Cowboy events ‘just a way of life’ for Mather

Hometown native James Mather enters the Liberty Hill Cowboy Hall of Fame May 9, honoring many years of success in the rodeo arena. (Courtesy Photo)

Hometown native James Mather enters the Liberty Hill Cowboy Hall of Fame May 9, honoring many years of success in the rodeo arena. (Courtesy Photo)

By Brenda Young

An informal gathering of friends with common interests many years ago in the Liberty Hill Roping Club set the stage for a lifelong love of individual and team roping events for James Mather. On May 9, he will see the fruits of his labor with his induction into the Liberty Hill Cowboy Hall of Fame.

The ceremony is sponsored by the Williamson County Cowboy Church and takes place during the three-day Annual Liberty Hill Pro Rodeo and Bull Riding May 9-11.

“I was born in Liberty Hill right here in town by Dr. Ross, a physician, in 1946. He delivered 3,000 children, and I was one of them. I ventured off in the 80s, after I got a divorce, and went to Waldorf, Maryland, and then to Las Vegas, Nevada, but I came back to Liberty Hill in 1990.”

Mather has owned his own business since 1971, and although he claims he is old enough to retire, he hasn’t had time for that yet.  Mather’s career centered on the heavy equipment and construction business, building septic tanks, pads, doing dirt work or brush pushing, but he says there was always time to rope.

“Back in those days, rodeo events weren’t offered in school, but I participated in college,” he said. “I was a bull rider, bull dogger and a calf roper. Rodeo was just a way of life for us in Liberty Hill; we didn’t do it professionally, but we traveled to outlying areas and all over Texas, Louisiana and even to Las Vegas to rope with some really great names.”

During his rodeo days, he won 50 or 60 belt buckles, a saddle in 1992 in Louisiana and was a member of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association  (PRCA) for a brief time. He graduated from Tarleton State University in 1970 and once worked with troubled youth at the Boys Ranch in Liberty Hill showing them the basics of Agriculture.

“I wasn’t a teacher, but my job was to work with kids with behavior problems,” Mather said.  “After that, I went into business for myself and have done that ever since. I still have a license for septic tank work, so I do some of that and take calls when I can.”

Through the years, Mather roped with a lot of people, including hometown legend Elroy Foust, Cory Foust and some well-known favorites in the PRCA circuit.

“It just gets in your blood, and you just live and breathe it. Ever since 1965, I’ve been in rodeos either riding bulls, team roping, bull dogging and calf roping, but I’ve laid off quite a bit the last four years. I never got hurt bad, so I guess I was pretty lucky,” he said.

Most of all, Mather is appreciative of all the help he received to learn the sport of rodeo, and he is especially grateful to his former father-in-law, Elroy Foust.

“I appreciate all the people that helped me as I came up, like Elroy; we roped together for many years,” he said.

For now, Mather enjoys calling Liberty Hill his home and stays busy working and spending time with his four children and grandchildren.

Rick Andrews is a member of the Cowboy Hall of Fame nominating committee, and he explained why he thinks all the inductees are so deserving of the award.

“There’s not a set process in nominating. We started this to honor cowboys and their families, whether they’re still active in rodeo, retired or those who’ve passed on,” Andrews said. “It may take us 20 years or so to get to everybody, you never know, but I feel like these are people who have given a lot to the community and have helped young people get their start in rodeo. They’ve given back to the rodeo industry, and we want to show our appreciation and let them know we haven’t forgotten about them.”