John Gwatney was a chute boss at the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo in Guthrie, which concluded Saturday, and he’s been the chute boss at some of the biggest events in the sport.
It’s a job he’s done numerous times at numerous rodeos, including the National Finals Rodeo, the Timed Event Championship and the National Finals Steer Roping.
I am the guy who keeps thing rolling. My job is to try to make everything right so (the cowboy) is ready to compete. I am in charge of the cattle. I am in charge of the production as far as when things happen.
I grew up in the rodeo game. I was born and raised in southern California. My father is a gold card member (of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) and now I am a gold card member. It means you have to have been in this sport 20 consecutive years. It means a lot of traveling time.
As a kid I rode bulls and bulldogged. I am a pretty big guy, 6-2 and 250 (pounds). As my weight started to pick up, my bull riding got worse and my bulldogging got better so I quit the bull riding altogether after eight years and just continued steer wrestling.
I was not as good as my horses. I carried a team of horses around and they actually made my living for me. I had an excellent team of bulldogging horses and I would let people ride them for 25 percent of what they won. I haven’t jumped a steer wrestling steer in five or six years. I still team rope some.
I was able to bulldog with the great Roy Duvall, compete against him, and ask him for help at times and get his outlook. Roy never got in a big hurry or wound up about things. He still doesn’t to this day. He was probably my biggest idol.
My father is 90 now. My dad was a stock contractor. I have been in the production end ever since I was a little kid. Basically, I have doing this for over 40 years. When I would rodeo I would compete, then they would have me be the arena director or run the bucking chutes. Heck, I have worked every rodeo from Austin, Texas to the Cow Palace in San Francisco.
I have seen a lot of things happen. I have seen people get killed in the arena. I was there when Glen Keeley was stepped on (by a bull). I’ve had some of my best friends get hurt right in front of me. I’ve seen world championships won right in front of me.