Back When They Bucked with Dick Carr

by Lindsay Whelchel

Dick Carr’s shop sits on the back of his house in Elk City, Oklahoma. The walls are papered with pictures; memories of a life spent in rodeo.   It’s full of tools, pieces of leather and strands of twine. The strands will be meticulously weaved together into- not just functional bull ropes for cowboys- but works of art.
When Dick is finished with each rope he makes, he prays over it to ask God to watch over the cowboy who will cling to that very rope hoping for success and safety. And success and safety have come for multitudes of professional bull riders who would surely tell you those ropes are connected to their success.
Dick’s customers have won too many world championships, National Finals Rodeo qualifications and other accomplishments, to count.
Dick was raised near the Beutler Brothers’ Rodeo ranch in western Oklahoma. He credits them for his start in rodeo. He began in the sport as both a bull and bronc rider, but he soon focused all of his attention on bulls. Dick got his pro card at 17. His PRCA card number is no. 166.
For six years he went strong on the rodeo trail as a professional cowboy, competing in the biggest rodeos in the land from Madison Square Garden in New York City, to Prescott and Cheyenne.
Dick, whose grandfather taught him to plait; the technique to make a rope, had already started to make bull ropes during his own riding career, knowing firsthand their importance.
“In 1950 I started entering. The next year I went to winning a little, but it was a tough life, and you rode the bulls ‘til the whistle blew. They didn’t have the kind of bull fighters they have now days, and it was a different world,” Dick describes, adding “in 1952 is when I got noticed for my ropes, and I only made ropes for people who asked me.”
In 1956 Dick was drafted into the Navy.  He quickly showed his work ethic was dedicated and was given some of the luckier duties on base such as working in the library and tending the bar in the Officer’s Club.
He went to a rodeo on an off weekend and won the bull riding. A Navy recruiter was working the rodeo and wrote an article about Dick’s performance that made the Sunday paper.
On Monday he was called into the captain’s office.
“I thought, ‘oh my gosh.’ I hadn’t ever seen him, and I took my hat off. I stood up straight, and he said ‘Carr, what’s this about you riding a bull,’ and I said ‘yes sir,” Dick recalls laughing.
The captain was far from mad like Dick had feared. The base had rarely made the news, and the captain was pleased Dick had been able to shed some light on them through rodeo. He gave Dick the green light to go to rodeos whenever he wanted.
When Dick went overseas on a ship to China and Australia, rodeo was humorously not far behind him.
“When we were in China they had a ship party, and a guy came by driving a bunch of wild water buffalos. I saw them and said ‘my gosh I want to ride one of those buffalos,” Dick laughs.
They had an interpreter and arranged to pay the man who was driving the buffalo to let them attempt the ride. Dick roped the buffalo and about 10 sailors held the bull so he could get on. Dick rode him as he ran down the beach, not really bucking. “I rode him I know for half a mile, and when I got back to the ship you’d have thought I rode some real rank bull,” he laughs.
Dick got out of the service in 1957 and went right back to the arena. “One day after I got out I won the bull riding at Buckeye, Arizona, but I’d been on that ship so long I had my sea legs, and [the bull would] move, and I’d just beat him over there,” Dick says with a smile.
Though he went to the major rodeos in 1958, he stopped riding bulls in the following years. Still, Dick stayed involved with rodeo. He was a judge for quite sometime and began making bull ropes full time in 1970.
“That’s 45 years. That’s got to be God,” Dick says wriggling his fingers around nimbly, with no obvious arthritis issues that could’ve stopped him from his work.  His work has a deeper meaning than being a functional art form. Dick emphasizes putting quality into his ropes that make the bull riders able to ride to the best of their ability while maximizing comfort.
“My ropes are very comfortable. It’s like putting your head on a pillow when you put your hand in there.” It fits like a Tiffany Glove, he says.
Dick’s work goes beyond making a good and comfortable rope. He’s able to pick out talent in bull riders and give them tips where they can get the most benefit from the kind of rope they might need.
Perhaps Dick’s favorite customer was Harry Tompkins.
“He was probably the greatest bull rider that ever lived. I made him bull ropes for 19 years, and he’s now 88 years old, and in a rest home.”
Like his close relationship with Terry Don West, Gary Leffew and Tompkins, the rodeo family Dick grew close with over the years is extensive. They all share a mutual bond and understanding, Dick says. “We just talk, and they just know where I’m coming from, and I understand where they’re coming from. It’s unspoken.”
