California Gold Rush Legacy

Ranching heritage important to team roper

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Local rancher and roper Julie Taylor says she was born to rope and ride. Taylor is a nationally acclaimed roping champion who specializes in heading. Team roping is a two-person equestrian event where one rider throws a rope under a steer's hind legs, and the other rider throws a rope over the head, thus her title as header.

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Julie Taylor, on her ranch in Tonto Basin, practices her championship roping skills. She has competed in United States Team Roping Championship (USTRC) events in Albuquerque, N.M., Laughlin, Nev., Austin, Texas and Globe.

According to Taylor, her cowboy ways go back to before the turn of the century when her family made the decision to follow a dream.

Shortly after his birth in 1886, George Cline made the journey from California to Arizona in his mother's arms.

His family left the east to find their fortune in gold in California, and like so many before them. They found the promise of gold lying on the ground more of a pipe dream than reality, so they left California after George was born and headed for Arizona.

Taylor's family began raising cattle soon after arriving in Tonto Basin. The land was better suited for creating a rock garden than cattle ranching. They struggled to keep their ranching way of life alive in the face of government regulations, which limit their ability to continue, all the while raising a family and helping build a cowboy church as a part of a worldview unique to the West and its way of life.

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Julie Taylor has won numerous team roping titles.

When Taylor's predecessors started across the deserts leading to their new home, they didn't have the comfort of an air-conditioned SUV; instead the Clines braved the sweltering heat of the desert with no more shade and coolness than was provided by the thin canvas covering their wagon.

Plodding across the California and Arizona deserts, they didn't have a clear idea of where they would end their journey until they came upon one of Arizona's still relatively unknown treasures.

The term "relatively unknown" is applicable because while the local Hispanic residents and settlers had known of the place for years, the vast majority of white settlers who had flooded into the Southwest went past without even stopping.

The Clines settled on the land in Tonto Basin known as the Boque Ranch, renaming it the Cline Ranch, and have been there ever since.

Taylor's dad, George Allen Ewing began actively managing the ranch now known as the Cross 7 (or Cline Ranch) at the age of 14, and continued after he married his wife Linda in 1963. He later turned it over to Taylor and her husband.

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Julie Taylor/champion header "We've forgotten what made this country great, but as far as I'm concerned, there is always a place for "the Western way of life."

She is the sixth generation of Clines to continue ranching on the land.

The ranch is on the east side of Tonto Creek and even back in the 1880s, the creek was prone to annual flooding.

To this day, it strands residents on the east side of the creek whenever the creek rises too high.

The original acreage, comprised of about five different ranches, included more than 1,200 acres of desert bottomland near present-day Tonto Basin, which was not well suited for cattle ranching.

But that is exactly what George's parents did; they started ranching Sonoran cattle that are suited to eating anything from cactus to gravel.

"They (her great grandparents) leased more than 600,000 acres of land from the government at one time also," Taylor said.

Taylor is George's great-granddaughter and lives on about 200 of the original 1,200 acres.

Taylor and her husband, Mark, who she married in 2000, keep about 120 head of cattle, but it is getting more and more difficult, she said.

"We have to keep a certain number of cattle on the ranch in order to maintain our feeding permits from the government, but it actually ends up costing us to run the cattle," Taylor said.

She said this year it looks like heavy winter rains will help, but they usually end up spending money to feed their cattle despite ample grass on adjacent government land they cannot use.

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Julie Taylor believes that preserving the Western heritage is important for future generations.

"We're not using our resources the best way we can," she said. "Working ranches need to be allowed to come back, it would be better for us all."

She said they only butcher about one cow a year, the rest they keep to maintain grazing permits.

But for Taylor and her family, the issue isn't just making a living off of cattle ranching, it is also about preserving a way of life stretching back 122 years.

That is one of the reasons that for the last 30 years Taylor has been competing and honing her skills.

She has competed in United States Team Roping Championship (USTRC) events in Albuquerque, N.M., Laughlin, Nev., Austin, Texas and Globe.

Taylor has won everything from cash to championship buckles and saddles.

She won the 2007 Women's Pro Rodeo Association (WPRA) Championship buckle.

She also won a roping saddle at one of the USTRC events that she displays in her home.

"I won $4,500 when I won the saddle just a couple of weeks ago in Laughlin," Taylor said.

She said the prize money has offset the cost a little, but in the long run she hasn't won as much as she has spent.

A lot of that comes from the high price of roping horses.

Taylor paid $6,500 for her bay horse Tom, who she uses frequently in amateur and professional events.

Her great-grandfather George began the roping tradition in the family, she said.

"He was a world champion roper and the first cowboy to rope in Madison Square Garden," Taylor said.

She revels in virtually anything connected with the Western way of life and Western heritage.

Taylor and her husband keep about 21 horses on the ranch, both ranch horses and those used specifically for roping or other specialized areas.

She tried living in a city but said she couldn't deal with it.

"When I got married the first time in about 1985 I guess, and we moved to Mesa for six months," she said.

"We had a house with a yard and everyone had a big smile on their face, but when you got on the road it was all different," Taylor said.

Experiences she had with road rage and a generally unfriendly atmosphere compared to what she had known in Tonto Basin brought her back.

"I talked my dad into giving my husband a job here on the ranch, and he did, but my husband at the time wasn't suited for this way of life and we broke up," said Taylor.

Since then Taylor, along with husband Mark, raised her two children, Zachary, who is 18 years old and "ropes a little," and Stormy, 25, who works as an EMT for the Tonto Basin Fire Department and aspires to be a helicopter pilot.

She said she did her best to instill in her children rural values, and with some help from ranch life she succeeded.

Taylor is proud of the buckles, saddles and accolades she has received in roping, but said she is proudest of another of her endeavors.

"I would say my biggest accomplishment is helping Destry and Terry Haught get the cowboy church going," said Taylor.

She said the non-denominational church has helped keep numerous kids out of trouble and away from drugs.

She said the church is just one example of the Western way of life she loves, but fears is being ignored and forgotten.

"We've forgotten what made this country great, but as far as I'm concerned, there is always a place for it," Taylor said.

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