Before They Were Champions; THE ROPE:
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I dubbed the pictured bullrope, "Before They Were Champions Rope" I braided it in 1980, long before any users of my bullropes had won any kind of championships: Junior, Amateur/Open, or Professional.

It is braided out of the good old Elizalde Manila (grass) that is no longer available. The rope is a standard 9 plait, 20 Strand Half-Laced Left-Hand Handle, and the full 21 strand 9 plait tail. At that time, thatís all the strands we braiders had to work with!

I entered the rope in the 1980 Navajo County, AZ Fair Arts and Crafts Show. It was put in the "Any Other Crafts" division and won first place, which the smaller Blue Ribbon depicts, thus a Blue Ribbon Bullrope. It also won the overall special award for that yearís Arts and Crafts, the lavender ribbon.

As I remember it now, I really do not feel I truly understood what all this meant. I know I was thrilled at the time, if my memory serves me correctly, I also won $65.00 along with the ribbons; $35.00 for the division award and an extra $30.00 for the special award. More importantly it recognized me (as other bullrope braiders) as a craftsman, later to be an artisan. Though I did not realize this until years later, I Thank the then judges of the 1980 Navajo County, Arizona Arts and Crafts Show for seeing this in my work. This also proved that there can be talent, art, craftsmanship, and refinement in such a tough, raw and explosive sport! I see and recognize this myself when Iím officiating a bullriding or rodeo and see a rank winning bullride.

It would be three years, not until 1983 before I would send my first rope to the National Finals Rodeo (NFR) and six-years before one of my ropes would win a World Championship. Ironically, other than a 5 plait tail, this is basically the same rope Tuff Hedeman used to win his first World Championship using my rope in 1986.

Raymond Branch, Custom-Braider

Raymond Branch, Custom Braider
P.O. Box 876    Winslow, AZ 86047

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