Jeff Talley knew everyone was waiting to see what he would do with Circle T Ranch & Rodeo.
Gene Melton heard the rumors at events and saw the comments on the Internet.
After the passing of Howard Talley, everyone wondered what the future of their bucking bull business would be. Would they continue on or sell off the stock?
"I heard that rumor going around," Melton said, "but then somebody said, 'Well, that answers that question.'"
The answer came in May.
In fact, they not only answered the lingering questions and not-so-quiet whispers regarding the future of the ranch, but they also made a definitive statement when they purchased David's Dream from Lufkin Ranch & Rodeo Company.
"I told people I wanted to carry on what Mom and Dad started," said Howard's son Jeff, "but it's just normal. When David's Dream came up and we had the opportunity to get him, it took care of a bull that we needed that fit our herd really good - it worked out great -and it showed everybody we're here to stay."
It's been a tough - some might say tumultuous - year for the folks at the Circle T.
In January, Talley's mother passed away; just six weeks and one day later his father succumbed to cancer.
There's a grieving process that comes with losing anyone close, but to lose both parents in such a short period of time was devastating.
"There is a grieving process and every day I'm having to deal with it," Talley said. "It's a struggle day-to-day. The good Lord gets me through it and that's what I rely on most - and I have good people around me."
Talley has relied on Melton at the ranch and then leaned on his family - HIS wife and two sons, along with his aunt and uncle - when it comes to the other family business, the one his grandfather started 50 years ago.
Keithville Oil Service has been in the Talley family for three generations. They supply water wells, surface pipes and conductor holes for oilfields throughout Arkansas, Texas and their home state of Louisiana.
"They let me do what I need to do to help juggle everything," Talley said.
With all that needed to be done there was no time to reflect on the past.
Talley, who had worked alongside his father for 25 years, had to quickly move forward into the future-a very different future that would, in many ways, look a lot like the past.
"Jeff stepped in and went right on with it," Melton observed.
"It's not something that I just had to pick up out of the blue," Talley said. "I already knew the business; I knew the ranch and we worked together on everything we did.
"It has been a challenge. We always worked together, like I said, but he had his part, I had my part, mother had her part. Now my wife and I are basically doing everything. It's all on my back."
While he focused on the day-to-day issues involving the oil business, he turned to Melton to continue what he had started with the elder Talley.
"I have to rely on him," Talley said. "Dad relied on him. Now Dad had a lot of his own ideas, but yeah; I'll rely on him. We'll all put our heads together when we buy something."
"When Howard gave you a job he expected you to go do it," said Melton, who says he has a good a working relationship with Jeff as he had with Howard. "He didn't interfere unless he wanted to change something, and Jeff's pretty much the same way. If you have a guy doing a job you expect him to do it. That's one thing about them, they never step in like a lot of guys and say, 'Well, I would have bucked this bull this way or I would have done this.'
"So far it's one those deals where if it isn't broke, don't fix it."
Circle T Ranch might not equal the depth that two-time reigning Stock Contractor of the Jeff Robinson has with his pen, but the top end of their bull pen is stout.
In addition to Asteroid, who is considered a top contender for World Champion Bull, they've had six other bulls compete in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round this year: Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey, Shepherd Hills Trapper, Jack Daniel's After Party, Motown Magic, T-Rex and the recently purchased David's Dream.
Palm Springs was a re-ride in the final round at a Built Ford Tough Series event in Tulsa, Okla.
Melton has hauled the Circle T bulls to 70 percent of the 20 BFTS events this year and they've had at least one bull in 14 of 20 championship rounds.
"It's pretty much what we've had all along," said Melton, when asked about their future plans. "It's one day at a time, but it's always to try and make a step up and try to do better than we did last week. The type of bulls we look for, you just don't come by them every day. I've said this a hundred times: Those bulls are not worth what we give for them, but if you want one of them, that's what he costs."
Although buying David's Dream was an expensive move, it was a well-thought-out and well-planned move.
Talley said the oil business has slowed down from where it was. Business was definitely doing better when they bought a lot of their bulls, so he has to be careful. "That was really the only con that we had," said Talley, when it came to deciding to keep the ranch and the bucking bulls.
He said they've never made plans based what others do, but he knows everybody is watching his every move.
"When I make a move now," Talley said, "it's been well thought out and it's been planned from the ground floor up."
"We try to get the best bulls we can and that's hard," Melton said. "That's everybody's goal. There are a couple of us out there that try a little harder than the other guys, but, to me, to maintain a certain level is what being a professional is all about."
The bull that established them as major players, however, is Asteroid and, of course, he remains their rankest and most popular bull to date. He's been unridden in 11 outs this year and marked 45 points or better in 10 of those 11 appearances.
"To me, he's not as rank as he was at the first of the year," Talley said, "but I think he's learning the game more and more every time they crack the gate on him. I think he's getting smarter."
If Asteroid is fortunate enough to win, Talley admits it'll be an emotional moment for him. For starters, he still considers Asteroid an underdog. The win would also provide Talley an opportunity to share the story of the ranch his parents built together. Then there's the emotional attachment he has with Asteroid and the World Finals.
"I've thought about it," Talley said, "but I've kept it in the back of my mind because right now, at this point, I'd probably fall apart. Dad and I went to Vegas together last year. That was our last trip together."
Talley said he's certain his father would have wanted him to continue.
Melton said, from a business standpoint, the Talleys have put too much time and money into Circle T Ranch & Rodeo to just give up on it. From here on out it's Jeff's chance to secure Howard's legacy in the PBR and the bucking bull industry by implementing everything he's learned from his father over the years.
"Anybody can inherit anything," Talley said. "Leona Helmsley's dog inherited $12 million, you know what I'm saying? Anybody can do that, but it's what you do with it. It's what I want to do with our company. It's what I want to do with this ranch. I want to push on and I've been taught how to do that. Nobody really knew who I was because I was always in the background behind Howard making sure everything worked day-to-day, but I know how to do it and we're going to just keep pushing right on.
"When they mention our name I want them to say, 'Hey, they're trying to be the best.' You want them to say, 'that's a good outfit and they really have good stock.'"
Follow Keith Ryan Cartwright on Twitter @PBR_KRC.
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