Back When They Bucked with Butch Stewart
Butch Stewart spurred his first bronc in the IPRA — known then as the IRA — in 1966 as a senior in high school. It […]
With a rodeo career that currently crosses six decades; the full story of Dale Motley is yet not finished. Not by a long shot. But, here’s what we know so far. Dale was born in Bowie, Texas, lived in Oklahoma until his family moved to Colorado when he was 13. He began competing in Little Britches rodeos in the Denver area. “My dad owned a boarding stable down by Mississipi and Colorado Blvd. in Denver. All the kids around there were entering the Little Britches rodeos so I entered too. I think I entered everything they had and I went to Little Britches Finals; I think I was 17 or so when I got started. I didn’t do any high school rodeo and went to the amateurs after high school.”
From there Dale began entering any and every amateur rodeo that he could. “I didn’t start roping until a little bit later because I just wasn’t around any ropers to learn from. When I did get started, Dean Pariott from Westminster helped me learn; I didn’t even know how to tie a calf. I steer wrestled quite a bit then and rode bareback horses for a couple of years. But calf roping has always been my main event. Back then I learned to get off the horse on the left and it took me a long time to convert over.”
He recalls some of the early jackpots that brought him into contact with ropers that helped launch his career. “Every Saturday we’d be at somebody’s place to rope. We’d throw in a dollar; 50 cents for the calf and 50 cents for the jackpot. That was in the early ’60s.” Dale talks about his first calf horse. “I bought her to train for calf roping and she was really a good one. She had to train herself because I didn’t know anything about training at that time.”
He joined the PRCA in 1967 and served as circuit manager for three years in the ’70s. “I organized the Finals and ran meetings. I was calf roping director under Dean Oliver; I had Colorado and Wyoming.” Dale competed in the Pro’s until well into his 50’s “The last time I went to the Circuit Finals, I was 50 years old.” Some of his most memorable PRCA rodeo accomplishments include winning the short round in Houston and winning the Greeley All Around in 1973. “These are my biggest and most exciting wins. I have placed at nearly every big rodeo once or twice in my life. I’ve placed at Cheyenne a couple of times. I’ve made the Circuit Finals several times.” Dale is now a Gold Card member of the PRCA.
He began in the Senior Pro association when he turned 40. Between age 40 and 50, Dale was competing in both the PRCA and NOTRA (National Old Timers Rodeo Association, forerunner of the Senior Pro Rodeo Association). “I compete in the calf roping, team roping, steer wrestling, and ribbon roping. My wife, Jody was my ribbon runner for a lot years and she was fast. The Senior rodeo is a lot fun and geared more towards that than the PRCA. The camaraderie is great, you have time to stay in one place and have BBQ’s and get to know people.” He also served as association president for three years.
With a little bit of a laugh he adds, “Since I’ve had both my knees replaced, it’s become more fun to stay on the horse than it is to get off.” He’s recovering from a recent knee replacement and is thinking he might be ready for some events in this year’s Frontier Circuit and the Finals. In the course of his Senior Pro competition he has won the 2002 Reserve Champion Calf Roping title, the All Around title in 2007, the All Around title in 2010 along with the Champion Ribbon Roping and Champion Calf Roping titles. He was inducted into the NSPRA Hall of Fame in 2004.
In the mid-1970’s Dale became a member of the Major League Rodeo Association that established rodeo competitions between teams from various cities. “I was on the Los Angles team and we’d travel to other cities to compete against their teams. It was kind of like football leagues today. Casey Tibbs was our coach and that was one of the really neat things in my career was to meet him and get to know him. He was a real character. Steve Ford, President Ford’s son was on our team; he was a team roper.”
The Major League Rodeo led to him being tapped to star in a beer commercial while he was in California.”This was for a South African brewery and I was the main guy in the filming. Just about everyone on our rodeo team was in the commercial. In one scene, a fallen tree was on fire and had me trapped, and I rode a horse that would jump the tree. It was a lot of fun to do that.” No beer commercial would be complete with the obligatory swig of the goods and Dale recalls, “There was a scene where another cowboy tosses me a bottle, I open it, and take a drink and I don’t normally drink beer. Well, they had to re-take the shot about 10 times and by the final shot, I was beginning to ‘feel’ the part.”
He later appeared in a Pepsi commercial. “We were in Tucson at a rodeo and they were filming some blind taste tests and paying $5. So another guy said, ‘Let’s go get the $5 and go get breakfast.’ Being cowboys, we really just wanted the five bucks for breakfast. It was on TV a few times back then.”
Besides his rodeo career Dale worked on the Denver fire department for 36 years before his retirement 10 years ago. “I was at station 15 in Denver for 15 years, on a crash team at the old Stapleton Airport, and at DIA for 10 years. I saw some pretty big fires and was in on one crash. I had to adjust my time off so that I could get to rodeos, so that limited some of what I could do. I traveled by myself quite a bit because of needing to get back to work.” Dale and his wife, Jody have two grown children, Josh and his wife, Jeane; and their daughter, Laura and her husband Ricky Lambert.
Looking back over his years in rodeo, Dale says that all he ever really wanted was, “…to be a good cowboy, to keep my family together and provide for them. The PRCA was a dream come true for me, to do as well as I did and accomplish what I did. And the Senior Pro now is a real big deal for me. It’s a way of life that has been good for all of us. Josh is in the Senior Pros and Laura is running in the PRCA.”
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