At 85 years old, Joe F. “Smokey” Davis is a Texas cowboy legend. Born August 25, 1933, in Crosby, Texas (35 miles northeast of Houston), […]
Written by: Siri Stevens< Back to Articles
For the first time in history, three generations of one family will qualify for the National Finals Steer Roping, held in Amarillo, Texas, Nov. 19 – 21. Steer roping is the only Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) final event not held at the Thomas and Mack Arena in Las Vegas, Nev., Dec. 3-12. “The arena isn’t big enough to rope steers,” explains Ann Bleiker, Senior Media Coordinator for the PRCA.
Wyoming rancher, Bud Tillard, qualified for the National Finals Steer Roping twice. “I made it in ’68,” says the 81-year-old who decided not to go that year. “I had some shipping dates,” he explained. “I never sacrificed my business for roping.”
Tillard qualified again the next year, and headed to Pecos, Texas, with his wife, Betty. “It was hot and the arena was not that good” recalled Bud. There were no commemorative T-shirts that year, only Tillard’s back number that hangs in his home. “They didn’t make a big to-do out of the finals then. I remember we went to a picnic there,” he said. “The tables were set up as long as this house. They were lined with brown bags full of whiskey. There were no bars in Pecos; it was a dry county.” Tillard borrowed a horse, didn’t do any good, and went home. He continued roping until 1971. “I roped my last steer in Pendleton,” recalls Bud. “I won the second day.”
He quit roping cold turkey and has had to work around it ever since. “I don’t pack a rope,” he admits. “I might want to rope something.”
Tillard and his wife, Betty, grew up together and they were married in 1947. “She took to the place,” he said. “You either like this or you don’t.” They raised three boys; Andy, Marty, and Tim.
“I taught all the boys to rope,” says Tillard (arena is pictured above). “We roped calves to start.” Tillard built a calf-roping arena below the house and doubled the size (250 yards long) to accommodate steer roping. “We roped every night,” recalls son, Marty. “Dad made sure we had that. Steer roping was my passion because it was available.” Little did he know at the time that Tillard was making sure his boys were too tired to drive into town. “He was keeping us off the road,” explains Marty. “It was great. We didn’t know any different.”
“Dad raised us that the ranch is first,” says Marty, the second generation to qualify for the finals. “Steer roping was my passion because it was available.”
Marty, went to the finals two times; the first one was in Laramie, Wyo., the second in Guthrie, Okla. “I placed in some gos and won one or two.” Then Marty followed family tradition and went home to ranch.
Competing on the road was always a struggle for the Tillards. “Somebody stayed home at all points and time to watch the chicken coop,” explained Tillard. “Back in my time there weren’t many steer ropings, maybe three all summer. It’s different now.”
Troy Tillard is the 26-year-old son of Tillard’s son, Tim. “I’m sitting thirteenth right now,” says the grandson who lives “down the creek” from his grandfather. “There are a couple of rodeos left and if I have to, I’ll go.” As long as he is in the running for the National Steer Roping Finals in Amarillo, Texas, he’ll stay on the ranch and work rather than attend any more rodeos.
When the Tillard family enters a roping, there are six entries with the same last name. “The whole family steer ropes,” explains Marty. “It’s a bad habit.”
Tillard’ son, Andy, passed away from cancer when he was 42. The Isenbergers, good friends, put on a memorial roping in his honor every year at their place. A saddle is given away each year. Many of the ropers that have won saddles have passed them on to either Andy’s sons or grandsons. “All of them have saddles now,” says Tillard.
The Tillard ranch encompasses 100,000 acres of rolling rough country north of Douglas, Wyo. It takes three road graders to maintain the roads, of which 17 miles are the driveway. Upkeep on the fences requires 2,000 steel posts a year. Nine thousand sheep and 1,200 cows call the ranch home.
Publisher’s Note: This story was published in November of 2004 (added to story in 2020) Bud Tillard and Glee Net at the 2019 Don King Days