Cattle Call ropes families together
Mert Bradshaw gets bucked by a horse at the 56th annual Cattle Call Rodeo on Saturday afternoon in Brawley. The final rodeo performance of Cattle Call is at 1 p.m. today. (STEVEN ESPERANZA PHOTO / November 11, 2012)
These families have children that grew up in the annual tradition, always are guaranteed the coveted box seats and for them, Cattle Call is as integral to their families as Christmas.
When Brawley resident Callie Little was in college, she had to choose between coming home for Cattle Call or Thanksgiving. The decision was easy for her, Cattle Call.
“This is definitely a tradition. It’s another holiday in our family,” Little said.
Even more than that, the annual rodeo event is closely tied in her heart to the memory of her late grandfather Bud Johnson, “one of the original cowboys” who attended the first rodeo back in 1957 and helped bring some of the first cattle to the Valley.
Her mother still recalls him setting up the pens for the first Cattle Call held on the high school football field.
“When Cattle Call comes, all I can think of is my grandpa. He was my hero, a cowboy. You don’t see very old school cowboys anymore,” Little said.
The family’s box seats have always been and always will be in her grandfather’s name.
“We won’t get rid of them, because it’s so special, because that’s my grandpa,” Little said. “A lot of people say it’s the biggest party weekend of the year, but for me, it just really makes me think of my grandpa and his brothers and how they grew up, seeing the cowboy ways of life.”
The family tradition keeps reaching new generations too with Little attending Cattle Call events this weekend with her 3-year-old nephew.
Her family is just one of multitudes touched by the event over the years.
Cattle Call began in 1957 after the Brawley Chamber of Commerce decided the town needed a signature event.
Louise Willey, Ed Rutherford, Al Smith and Dick Smith made up the original Arena Committee in charge of the event, and now their families’ names are synonymous with Cattle Call.
“We wanted to build something the people of Brawley could be proud,” Al Smith said while looking back to the early days of the committee when he was often behind coming up with themes for the event.
For the Foster family, Cattle Call isn’t once a year but reminiscent of everyday life in the Valley. It’s in the time spent at rodeos with the family and in the early morning selling feed to old friends.
The family has fond memories taking part in some of Smith’s staged Cattle Call events such as the year two Foster brothers were cast to be Brawley’s wild outlawed cowboys as part of the parade.
“I remember me, David, and our other brother robbed the Bicentennial Freedom Train from Niland on horseback in 1976 as part of a band of wild cowboys,” Roy Foster said.
Now, looking back at past Cattle Call adventures David Foster still chuckles remembering the time he, with his brother Roy and other friends, rode their horses into the former Planter’s Hotel back bar to show just how much Cattle Call spirit they had.
David Foster’s wife Becky also joined in the Cattle Call royalty having been crowned 1974 Cattle Call Queen.