Felix C. Gilbert Sr.
Felix C. Gilbert Sr., a revered rodeo legend and champion, was born on February 20, on the Navajo Reservation. His parents were Wrestler and Adzaan Chischillie. His maternal clan was the Salt Clan. His paternal clan was the Bitter Water clan. Horses were an integral part of Felix’s childhood as his father raised and raced horses in the community. He always carried a rope with him; even creating a rope from the yucca plant fibers. At the age of eight, his father passed away. Felix and his ten siblings were then raised by their mother. Felix began working on a ranch near Flagstaff, AZ in 1963 where his love of rodeo and roping intensified.
Felix learned about the PRCA from the pamphlets included in the Wrangler jeans he bought. Felix began reading articles about past PRCA champions and watched PRCA rodeo films where he quickly observed the dismount style of pro-rodeo calf ropers. He once watched a rodeo where a gauntly looking cowboy won the calf roping. He thought to himself, "If that skinny cowboy can win at calf roping, why can’t I? If he can do it, I can do it!" Up until this point, Navajo calf ropers averaged a time of 16 to 18 seconds by dismounting from the traditional left side and ducked under their rope to flank their calves. Felix spent countless hours analyzing, practicing, and perfecting his calf roping dismount from the right side. At the first rodeo of the 1967 season, he debut his newly acquired dismount and shocked the crowd by winning the calf roping with a time of 11.2 seconds. He broke new ground and revolutionized calf roping on the Navajo Nation.
At the end of the 1967 AIRCA season, he was crowned the AIRCA Year End All-Around Champion and Year End Calf Roping Champion. As his rodeo career continued, Felix earned many arena names such as Mr. Consistency and Mr. Phenomenal. He won numerous All-
Around Champion titles, calf roping titles, and team roping titles in the All Indian Rodeo Cowboy Association and Navajo Nation Rodeo Cowboy Association. In 1980, he won the coveted INFR All-Around Champion title. As late as 1992, Felix, at the age of 48, persevered and
continued to compete with a newer generation of cowboys; capturing the AIRCA Finals All-Around Champion title. He became the Navajo Nation’s All-Time All-Around Champion.
On November 10, 1995, Felix entered the San Carlos Old Timers Rodeo in San Carlos, AZ and won the following titles: in the 40-49 year old age category- Break Away, Ribbon Roping, and Team Roping, and in the 50-59 year old age category- Ribbon Roping, Team Roping, and All-Around Cowboy. Figuratively speaking, this rodeo was like the icing on a long and successful rodeo career. Felix passed away on November 12, 1995 at his home near Seba Dalkai, AZ. He was 51 years old. He is survived by his wife, Susie, and his six children, and his ten grandchildren.
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