Barry Berg of CACTUS ROPES
When Barry Berg was hired on at Cactus in 1992— about a year after the company was established—experience with ropes was not his claim to fame.
“I’ll tell you, there’s never been one person with one day of rope experience outside of Cactus Ropes,” Berg regaled.
It’s a different story these days, but in the beginning, it was rough going for Cactus—a 1991 start-up courtesy of famed South Texas roper and NFR-qualifier “Cactus Jack” Stephenson, with his cousin, Joe Mathews, and another partner, Mike Piland. According to Berg, since Classic was only five years old at the time, and was really the only “big” company in the market, Stephenson and crew figured, why not.
“They had no idea the complex issue of rope making when they decided to jump on board,” Berg said of the ranchraised entrepreneurs.
In that sense, Berg—who’d studied ranch management and had a then-lifetime of feedlot experience, but no experience building ropes—was a perfect fit.
“My first job when I came to Cactus that day,” Berg remembered, “they had 900 ropes sent back and the then-general-manager said, go through all of those boxes and see if there’s any good ones.” Out of 900, Berg couldn’t find one. The course of Cactus Ropes history changed in a little-known tale that falls squarely on the shoulders of the cowboy code and its rule that a man’s word should never be broken. On a day when Stephenson’s son and 1984 NFR roping partner, Jacky, offered some roping tips to Classic’s then-owner, Rick Barton, he was offered payment for his time. Instead, Jacky asked Barton for a lesson in coiling. Barton honored the request, and sent Craig Bray to teach Berg and Jacky’s brother, Robb, how to coil 10 ropes.
“That’s the honest truth,” Berg marveled. “From that point we developed our own style and our own ideas. But I’ll say to this day, Craig Bray honored what the owner said do and he gave his best effort. That was the moment that we could understand the top and bottom, basically, of the loop.”
Some 25 years later, Berg is the general manager, and he’s certain Robb has now coiled more than a million ropes in his ongoing career at Cactus. And, each individual rope manufactured by Cactus is a great source of pride. Not just for Berg, but for the team.
“You think back to how much pride goes into each rope,” he said. “There’s not a gauge like in the automobile industry that says tighten the nut this much. It’s how much pride you put into hitting the spot, and the eyes of the individual ropes coming off the machine, and the coiling. Every single thing. It’s an incredible team we have that stays with us for 15 years, on average.”
Looking forward, Berg exudes sincere confidence in his team that has spent the past many years successfully meeting the demands of the market. The core-rope patent has, indeed, offered a change-up, and it is one that Cactus welcomes, not only because they now get to partake in the core-rope market, but because it has allowed them the time to seek new opportunities and create, in addition to their own core ropes—the Thrilla and the Swagger—what Berg believes will be “the next incredible ropes in the industry.”
BARRY BERG, GENERAL MANAGER OF CACTUS ROPES, AT THE READY.