Rafter G Raised For Riders, Ropers And Rodeo by Tom Burriss Michie, Tennessee is home to a new horse arena. The Rafter G Ranch, owned and operated by Billy Griswell, looks to start events in a big way this coming spring. Complete with indoor and outdoor arenas and a forty seat restaurant, this family oriented facility looks to host major timed, team and roping events. Among the events expected are team roping, team penning, team sortings, timed events, steer wrestling, calf roping, barrels and ranch rodeos. Start up will be in February with two to three events per month through the month of November. Billy is working on securing sanctioning through the USTRC and USTPA to include point earning and national qualifying events. The goal is to get large entries and big sponsors and have the payouts and prizes as big as possible. He is setting up a series for the season where he hopes his prizes will include a truck and trailer. Of utmost importance to Billy is the atmosphere of the arena. "My goal is to create a great recreational facility that has a good Christian atmosphere and is good clean fun. It is a clean sport...something for the whole family to enjoy," he says. Everyone is encouraged to come. "You don't have to have a top notch horse or be the best rider. Just come out and have fun." He will be including a wide range of classes, from youth to open, at his events. "Years ago there wasn't so much stress. It was different. Some like golfing, hunting or fishing. I like this. It is good therapy. A good way to get the stress off. This is my release, and I can make it enjoyable for others." Billy, a construction contractor by trade and the reason for the "Rafter" portion of the name, began work on the facility three years ago at his 220 acre ranch. A work nearly completed at this point, the facility includes a 150 by 250 foot outdoor arena, a 100 by 225 indoor arena, and a forty seat restaurant which has a corner gallery of the equine accomplishments of his family. Also on the grounds are his stock of longhorns always ready for use in the arena. "This helps cut down on the costs and puts less stress on the cattle. It keeps them fresher," he says. The grounds at Rafter G have already been in action. Last year they held six events including two benefits which earned $10,000. One of those events was the Gene Owens barrel race in November (MSHR December 2001). Billy found his love for riding and working cattle in a simple way. When he was little, he would meet his grandfather in the fields at the end of the day so that he could ride the mules back to the house. From there things have blossomed. His wife, of twenty-five years, Andrea, was not a rider when they first married, but she now shares in this pastime and has become quite an accomplished penner and sorter. Both of his sons are closely involved. Shane finds his "release" more with hunting, but Matt, the youngest, is certainly the most avid. He pulled up the long drive at the ranch in his new sponsor laden Dodge pick up which he won at a team roping in Tunica, Mississippi. Matt is on the rodeo team at UT Martin and competes in team roping, calf roping and steer wrestling. In addition he is a regular at IPRA and USTRC events. Billy likes to think back on how good horses and riding have been to him. "We've been riding all over and we've met a lot of good folks who we have come to call friends. People we would never have met if I wasn't riding." He also looks forward to the fun the arena will bring to riders of all experiences and even of no experience at all. "Everyone, at some point or another has wanted to be a cowboy. We grew up playing cowboys and indians." A recent story came to his mind. A man who is a member at his church brought his grandson from the city to the Rafter G for a gathering. Among the activities was a calf scramble for the kids. The boy did not want to participate because he had never before done anything remotely associated with cattle. After some coaxing, the boy relented and got in the scramble. Sure enough, the boy won. Now it is hard to keep him quite about the event. He plans to return to the Rafter G to get in on the fun. The invitation is open to all. Event listings for the Rafter G Ranch in Michie, TN will be posted in upcoming issues of MSHR. Located just off highway 57 on Prather Road, it is one hour south of Jackson, TN, one hour north of Tupelo, MS, and an hour and a half east of Memphis. If you have questions you can contact Billy Griswell at (731) 645-7717 or (731) 645-4784.
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