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Posted on Feb 26, 2016
Empty Saddles

R.W. "Digger" Howard 1940-2016


Digger was raised in Childress, Texas on a cotton farm. In 1959, he moved to Amarillo Texas where through hard work he eventually began his mechanical construction business known as Howard's Mechanical Co. Inc. Digger married Carolyn Schaffer in Childress Texas in 1963.


His love of the sport of team roping led him to the board of one of the largest team roping associations in the state at that time, the Texas Roping Association. While on the TRA board,  fellow board member Cathy Chase came up with an idea to handicap ropers with use of number system. Digger was absolutely captivated by the idea and for several years within the TRA he experimented with various ideas, trial and error.  Digger did not start roping till age 30 and the idea that a handicap system could balance competitions and allow everyone to enjoy the sport fascinated him.


By the mid 1980’s Digger, with partners Cathy Chase and S.E. Mayo broke off and developed their own roping association, the Coors Association, giving name and title to their primary sponsor.  Within a very short time the state association grew to a point where the yearly Coors finals would run 72 straight hours without a stop. Later when the sponsor situation changed, the organization was changed to the Original Team Roping Association.


In 1990, Digger offered the Texas roper database and his expertise on handicap systems to a start up association called the United States Team Roping Championships, which became the first national team roping association.  For years after Digger joked, “ if I knew they had any chance of being successful I would have never helped them”. In reality Digger continued privately with his friend S.E. Mayo experimenting with ideas like electronic barrier systems, heeling barriers and other concepts on a local level. The ideas would be fully vetted and when Digger felt the time was right, those concepts would be presented on a national stage through USTRC.


In addition to team roping, Digger was been recognized for his community efforts and contributions to western heritage as a recipient of the 2014 Tri-state Exposition Western Heritage Hall of Fame award. The 2011 dedication and naming of the RW "Digger" Howard Randall County 4-H livestock barn, and the Diggin the kids dummy roping at the Spicer Gripp Memorial Roping. Diggers motto "it's fer the kids" has impacted many youth through out the panhandle exemplified by his assistance in the formation of the Randall County Buyer Club, contributions and support to the at risk youth program known as the "Randal 4-H Dream Team", and Diggin the kids dummy roping which contributions are part of the Spicer Gripp Memorial Youth Foundation.


Digger and Carolyn retired to Arizona to enjoy the sunshine and continue roping until his passing. He is survived by his wife Carolyn, daughter Kim Estes and husband Jay, sons Todd Howard and wife Jennifer, Lance Howard and wife Erin, 6 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren.


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