A Long Life in the Saddle
Lone Pine resident Mel Joseph is 71 and still a rodeo star
At an age when many worry about falling while walking down a sidewalk, Mel R. Joseph, 71, of the Lone Pine Paiute-Shoshone Tribe, is still working the rodeo circuit year-round. The Nevada-born Joseph has been winning Indian National Finals Rodeo championships for more than 40 years, riding horses and roping calves in a sport that is one of the most dangerous in the world.
Born in Ely, Nevada to Orval and Martha Joseph, Mel Joseph moved to Lone Pine when he was 10 years old—and that’s where his love of rodeo began.
“I would go to the Lone Pine Rodeo,” he said, “which at that time was one of the largest Pro Rodeos in California.” His keen fascination with the sport, inspired by watching fearless cowboys and bucking broncos, would eventually become his professional career for over 40 years.
In addition to team and calf roping, Joseph specialized in steer wrestling. While growing up in Lone Pine, he worked as a ranch hand to help with expenses such as gas money and hay for his horses. Several of his horses were given to him by grateful ranchers and friends over the years, he said.
Joseph won his first INFR world championship at Salt Lake City in 1979 in team roping with partner Wes Wills. At the same competition, he tied for the All Around in points with his friend Garrett Spoonhunter. He won another INFR championship at Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1980, in team and calf roping.
The walls of Joseph’s home are covered with photographs of his horses, awards and championship belt buckles from countless rodeos collected over decades of competitions.
One of his prized photos is of him with his daughter, Brenda Rowland, both on horseback in the arena and waving simulaneously, a huge grin on Brenda’s face. She shares his love of rodeo and is a champion in her own right. His son, Mel O. Joseph, who is the current Environmental Director for the Lone Pine Paiute-Shoshone Tribe, chose to pursue science over rodeo, a decision his father readily accepted.