The cowboys on the Burns Ranch know something about history.
In fact, the ranch can trace its history in Henrietta, Texas, back more than 125 years to 1890, when Aldolphus Raht first put the acreage together. The Burns/Johnson family has owned the ranch since 1928. Now, Graham Johnson represents the fourth generation of the family on the ranch and serves as the outfit’s manager. Interestingly, Johnson’s great-great-great-grandfather was C.L. (Kit) Carter, who served as the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association’s first president from 1877 to 1888. History and tradition mean something on the Burns Ranch.
While Johnson has partnered with other ranches to form WRCA-approved teams, 2016 was the first year the current iteration of the team competed under the Burns banner.
“In 2016 we came in second place at four rodeos,” Johnson says. “It was the year of seconds, so we didn’t make it to the Finals.”
But, when the 2017 season started, they knew all that was—ahem—history. In fact, at the first rodeo they entered, The Wild Horse Prairie Days in Haskell, Texas, they won. Immediately, the win took the pressure of qualifying off of the team and they could concentrate on honing their strategy for the World Championship Ranch Rodeo in Amarillo.
“We had more rodeos for the team to meld and everyone could figure out where everyone would be in any given situation,” Johnson says.
Once at the Finals, Johnson’s experience from his three previous appearances played into the team’s strategy.
“When you have as many as 23 teams, you’ve got to be consistent and get times in everything through the first two performances and then come out as strong and as fast as you can in the third and fourth ones,” he says.
And it almost worked.
“I was really happy that we were consistent,” he says. “We had times in everything. We did well in the branding and won the bronc riding. We were consistently in the top five or six in the other events. We had a really solid performance throughout the week.
“We came out just a little short this year—which was disappointing—but I was really happy with how the team finished. I was proud of how everyone did and our performance in general. I’m excited to get back up there again next year.”
The brightest spot for the team came from their bronc rider, Colton Mayo, who won the average of that event.
“The way the WRCA puts on the Finals and really makes all the contestants really proud to be there. It’s something we all strive for. It’s the highlight of the year,” Johnson says.
That hospitality and being oh-so-close to a world championship only fuels the fire for 2018. And if history is any indication, one year after a second place finish, the Burns Ranch will come on strong.