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The World Champion From Tonto Basin-George Cline

Being a cowboy is just different. It takes a level of courage, toughness and grit that is not subject to where you grew up or how much money you have. All that matters in both rodeo and in everyday ranch life is you and that livestock. When it comes to being a cowboy, there was never one better in the Old Wild West than George Cline.


In the year 1874 the Cline family drove four hundred head of Mexican cattle into the lower Tonto Basin of Gila County, Arizona. After many predators and Apaches had put the family out of the cow businesses they would continue their search in bringing cattle to the area. Eventually, after much trial the cline family would setter near Tonto Creek bordered by the Sierra Anchas and the Mazatzals. The Cline family has been in the area now for seven generations and counting.


In a family that produced some of the best cowboys that ever sat a saddle, one man achieved legendary status. On April 30th, 1886 George Turnbull Cline was born at the Bouquet Ranch on Tonto Creek. George was the oldest son of John Leroy Cline and Martha Crabtree Cline and a grandson to Christian Cline. His partner in life was Roxie Solomon, whom he called “Blossom.” They had a son, Benjamin Baker “Doc” and a daughter, June.

During George’s lifetime, he owned several ranches in the Tonto Basin including the TV, the J slash X, and the Bouquet. George also owned many famous Arizona cattle brands including the T Turkey Track, the Tin Cup, the Butcher Hook, and the Bar Eleven. He grew up roping wild cattle in the rough, rugged Four Peaks country and was a hell-roarin’ brush popin’ ranahan of the first order. For a man who could rope a wild one bustin’ off the side of the Sierra Anchas, the sport of rodeo was child’s play.


George Cline took his range-learned skills to Payson and whetted his ropin’ talent on Main Street when the only fences were cars lining both sides of the street. For many years George was a consistent winner of the roping events. He did equally well at Prescott and Phoenix where he and John Armer won a gold metal attesting: World’s Championship Bull Tying – Arizona State Fair 1919.


In 1923 George beat all comers winning the calf roping in Yankee Stadium. In 1925 he became the first man to rope and animal in Madison Square Garden. He went to the pay window at any rodeo he entered including Denver, and Cheyenne.


Operating from one to three ranches with several hundred head of cattle along with raising a family and fostering a part-time rodeo career would seem to be enough to keep a man busy, but George was also a racehorse man. At one time he own a horse named Buster and a mare he called Prissy May. George would match Buster against any horse in the world for up to 250 yards and bet everything he owned on the horse. Prissy May was his distance horse and he would bet all his money and the ranch on her for any distance over 250 yards.


On one trip to Texas in 1940, Prissy May and Buster put thirty thousand dollars, in prize and gambling money, in George Cline’s pocket.


In 1976 when George died, he still owned the TV, the J slash X, and the Bouquet ranches. One of his own phrases best describes George Turnbull Cline. He was the Gen-u-wine article.


George Cline (1886-1976), was a product of the rugged cow country of the Tonto Basin. Like his grandfather, Christian Cline, and his father John Cline, George spent his life in the cattle ranching business and bet lots of money on horse races. An outstanding roper, George earned the title of Arizona Calf Tying Champion during the Payson Rodeo of 1916. He won the World Championship Bull Tying Contest in Phoenix in 1919. In 1923, he rode a train to New York where he won first place in calf tying at Yankee Stadium. On his return trip to Arizona, he won the calf roping, team tying, and wild cow milking events in both Cheyenne and Denver. In 1925, George returned to New York and became to first man to rope a calf in the newly built Madison Square Gardens.

Among cowboys, George Cline was one of the best. He was a well-respected cattle rancher and rodeo cowboy. He also owned some of the best racehorses in the world. His family still lives in the Tonto Basin today.


Click here for more Famous Cowboys and Gila County History.


Thank you to TruWest Magazine for parts of this article.


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