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On the Trail with Ace Berry
Written by: Siri Stevens< Back to Articles
It has been fifty two years since Ace Berry entered the arena in 1962 for his first National Finals Rodeo. The fifteen year old couldn’t drive yet, but he remembers being in awe of the moment. “Going out in the arena with the legends I’d heard about and competed with – there they were.” Ace was the first one to qualify in the riding and roping – Jim Tescher had qualified in saddle bronc and steer wrestling. “I was really set on that. I never dreamed of winning them both – it just kind of happened.” Ace was the youngest contestant ever to enter the prestigious rodeo until JD Yates beat his record by three months.
The 68-year-old is heading to the USTRC Finals in Oklahoma to compete in the #11 and the Century. “I haven’t roped 60 steers yet,” he admits, “I am practicing once or twice a week, running a half a dozen steers each time.” Ace hasn’t roped for nine years. “I quit roping because I had a lot of stuff going on with the ranch … and I was kind of burned out.” He is back to have fun with it, “I’m roping because I want to, not because I have to.”
Ace is a true all-around hand, roping at 14 consecutive NFRs from 1962-75. He rode bareback horses at the Finals six times, in 1967, and from 1969-73. He judged the bareback riding at the NFR in 1985, and flagged the NFR team roping in 1986. He did all of this while managing a 10,000 acre ranch in California. “I went to a lot of rodeos through the years, but I never went to many each year. 65 was my tops,” he said. “I didn’t travel – I was always going back to the ranch. I’d leave in the winter and go to the winter rodeos, and then I’d go back to the ranch in the Spring.”
Ace followed the California rodeos on the weekends and made enough to get to the Finals. “In those days it didn’t take near as much to make it.” Ace Berry and Phil Lyne are the only two cowboys in rodeo history to win rough stock and timed-event average titles at the NFR. “Winning the average in the NFR four times stands out as the biggest accomplishment I’ve made,” said Ace. “That’s the only thing I’ve ever done that nobody has done or tied me in – two times in timed event and two times in the riding event.” Ace attributes his success to having the “want to. It takes a lot of work and persistence. It’s something I set out to do.” He won the 1967 NFR team roping average heeling for Bucky Bradford, back when half the rounds were team tying and the other half were dally roping. In team tying, the header was tied on. After he roped the steer, he went left and the heeler was tied on too. When the steer was laid down, the header would step off, run down, and tie a square knot around both hind legs. Ace competed as both the header and heeler, depending on his partner. It took a lot of horse power and practice – something Ace learned growing up.
Full story available in October 15, 2014 issue.