Leo Camarillo, who was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame before the BFI was even three years old, remembers how team ropers of the 1970s even landed on the idea for such a roping.
Leo “the Lion” won gold buckles heeling in 1972-73, won the all-around and team roping in 1975, and got another heeling championship in 1983. Here’s how he recalls the foundation for Bob Feist’s legendary roping, in his own words:
In the mid-1970s, a producer like David Gill was also rodeoing and liked to rope, so he’d have five-for-$25 jackpots at his little feedlot. The top 15 guys would go to them and enter twice, so there’d be about 30 teams and by the time the money was cut up and the cattle charge taken out, there wasn’t much left for day money. The winners might get $150.
It cost $50 to drive down there, hauling a horse that cost $10,000-15,000, and you couldn’t afford dinner on the way home. I thought, ‘What if we put up $100 apiece instead?’ We’d give $5 or $10 per run for the cattle, have a five-steer average, progressive from the start, and winner take all. Because at least then, we had a chance to take some real money home.
We did it. We got 11 teams that day. It only took about 20 minutes to run the roping. Only one team caught all five – my brother – and they won $1,100 apiece. They were all excited about that. It was pretty neat. The best of the best, and winner take all. You could make a thousand bucks right now!
The next week was Chowchilla, so David said, ‘we’re going to have the same roping – the winner-take-all on the Saturday night before the finals at Chowchilla.’ I was roping with Tee [Woolman], so Tee and I were leading after eight rounds at Chowchilla and left to go to David’s winner-take-all roping, which had 37 teams entered. Tee and I won the roping and earned $3,700 apiece. The next day, Tee and I went to Chowchilla. We won that too, but it took all week, we had to beat 150 teams, and won $2,000 apiece.
But Bob Feist had showed up that Saturday night and said, ‘this roping is a good idea and I have been kicking around ideas for some time. If ropers are going to rope against each others money, I’m going to invite the best of the best and have people pay to watch.’ And that’s how we got the Bob Feist Invitational.
The year Camarillo was inducted into professional rodeo’s Hall of Fame was the year the outdoor Chowchilla Stampede Grounds hosted the BFI. The 1979 champs were Brian Burrows and Allen Bach.