. They worked all the major rodeos, Ft. Worth, Calgary and all over the United States and parts of Canada (Alberta, B.C. and Manatoba). The group traveled for three summers working for Harry Vold in Canada. They hauled in an old pickup and camper, then a van and four horse trailer. “We slept in the back of the camper shell back then.”
Karen Vold was one of the members of that group and remembers Butch’s abilities. “Butch was so athletic it came easy for him. He could make more mistakes than anybody because he could bounce right back. People loved him; he was a crowd pleaser, and he was fun to work with.”
Butch and Charlene traveled with the group for a three years and then decided it was time to settle down. When their first daughter was born, they moved to southeastern Colorado, where Charlene opened a ceramics shop and Butch got a job teaching fifth grade at Ordway. He made $300 a month, and he got his bus driver’s license because there were kids that had never gotten out of Ordway. Butch would take them on field trips. He taught for three years, traveling to rodeos and ropings in the summer.”
He gave up teaching to join Charlene in the ceramic shop, expanding the business into a full line of trophies called Blue Ribbon Trophies, in 1964. “Charlene did a lot of sculpturing and that’s what helped our deal. The horse and livestock industry was our Trophy Stones that Charlene created.” Charlene created sculptured relief figures for every event that were then molded, cast, and finished. She did the creative art work and Butch did the marketing and sales. Things grew and they moved that business to Colorado Springs. What started in a little chicken coop grew to 50 employees. “We did the awards for American Quarter Horse Association, Reiners, Cutters – we concentrated on the horse events. That’s when I started roping steers.”
He team tied with Dick Yates and Chuck King in the 1960’s and dally team roped in the early 70’s. When team roping came to Colorado around 1978, he lost his right thumb in the coil. “I had to learn to rope again, I was feeling pretty sorry for myself. I saw a sign in my doctor’s office that read: I used to gripe that I had no shoes, then I saw a man that had no feet. I remember it like it was yesterday.” In Butch’s typical witty personality, he has been known to pretend his thumb is stuck between the elevator doors and other objects and pull out the stub. He made the steer roping Finals in 1979, after he lost his thumb. “We had Blue Ribbon Trophies, it was hard to go team roping because I couldn’t always go when my partners wanted to, so I concentrated on steer roping.”
The couple has three children, and all of them have won high point championships and continue the parents’ passion for the Western way of life. The oldest daughter, Rhonda Holmes, and her husband own Triple J Ranch in Sarasota, Florida. Jay is an AQHA and NRCHA world champion and they breed and train cutting, roping, and working cow horses. Their daughter, Morgan (22), attends Texas Tech and has won six world titles. Butch and Charlene winter there, heading south after the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, which they have attended for nearly 40 years, every performance.
Their son, C.L and his wife, Renee have two sons, Braxton and Brayden, who both rodeo and have started their own collection of award saddles. Braxton has eight saddles and Brayden has five. CL won the open at the US Finals when he was 21 and is the superintendent for a large contractor in Colorado Springs. Christy, the youngest, is in the top 20 in the non pros in the reining world for the past two years, and has a little boy, Cooper.
Butch and Charlene sold the trophy business and Butch was managing Penrose Stadium in Colorado Springs when he was approached in 1988 by Pat Close and Randy Whitte to become the Director of Marketing for the Western Horseman magazine. “The first week I worked for them, I had to go to Scottsdale and got to play golf two days and rope three days – that was my first week. It’s been great.” His title changed about five years ago when the office moved to Ft. Worth. “I am now called Ambassador at Large. My job now is the face of the magazine –we go to a lot of shows and events and do the fun stuff.”
He ropes a lot in the winter in Florida, and spends his summers roping with his grandsons in Colorado. The #4 Elite spends his mornings on the computer and his afternoons roping or playing golf. “I want to watch my grandkids grow up and help them as much as we can and teach them how to play. I’ve been pretty lucky – when Charlene and I got married, I had $60, she had $40. We had a horse trailer, one car and two good horses.”
He attributes his success to the people he has known around the world that have helped him along. One of those people is his best friend, PRCA Commissioner, Karl Stressman. “We’ve roped a ton of steers together and laughed a lot over the past 30 years. Butch is good for a person’s soul – he’s a guy that really enjoys life and can get anybody rolling.” People refer to him as the ambassador of the Western Industry. “We need more people like Butch Morgan in the future to take on that responsibility. Butch and Western Horseman are complimentary to each other. We’ve been through thick and thin and anytime I needed somebody to fight or hold the light, it’s been Butch Morgan.”