It's a bountiful life: The business of bucking
Dec. 2011/Jan. 2012 California Bountiful magazine
Interview by Kate Campbell
Photos by Kate Campbell, Trina Wood and Rosser family
Cotton Rosser's rodeos have thrilled audiences for five decades.
Yuba County rancher and ProRodeo Hall of Famer Cotton Rosser talks about 50 years in rodeo—and a lifetime in the saddle.
How'd you get into the business?
All I ever dreamed about was being a cowboy. I grew up in Long Beach and cleaned stable stalls, rode my first bull at 13 and spent summers working cattle on Santa Catalina Island. At Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, I got a degree in agricultural business, but my real major was rodeo.
You were a top rodeo cowboy. When did you start producing rodeos?
Actually, an accident with a borrowed post-hole digger got me involved. In 1955, I was doing some work on the ranch and my feet got trapped in the digger—fractured my legs, crushed both ankles. It was a year before I could walk. My competitive cowboy days were over, but not my love of rodeo. With a partner, we bought the Flying U Rodeo in 1956 and started putting on shows.
What's the best thing about rodeo?
It keeps the West alive. And as a kid, I was always impressed with horses. I've always loved them. Now I own 400.
What's the biggest challenge in putting on a rodeo?
We used to produce 90 a year and usually had 200 head of cattle on the road at all times. Luckily, I learned to fly a plane in college, which made it easier to get around. Now we do about 40 to 50 dates a year, but it never gets dull. Every day is an adventure.
Cotton Rosser: The story continues
Cotton Rosser always dreamed of becoming a cowboy. The Long Beach native delivered newspapers from the back of a burro when he was a youngster, served as captain of his college rodeo team at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, and eventually became a legend in the rodeo business, putting on shows for audiences throughout the world. The California Bountiful Foundation recently honored Rosser with its first Public Outreach Award to recognize his lifetime achievements in educating the public about farming and ranching.