Bill Ayre has thrown a lot of loops in his lifetime

By JOE KUSEK

September 23, 2022

Bill Ayre has thrown a lot of loops in his lifetime.


Some good ones, some bad ones and some in-between ones.


Having started team roping in junior high, Ayre has been throwing loops for more than half a century.


That’s a lot of loops.


And a lot of catches.


“I’ve been roping all my life,” said the Glendive saddle maker. “I like the challenge. If it was easy, you would just get bored.


“I’m just out there to have fun and stay in shape a little bit.”


He’s had some fun in 2022.


The 65-year-old Ayre has the distinction of being the oldest competitor at this year’s Northern Rodeo Association/Northern Women’s Rodeo Association Finals in Kalispell.


Ayre won the 1994 team roping title with partner Phil Luman and was fifth in 1984, before most of this year’s Finals competitors were born.


“Quite a few times,” he said of competing against second- and third-generation ropers from when he started.


The premier event of the Mountain Health Co-Op Tour is Oct. 27-29 at the Majestic Valley Arena. The Finals features the top 10 competitors in each event to determine the year-end champions.


Roping with his son Ben, the father is seventh in the team roping heeling standings. Ben Ayre is sixth in the heading standings.


With more than $4,200 available in each event at The Finals, both are still in mathematical contention for year-end titles.


"It was our goal this year,” said the elder Ayre of qualifying for the Finals. “We had a good spring. We were awful lucky at a couple and won some money we shouldn’t have.


“With The Finals, you’ve got to use your head a little bit. There are a lot of guys not afraid to go really fast. When they’re all fighting each other, there is my opportunity to get a check.”


The two won at Culbertson, were second at Big Timber and Chinook, third at Opheim and fourth at Poplar.


The team roping also gives Ayre the best seat in the arena as his son chases NRA history. Ben Ayre has also qualified for The Finals in steer wrestling and tie-down roping, making him eligible to be the first four-event champion in a single year in the long history of the NRA. Ben Ayre is a former tie-down roping (2014-15) and all-around cowboy champion (2020).


“That would be cool,” said Ayre of watching his son chase multiple championships.


Ayre has roped with his son since Ben was a young boy. They amped up their competitive pursuits in the past eight years.


“He knows where I need to be and I know what he is going to do,” Ayre said of the partnership. “Ben, he lets me get away with stuff another header wouldn’t.”


“We don’t get mad at each other after a bad run. There might be some hollering going on once in a while,” he finished with a soft chuckle.


It’s Ben Ayre who does most of the driving to rodeos across the state.


“He would say I’m over there sleeping,” Bill Ayre said of his spot in the passenger seat.


The two also work together as saddle makers. Ayre primarily makes saddles for ropers. “It’s a niche market,” he said and sees much of his work on competitors at the rodeos.


Ayre will be riding a new horse at The Finals. He purchased Pistol about a month ago. The 15-year-old horse is replacing Ayre’ horse Carl, which he rode most of the summer.


“Carl, he was getting sore. I felt I had better do something different,” Ayre explained, “Pistol, he’s real green. I’m just getting him figured out and he’s just figuring me out. Hopefully, we’ve got each other figured out by The Finals.”


While the competitive fire still burns, it might glow a little softer in future years.


“A person once said, ‘The mind is able but the body is trailing.’ “ offered Ayre. “I have to get done with this deal one of these days. I might be staying home more. Stay home and build saddles while Ben rodeos.”


But that day will have to wait.


Ayre’s still got a few more loops to throw.


“Oh yeah, I’m having more fun than 40 years ago,” he said. “It’s a different deal now. There is no more pressure.


“It’s a kick.”

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