AT HOME WITH Bill Spratt

Spin to Win Rodeo - - Departments - By Ken­dra San­tos

Bill Spratt is a Wy­oming na­tive who’s spent a life­time in the sad­dle with a rope in his hand. The 78-year-old Bill and his wife, Pat, raised their two cow­boy sons, T.J. and Ace, in the wide open spa­ces of the sprawl­ing fam­ily ranch in Lysite, Wy­oming. These days, Bill and Pat Spratt spend the win­ter months in Wittmann, Ari­zona, where they’re neigh­bors to the likes of broth­ers Brady and Ri­ley Mi­nor, and share their home with cousin Jake Mi­nor.

Q: Tell us a lit­tle about the fam­ily ranch in Wy­oming.

A: We run about 3,500 mother cows. Cow Camp is up in the Big Horn Moun­tains at about 9,000 feet. The lower land, which is desert coun­try, is about 5,000 feet above sea level. Half or more of the ranch is land that we lease from the govern­ment.

Q: How do you split your time be­tween Wy­oming and Ari­zona, and why?

A: We’re home in Wy­oming from the last of April/first of May un­til the mid­dle of Oc­to­ber, so I’m about six months each way now. I’ve worked the ranch all my life, but I don’t miss the cold weather now. In the win­ter, all I do is rope, so that

means Ari­zona. My bones won’t take the 20-be­low weather any­more. Q: What do you look for­ward to about mov­ing back to each place?

A: By Oc­to­ber, it starts get­ting cold and we can get snow in Wy­oming. I look for­ward to get­ting out of that. All the good team rop­ings are in Ari­zona in the win­ter­time, so that’s the place to be. I’ve made a lot of friends in Ari­zona over the years, so it’s al­ways good to see those peo­ple (Spratt has cof­fee at Ari­zona neigh­bors Judy and Ozzie Gil­lum’s house at sunup ev­ery morn­ing all win­ter). I get back to the ranch in Wy­oming just be­fore brand­ing sea­son. I’m just like an old, worn-out horse—along about spring, I get to look-

ing over the fence and think­ing about home. It’s al­ways good to get back out in that open coun­try horse­back again. Q: How far back does the ranch­ing tra­di­tion go in the Spratt fam­ily?

A: My great-grand­fa­ther was a rancher, so my grand­daugh­ter Co­ralee (who’s T.J. and Jen­nie’s daugh­ter) is the sixth gen­er­a­tion of Spratt to ranch in Wy­oming. Ranch­ing is just like rodeo­ing—it’s bred into you. It’s a great life, but it’s got its tests, too, like sur­viv­ing the mar­kets, the weather—hop­ing for rain. It’s pretty tough when you’re hop­ing for rain, it’s dry, and your cows aren’t do­ing well—or when you’re won­der­ing what your calves will bring, and if you’ll be able to pay the banker.

Q: Talk about your main event(s) back be­fore you started team rop­ing.

A: Steer rop­ing and bronc rid­ing were the two main events in Wy­oming when I was a kid. Calf rop­ing was down south, and all

the team rop­ing was in Cal­i­for­nia. Steer trip­ping was my main event to start with. (In 1976, Spratt won the steer rop­ing at the Cheyenne Fron­tier Days Rodeo, won the steer rop­ing year-end ti­tle in the Moun­tain States Cir­cuit, and qual­i­fied for the Na­tional Fi­nals Steer Rop­ing). Q: You roped a few calves, too, right?

A: Yes, I spent one win­ter right out of high school with (ProRodeo Hall of Famer) Toots Mans­field. He worked me hard, and taught me ev­ery­thing about steer rop­ing and calf rop­ing. We rode seven or eight horses a day. He was a su­per good guy, but he be­lieved in hard work if you wanted to learn to rope. It was your job. You got up in the morn­ing and went to work un­til it was time to eat sup­per that night.

Q: If I re­mem­ber right, your rodeo ca­reer ended early and abruptly. A: Yes, my dad (Tom Spratt) broke his back in a fenc­ing ac­ci­dent. They called, and said I needed to come home and take care of the ranch. I took over the ranch when I was 19, and have been here ever since. Q: When did you start team rop­ing? A: I never team roped un­til I started go­ing to Ari­zona, about 25 years ago. I only spent a cou­ple months a year in Ari­zona back then, but that’s when I first started team rop­ing. Q: <RX·UH NQRZQ IRU UDLVLQJ DQG ULGing good horses. Which blood­lines do you pre­fer, and what do you look for in a rope-horse prospect?

A: Drift­woods are my fa­vorites. They’ve just been aw­ful good to me and a lot of other guys. They’re good horses for ranch­ing and rodeo­ing. I like a horse that can run a lit­tle bit and stop. We ride our horses on the ranch for a cou­ple years be­fore we ever take them to the arena. T.J. puts a lot of miles on our young ones be­fore I ever rope on them. I take the best ones down to Ari­zona and pid­dle around with them down there all win­ter.

BILL SPRATT TURNS A STEER AT A RE­CENT NA­TIONAL TEAM ROP­ING EVENT IN CHEYENNE, WY­OMING.

BILL SPRATT, LEFT, AND SON T.J., RIGHT, BE­ING AWARDED SAD­DLES BY NTR PRO­DUCER TY YOST.

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