The cowboy way

Sebastopol rancher teaches kids the joys of roping and riding

By SEAN SCULLY
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Rancher Silvio “Buzz” Bozzini said he likes to show modern kids the traditional ways of the cowboy in order to pay back the men who taught him as a youth.

Growing up in San Francisco in the 1940s, “you could get in just as much trouble then as you can now,” he said.

 PASSING IT ON: Rancher Buzz Bozzini demonstrates his roping technique during last month's Ag Days at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. (ALVIN JORNADA / The Press Democrat)


PASSING IT ON: Rancher Buzz Bozzini demonstrates his roping technique during last month’s Ag Days at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. (ALVIN JORNADA / The Press Democrat)

But his uncle and grandfather would take him riding and roping at the rodeo grounds that used to operate in the city’s McLaren Park. That sparked a lifelong love of ranching that kept him out of trouble and eventually led him to life on his Sebastopol horse and cattle farm today.

“I call it the cowboy gene,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re born in San Francisco or Texas or Montana; if you’ve got the cowboy gene, it’s there.”

Today, Bozzini volunteers at numerous agriculture-related events, including the annual Ag Days for Sonoma County school kids, where he demonstrates roping for wide-eyed elementary school students.

“I want to be a cowboy,” cried 6-year-old Jamari Gentry, a first-grader at Hidden Valley Satellite School in Santa Rosa, after Bozzini showed him the basics of looping a lasso around a dummy calf at Ag Days in late March.

That kind of talk is music to Bozzini’s ears.

Ranching, farming, and riding “just brings out the best in them, keeps them out of trouble,” he said.

Bozzini, 71, has done volunteer programs at schools and for various events, including the Sonoma County Fair, over the past three decades. He also offers discounted riding and roping lessons to area youth interested in competing on the rodeo circuit.

“Buzz is the real deal, a cowboy who shares his passion for the Old West with city kids who are more closely connected to computers than cows and bucking broncos,” said Tim Tesconi, community relations coordinator for the Sonoma County Farm Bureau.

Tesconi said Bozzini is so eager to share his craft that he is always the first exhibitor to sign up for the annual Ag Days.

Bozzini serves as president of the Sebastopol Wranglers, a 60-year-old nonprofit equestrian club that participates in a variety charitable and sporting events, and vice president of the California State Horsemen’s Association, Region 1.

Bozzini and his wife, Cookie, have owned the Doubletree Ranch and Saddle Shop for more than four decades. For most of that time, his wife offered riding lessons while Bozzini worked as a technician at Pacific Bell and tended the farm on weekends.

The couple made a point of escorting the mostly city-bred riders to horse shows and other events to keep them in touch with rural ways.

He retired about two decades ago and since then he has concentrated on living, and demonstrating, the life of a cowboy.

He does private exhibitions as well. Last week, he did a birthday roping performance for a 63-year-old rodeo rider disabled by a stroke and living in a Napa County nursing home. When the staff tried to pay him, he turned down the money.

“If I charged you,” he told them, “they wouldn’t let me into cowboy heaven.”

(You can reach Staff Writer Sean Scully at 521-5313 or sean.scully@pressdemocrat.com.)