Collected Wisdom: John Gwatney, National Circuit Finals Rodeo chute boss

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.
by Ed Godfrey Published: April 12, 2014
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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.


by Ed Godfrey
Reporter Sr.
Ed Godfrey was born in Muskogee and raised in Stigler. He has worked at The Oklahoman for 25 years. During that time, he has worked a myriad of beats for The Oklahoman including both the federal and county courthouse in Oklahoma City for more...
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