top of page

Joe N. “Buzz” Thorp to Receive Ranching Heritage Association Working Cowboy Award  

Ranching Heritage Association Presents Top Cowboying Award to Lifetime Cowboy 


Cowboy Joe N. "Buzz" Thorp
Photo by Kelli Brown

Joe N. “Buzz” Thorp, a cowboy who has worked on ranches from Tennessee to Montana and New Mexico to Texas, will be the sixth recipient of the Ranching Heritage Association (RHA) Working Cowboy Award presented during the annual National Golden Spur Award Honors on Saturday, October 5, at the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center in Lubbock, Texas.  


“The RHA Working Cowboy Award is designed to recognize an outstanding individual who makes his living primarily horseback, caring for livestock on a daily basis,” said Jim Bret Campbell, executive director of the Ranching Heritage Association and the National Ranching Heritage Center. “Buzz Thorp represents all of the facets of the working cowboy award. He is a cowboy’s cowboy, a teacher and a true representative of our cow-country values.”  


The Ranching Heritage Association, a nationwide non-profit membership organization supporting historical preservation and educational efforts through the National Ranching Heritage Center, presents the prestigious recognition on an annual basis. The award honors a working cowboy skilled in all aspects of ranch work and respected by the ranch crew and ranching community.  


“Our Board of Directors believes it’s important to recognize those folks who brave all kinds of weather and conditions to ensure that work on a ranch gets done,” Campbell said, noting that award nominations for Thorp described him as a multi-talented working cowboy who has served for decades as a role model for younger cowboys in trade and character.  


“More than a cowboy, Buzz is a cowman and a steward,” stated Rob A. Brown, who grew up working with Buzz on the R.A. Brown Ranch. “He is a horseman and a conservationist with expertise in so many areas that this letter could be filled merely listing them out. In my view, at the most fundamental sense, Buzz is a teacher.”  


Thorp worked for his father, B.F. Thorp, in Throckmorton County in Texas while growing up. He also cowboyed for his uncles and cousins during that time. He worked for the Muleshoe Cattle Company while attending Texas Tech University, where he graduated with a degree in animal husbandry in 1954.   


At age 21, Thorp managed Ridglea Angus Farms in Dickson, Tennessee, before returning to Throckmorton where he worked for the R.A. Brown, McClusky and Birdwell ranches. He also ran his own cows and trained horses. In 1974, Thorp became the cow boss at Spanish Creek Ranch in Gallatin Gateway, Montana. From there, he moved to manage yearlings on Jones Ranch at Wagon Mound, New Mexico. Thorp managed the McKee Ranch in Galisteo, New Mexico, before returning to Texas to manage ranches in Palo Pinto, Throckmorton and Baylor counties, including the Wagon Creek Spade Ranch outfit. Thorp managed that division of the Spade Ranches for 10 out of the 12 years he worked there. 


Recognized as an outstanding stockman, horseman and teacher, at age 91, Thorp continues to be in demand to day-work on neighboring ranches, including the R.A. Brown Ranch. A notable horse trainer, Thorp has trained horses that have gone on to successful careers on ranches and in the arena, including for his grandson, Wesley Thorp, who is a two-time Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association heeling world champion.  


“As his grandson, childhood stories were often told about his days working cattle and training horses,” Wesley said. “He’s [had an influence] on many great ranches such as Haythorn, Swenson and Browns. He is an all-around hand and one great cowboy. The impact he has had on my team roping career is one that will last forever.”  


“In addition to his technical skills, Buzz is also an outstanding leader and mentor,” said Kelli Brown of the R.A. Brown Ranch. “He is always willing to share his knowledge and expertise with others, whether they are seasoned ranch hands or newcomers to the industry. His patience and dedication make him an asset to any neighbors and friends. I am thankful that he has mentored numerous generations of our Brown family, including my husband and sons.”  


Thorp’s lifetime of cowboying accomplishments will be honored at the National Golden Spur Award Honors on October 5. Sponsorship packages for the National Golden Spur Award Honors, including table sponsorships, are currently available. Individual tickets for the National Golden Spur Award Honors will go on sale to the public August 8. For event details visit   



bottom of page