PERALTA — Local cowboy legend Paul “Casper” Baca is famous around New Mexico for his rodeo company, but according to his children, many people would say they mostly remember his character.
He died on the morning of Saturday, Oct. 5, at his home in Peralta at the age of 63.
Fondly referred to as Casper or “Cap,” his daughters, Christy and Charm, and son, C.J., said Baca never met a stranger.
They said people would recognize him when he went out, and he was never too shy to strike up a conversation then and there. They started off as strangers but would part ways as friends.
Baca began his career early on when he rode bulls and participated in team roping.
The Baca Rodeo Series is known as the series “Where Champions Are Made,” and is the longest running series in the country.
“They’d have bull riders from all over,” C.J. said. “A few years later, you’d have world champions come to the series. A lot of them weren’t world champions yet but they would eventually become world champions.”
The series boasts famous names such as Lane Frost, Tuff Hedeman and Owen Washburn, to name a few of the people who participated in the series.
“It was in Belen for about 30 years,” Christy said. “It brought in a lot of revenue to Belen.”
Around that time, Baca also helped his father manage the Baca Brother’s Rodeo Company for 11 years. After that, he created the Casper Baca Rodeo Company.
Born and raised in Grants, Baca grew up following the rodeo lifestyle, something that he passed down to his own children.
“He was on the road a lot but we knew he did it to take care of his family,” Charm said. “He was gone a lot when we were young and sacrificed a lot to take care of us, but he made it a point to be the best dad in the world.”
The family would go to the rodeos on weekends. If the kids couldn’t make it to where Baca was, he’d always bring back something for each of them. The siblings remember their special family movie nights.
“We’d get all dressed up and go to the steak house there in Grants. We had to dress up, we couldn’t just go in regular clothes,” Christy said with a smile. “Then we’d all go to a movie. It was always something to look forward to.”
Each of his children described him as a perfectionist — everything he owned had a specific place.
Baca was infamous for being an early-riser.
“We got up when he got up. Even as adults he would call us early in the morning and I’d tell him I was outside even though I was in bed,” C.J. said with a chuckle.
Baca also emphasized the importance of dressing to impress, not only to his children, but to the people placed under his care.
“He was a role model for a lot of these bull riders growing up — everyone respected him,” Christy said.
Charm said he looked out for all of his cowboys.
“He took care of the younger riders and didn’t put them on bulls they couldn’t handle,” Charm said.
Fellow rodeo friend David Salazar said if someone got hurt during a rodeo, Baca would make a point of visiting them in the hospital to make sure they were OK.
Salazar felt lucky that his own son had a role model like Baca to look up to.
“He was like another father to him,” Salazar said. “My son learned so much from him, not just in the rodeo arena but to have pride in your work and give 110 percent and never give up on your dream.”
Salazar said Baca would do everything he could to help the young rodeo participants. He would try to schedule the series so the final day would land on Easter Sunday.
Baca would get 200 Easter baskets together, filled with candy and toys to give out to the first 200 kids at the rodeo.
“That’s just the type of person he was — always looking out for the kids,” Salazar said.
Baca spent the last year in Peralta living near his daughter, Christy, and her family, which gave him a chance to spoil his grandchildren.
“He loved having grandchildren,” Charm said. “He’d take them to the dollar store and tell them they each could get one thing, but ended up leaving the store with a hundreds of dollars worth of things for them.”
Baca’s children said that while he was a perfectionist and a professional, he was also the life of the party.
“One of the things that I’m going to miss the most is he would always call his friends really early in the morning. He’d tease me and call me gordito,” Salazar said. “Every phone call he made, every conversation he had, left you with a smile.”
A Rosary will be held at 10 a.m., Saturday, Oct. 19, at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Peralta. A memorial will be held at the Valencia County Sheriff Posse Arena at 1 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 20, with a reception to follow at the Sheriff Posse Café.