Joe Valdez – A True Tanque Verde Cowboy
September 6, 2013
Joe Valdez was born and raised in what he recalls as “an arid and desolate place” within east Tucson, Arizona. Growing up with 16 brothers and sisters, he attributes horses playing a big role in not only his life, but also his siblings. “We rode horses to school most of the time and I remember some of our neighbors still using horses to plow their fields.”
At the age of nine, Joe got his first taste of the cowboy lifestyle when a “tough, old cowman,” otherwise known as Ole Man Lupe Parker, who lived at a nearby cattle ranch was missing one of his cow ponies. He requested Joe’s help. One of his ranch hands had ridden the horse across Redington Pass and into Tucson for a few nights on the town, but never returned. After Lupe had finally found the horse at a nearby farm, he asked Joe if he would ride the horse back to the ranch. Parker drove Joe into Tucson and dropped him off with the horse. Joe saddled him up and started his journey back to Redington.
Joe realized right away that he had forgotten to pack his water canteen. By 2 p.m., the mid-July heat was too much to handle. Mr. Parker had told him of a spring that he would run across on his journey back, however, he had no such luck. He dismounted his horse, dizzy and dehydrated. Just when he thought he wasn’t going to make it, “a miracle happened” Joe explains it. His brother-in-law drove up the dirt road with a gallon of water. “He saved my life.”
After graduating from Tucson High School, Joe worked as a tour guide at Colossal Cave. During this time he also took classes at the University of Arizona where he joined the U of A Rodeo Club and assisted in exercising rodeo horses at the racetrack. In 1977, he joined the Tanque Verde Ranch team and since has been a wrangler teaching western riding and mountain trail riding.
Even as he’s semi-retired now, he still can be found working with the riding program and has enough stories to fill several books. “The best part of my day is when I’m heading up a mountain trail, early in the morning,” says Joe. When he’s not in the saddle, Joe enjoys working with leather, listening to music and going camping in National Parks. “I also get a thrill from reading a good book on the history of the southwest.” Joe has been a pillar of Tanque Verde Ranch, as well as the riding program – staff and guests alike share in the appreciation of his efforts – and his stories.