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The road to Cattle Call began with a man named Charlie Brown

November 03, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

In June 1957, Brawley Public Works Department staffer Charlie Brown sat in his bulldozer overlooking land filled with thick brush, wild growing trees and little else.

His job was simple — clear the brush to shape the first road on land that would be known as Cattle Call Park.

"Four days," says Brown as he sits in the bleachers of Cattle Call Arena, looking toward the road leading into the park but also looking back to a time in Brawley's history when that road did not exist.

"Four days is the time it took to open a road," Brown says, pointing toward the top of the road to the area where the arena chutes are now located.


That was as far as the first road stretched.

"It was just a steep bank," he says of bulldozing the brush and driving down into the park. "We had to push dirt ahead of us because it was such a steep bank.

"It was just a jungle down here," Brown says with a smile that does not seem to leave his face as he recalls his role in the building of the park.

That was how Brown's role with the Cattle Call Rodeo started.

Today, Brown — who retired as Brawley public works director in 1989 — continues to play a role in Cattle Call, serving as a consultant to the Cattle Call Rodeo Committee.

Members of the rodeo committee said Brown is an essential aide to the committee, adding his volunteer work and experience has helped make the rodeo a continued success.

"Charlie is a volunteer with a capital ‘V,' " said committee member Curt Rutherford.

Brown cannot help but stay involved. He has a connection to Cattle Call in that he is the last surviving city staffer who worked on building Cattle Call Park.

"It took a lot of good folks to do this," Brown said as he sat on a recent day in Cattle Call Arena. As he spoke, a tractor drove around the arena, grading the dirt for the upcoming rodeo weekend Nov. 10 and 11.

Brown is no cowboy.

While he spent his entire career in Brawley, it was never his intention to work in the city. He was just past his 18th year when he was heading from Arizona to San Diego for a job with General Dynamics.

By chance he happened to stop in Brawley for some breakfast. By chance, then Public Works Director Jeff Kissee was in the same diner eating breakfast.

The two became involved in a conversation and, on the spot, Kissee offered Brown a job on his staff. Brown accepted, a decision that would change the course of his life because he would never leave Brawley and would devote his entire career to the Brawley Public Works Department.

Of all the projects in which he was involved, Brown said Cattle Call Park was particularly special. From the day he climbed into the bulldozer to clear the brush, Cattle Call has been important to him.

He said volunteerism is what made the project happen. He said local companies gave of their crews and their equipment to make the project a reality.

Brown said no one person built the park. While he was one of the few assigned full-time to the project, there were other city staffers and volunteers who gave time to the project.

"It turned into a real fine community effort," Brown said. "Whoever had men available and equipment freed up sent them down here."

He joked, "You had to be careful getting on and off the equipment because the rattlesnakes were pretty predominant then."

The project started in June 1957 and from the start there was a severe deadline. The goal was that by November the rodeo arena would be ready for an event that had become known as the Cattle Call Rodeo.

Such a rodeo had already been staged for two years in Brawley near where the Lions Center now stands.

The city wanted a specific site for the rodeo — a site where the rodeo could be held annually.

Brown recalls a number of stories from the days and weeks leading up to the first rodeo in Cattle Call Park.

"We were working on it right up through and during that rodeo," he said adding, some of the fencing had to be held up and kept in place by pickup trucks.

Brown recalls one individual who played a key role in building the arena. While he does not remember the man's name, Brown will never forget the circumstances that brought the man to the rodeo.

Brown said the man was a trusty in the county jail. The inmate had been busted for being under the influence of alcohol and as part of his community service he worked days on the arena and spent his nights in jail.

The man was an expert welder and worked on building the fencing and corrals for the rodeo.

When it came time for him to be released, those on the Cattle Call Rodeo Committee urged him to continue as a paid employee.

He was to start on a Monday. Come Monday, the man showed up for work, but not as a paid employee. Over the weekend he had been arrested again for being under the influence of alcohol and returned to the arena as a jail trusty again.

"He finished up the whole rodeo as a trusty," Brown said.

Brown, who struggled unsuccessfully to remember the man's name, said he was just one of those who worked to make the rodeo in the park possible.

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