‘Routine’ is hardly the word that comes to mind when traveling with CR Boucher. But lunchtime may be the exception.
Every Monday through Friday he drives eight miles into Pryor, spends about two hours telling stories with friends at the Senior Center, checks mail at the post office, then drives eight miles home.
This world champion cowboy is still sharp as a tack, and witty. Here’s how he remembers his early bull riding days.
“I didn’t ride bulls,” said Boucher. “I just entered. My percentage wasn’t that great, hahaha.”
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Those days are long gone. At 85 years old, he’s turned in bulls for a four wheeler, and now shuffles his way inside with the help of cain.
CR – short for Claude Raymond – grew up in Livingston, spent his freshman year as a linebacker on MSU’s football team, then joined the army. When he got out in the 1950’s, a guy named Aubrey Rankin told him, “I’ll pay your entry fees, you wrestle steers and ride bulls. We’ll split the money.”
As CR tells it, he’d rarely even seen the sport – but just thought he’d give it a try.
“So, we got down to about the last rodeo there before we were both broke, and we was at Odessa, Texas,” he said. “I drawed a big ole charolais bull. By god if I didn’t ride him and win second. From then on we just started winning.”
Eventually a bull stomped on CR’s leg in Farmington, New Mexico, and Aubrey convinced him to stick to steer wrestling. That worked out pretty well for the pair. Until a freak accident in the practice arena killed Aubrey, when the horse he was riding was clipped by a steer, and rolled on top of him. CR was there in Dallas. And saw the whole thing.
“And they said you don’t want to go up there and look at him,” said Boucher. “They said, there’s blood running out of his nose, ears, everything. So there was a guy there who took me, loaded him in the ambulance. And we got up there at the funeral home deal or whatever and…. they stopped me. Two or three guys in suits. Told me ‘you don’t need to go in there.’ He said D-O-A. And I said, ‘God dang’… That ended our deal.”
CR picked himself up and won the National Finals average championship in 1961. Then went on to become a steer wrestling world champion in 64. He wanders into a back room to find it, then delivers the buckle.
Does he remember his full earnings that year?
“Yeah, about less than the day money today,” Boucher laughed. “I was going to look it up, I knew you were going to ask me that.”
He is spot on about the day money. CR’s entire season earnings that championship year — a little less than $20,000. Right now at the National Finals that’s a nightly paycheck.
His kitchen and fireplace mantle are filled with snapshots, trophies, plaques and buckles.
He’s one of the very rare professional cowboys to hit every NFR site either as a competitor, or a hired hand. Dallas, LA, Oklahoma City and Vegas. In fact, while living in Texas, he remembers qualifying for the first NFR in Los Angeles — shortly after JFK was assassinated in Dallas.
“Yeah, everybody that had a Texas plates on their car, or pickup or trailer, they throwed rocks at you,” he remembers. “And they thought everybody from Texas was involved in that deal.”
That was over half a century ago. Today, CR’s credentials are listed in the Hall of Fame at Omaha, Montana, at the PRCA Hall in Colorado Springs, the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City, and earlier this summer, a brand new buckle was sent to him as an inductee to the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame.
If he were younger, would he do it all over again in today’s rodeo era?
“You better believe it. I’d be the first one there. Too much money up.”