Dick continues, “so many friends have passed. All the great rodeo cowboys; I was very dear friends with. Casey Tibbs was one of the greatest people I knew in my life. He was so good to me. He was my friend, and he encouraged me. I never asked Jim Shoulders for anything he didn’t give me. He always helped me.”
The rodeo people Dick could name for being a part of his life could go on and on, and that’s the most important part of preserving rodeo for the youth, making sure they have mentors like he did, Dick explains.
“The bible says, ‘remove not the ancient landmarks which our forefathers have established.”
For Dick, the Western lifestyle and the Christian one go hand in hand.
“The cowboy way and the word of God are one and the same. ‘Do unto others as you’d have others do unto you,’ and believe in a higher power. There’s someone greater than us, and it’s Jesus Christ, who we’re supposed to imitate, and that’s what I do. I live for God every second of every day,” Dick says and readily admits his shortcomings and how he was saved and cured of his struggle with alcohol abuse through his relationship with the Lord.
“June the 3rd 1986 I received the anointment of the Holy Spirit, and it totally changed my life,” Dick says. He hasn’t had a drink since that day. “Anybody that says it can’t happen, they’re wrong because God can do anything.”  Filling your heart up with God is in many ways like dedicating yourself to bull riding.
“Riding bulls, you either were dedicated and you were going to ride that sucker, or you weren’t. There was no ‘making  excuses.’ You had to give yourself to it just like you’ve got to give yourself to the word of God. It’s not just when you crawl over the chute gate. You’ve got to have it all the time, in everything you do, if you’re mowing grass or driving a car, whatever you’re doing,” Dick says.  And it’s clear, his faith, like his bull ropes, is strong.
For more information on Dick Carr visit: DickCarrBullRopes.com. Perhaps Dick’s favorite customer was Harry Tompkins.
“He was probably the greatest bull rider that ever lived. I made him bull ropes for 19 years, and he’s now 88 years old, and in a rest home.”
Like his close relationship with Terry Don West, Gary Leffew and Tompkins, the rodeo family Dick grew close with over the years is extensive. They all share a mutual bond and understanding, Dick says. “We just talk, and they just know where I’m coming from, and I understand where they’re coming from. It’s unspoken.”
Dick continues, “so many friends have passed. All the great rodeo cowboys; I was very dear friends with. Casey Tibbs was one of the greatest people I knew in my life. He was so good to me. He was my friend, and he encouraged me. I never asked Jim Shoulders for anything he didn’t give me. He always helped me.”
The rodeo people Dick could name for being a part of his life could go on and on, and that’s the most important part of preserving rodeo for the youth, making sure they have mentors like he did, Dick explains.
“The bible says, ‘remove not the ancient landmarks which our forefathers have established.”
For Dick, the Western lifestyle and the Christian one go hand in hand.
“The cowboy way and the word of God are one and the same. ‘Do unto others as you’d have others do unto you,’ and believe in a higher power. There’s someone greater than us, and it’s Jesus Christ, who we’re supposed to imitate, and that’s what I do. I live for God every second of every day,” Dick says and readily admits his shortcomings and how he was saved and cured of his struggle with alcohol abuse through his relationship with the Lord.
“June the 3rd 1986 I received the anointment of the Holy Spirit, and it totally changed my life,” Dick says. He hasn’t had a drink since that day. “Anybody that says it can’t happen, they’re wrong because God can do anything.”  Filling your heart up with God is in many ways like dedicating yourself to bull riding.
“Riding bulls, you either were dedicated and you were going to ride that sucker, or you weren’t. There was no ‘making  excuses.’ You had to give yourself to it just like you’ve got to give yourself to the word of God. It’s not just when you crawl over the chute gate. You’ve got to have it all the time, in everything you do, if you’re mowing grass or driving a car, whatever you’re doing,” Dick says.  And it’s clear, his faith, like his bull ropes, is strong.
For more information on Dick Carr visit: DickCarrBullRopes.com.

 

Dick Carr - courtesy of the family
Dick on “85,” Phillipsburg, KS “Here is a good draw! He had bucked off three west coast bull riders at this rodeo. I laughed and said watch me. On the last day he went both ways and I smoothed him out. Rode him every time out of several trips.” - courtesy of the family
Dick Carr, Payson, Ariz., 1956 - courtesy of the family

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