Otho Kinsley and his Rodeo Ranch
Otho Kinsley was born in 1899, the son of a farming family that had moved from Michigan to Bishop, California. His hopes of becoming a rodeo star were dashed when, after the family moved to Arizona, Otho maintained he was shot in the leg by one of Pancho Villa’s riflemen while riding a fence line. His love for the rodeo never diminished, however, and he was involved with rodeos for most of his life.
During the depression, Otho worked on a highway gang on the road between Tucson and Nogales and purchased 450 acres of land near Arivaca Junction for less than $100, acquiring additional land during the ensuing years until he had a total of 600 acres in the Santa Cruz Valley (south of Sahuarita and north of Tubac) on which he raised cotton and livestock. Not surprisingly, his specialty was raising bucking horses and bulls. He also established a tavern-restaurant-grocery store-gas station there, later adding a swimming pool, famous for its ice-cold water, two lakes, and an airstrip making it a popular recreation area where movies were shown on balmy Saturday nights. His most successful addition was a dance hall which was a large hexagonal building located where the Post Office is now. After a rodeo held at rodeo grounds on the ranch, a rodeo dance was held at the dance hall where he charged a ‘dime a dance’ and folks would drop a dime in a box and go dance to music provided by the likes of Pug Scott and her fiddle and John E. Jones and his group.
Otho bought every outlaw horse he could lay hands on and channeled them to rodeo promoters in Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona. He claimed that out of a random sampling of 146 horses, only one had the makings of a blue-ribbon bucking horse, willing to perform its meanest antics day after day. Papoose and A-7 were two infamous Kinsley broncs. He added that the odds on producing a good riding bull were better. Out of every 20 bulls, six or seven generally qualify as being of rodeo caliber. Some of his Brahmans and cross-Brahmans were called Little Snuffy, Paleface, Pieface, Buttermilk Sky, Oscar Thompson, Fearless Fosdick, Rotator, and Climbin’ High. The most famous bull was called Speck, who began to spin right out of the chute. He turned round and round in rough, short, fast circles, upsetting the balance of nearly everybody who tried to ride him. Otho had so much faith in his rambunctious bull that he stood him ‘open to the world’ for any amount of money. Speck put down such top riders as Jimmy Hazen, Mitch Owens and Chappo Valenzuela, but was finally humbled by Dick Griffith in a match that took place in Tucson on December 8, 1946.
Otho Kinsley died too young in 1962 after having sold 450 of his acres for $421.000. The old hexagonal dance hall had burned prior to the sale, which left the land open for the Lakeside Estates development, and the Cow Palace took over what had been an institution for decades. A vital, fun-loving personality as open and expansive as the country he inhabited, Otho Kinsley will forever be a part of the Santa Cruz Valley.
This article has been adapted from a more complete version written by Shaw Kinsley and published previously in the Villager.
Visit the website of Otho Kinsley Jr. for additional information about his father and the Kinsley Ranch. www.primghar.com/ranch/index.html
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