“A lot of people don’t like peacocks because they are noisy,” Chris Bravos explained. “But they sure take care of the rattlesnakes.”
When the Bravos’ first moved into their place years ago, it was a common sight: rattlesnakes curled up comfortably in the sun by the front door. Once they came home with peacocks, the rattlesnakes disappeared.
“We have a real Heinz 57 bunch around here,” said Chris.
Happy dogs wag their tails. A donkey and miniature horse graze the back hillside along with the goats. Barn cats keep the mice population at bay. Coming up the drive, one is greeted by two gentle giant work horses.
“I saw them on the internet, and they were in the feed lot without much time left,” Shannon said as she stepped up on the edge of the feed bin and slides onto Bob’s back. “I called Lisa Neuberger of Silent Wave Horse Rescue, and she went with me to get them.”
Silent Wave paid for the cost of the trip, and Shannon paid for the horses and their care. Dixie is blind in her left eye and so has to be on Bob’s right side in a hitch.
The couple are honored to have been chosen to serve as grand marshals of the 72nd annual Spray Rodeo on Memorial Day weekend and are still discussing their chosen mode of transportation for the parade.
“He wants to ride my horse,” said Shannon with a smile.
For many years, Chris and Shannon have donated all the hay to feed the stock at the Spray Rodeo.
Chris Bravos was raised in Sonoma County, California. Chris helped out with the high school rodeo team and worked for Diamond Lumber for 20 years. He moved to Oregon in 1987.
“Everyone said you’ll be back in a year. You’ll go broke,” he said. “I went down to Long Creek and got hired at the mill.”
Chris met Shannon, who was working at the store in Long Creek and raising her daughter Amanda and son Jeffrey.
“He’d come in and buy a loaf of bread and a couple beers,” she says. “That’s how we got to know each other.”
They were married in 1994. Chris and Shannon have five children: Jason, Dusty, Cassie, Amanda and Jeffrey. They also have seven grandchildren: Jess, Kolby, Rio, Whitney, Jenna, Shelby and Ryan.
After working for Cross D Ranch raising hay and cattle for 25 years, Chris greatly values his life around livestock and agriculture and all that he has learned. Amanda and Jeffrey both worked for Chris on the Cross D growing up.
“I always hired kids on the ranch. They have gone and done real well and have good jobs as doctors and teachers,” he said. “Every young person should have at least one summer working on a hay ranch or a cattle ranch. You learn how to do things that you wouldn’t know how to do otherwise. You can go to college all you want and learn about agriculture, but you’ve got to be out there and be hands on to really learn.”
He credits the area locals for teaching him “the ropes” when it came to raising cows and growing hay.
“When I moved up here, I learned a lot of stuff from the older ranchers. I am a little shy and I just listened to how they did it. I listened to old Tom Campbell and Bud and Gary Engels, and Ellis Hunt — all those guys that have been here forever.”
Shannon was born and raised in John Day and spent a great deal of her childhood in Dayville with her aunt and uncle and cousins. The Greggs owned and ran the Dayville Mercantile and had horses.
“We would ride all over,” Shannon remembers, “even swim the river on our horses. I have gone to the Spray Rodeo with my family my whole life. I like the rough stock events. Chris likes the timed events.”
Her mom and dad, Gary and LoLieta Gregg, still live in John Day. At 87 and 80, they have a lifetime of rodeo and parade memories. Her dad and Uncle Gibb were in rodeos. Shannon’s brother Mitch was a bronc rider. Her dad, a wagon and buggy builder, restored wagons for Oxbow Trading Company in Canyon City.
“Dad bought a driving mare from the Amish,” said Shannon. “He drove her in a lot of parades when she was younger.”
His beautifully restored surrey and a ranch wagon are stored in his workshop.
Chris’ son Dusty and grandson Kolby are coming to Spray to compete in the Spray Rodeo. They team rope, do tie down roping and steer wrestling and compete in rodeos in California. The younger attends Feather River College and team ropes on the college rodeo circuit. Dusty Bravos recently won the No. 15 Western States Team Roping Qualifer with his roping partner James Ferraeri.
Chris’ son Jason is a veterinarian in Dixon, California, and comes up to help Shannon and Chris preg test and check out the herd. Cassie, who graduated from Monument, is a teacher in Cottonwood, California. Shannon’s daughter Amanda rode in the Spray Rodeo and Parade on the Rodeo Bandit drill team, and this year, her 12-year-old daughter Jenna will ride her horse in the parade. Whitney’s aunt, Nellie Miller, is 2019 World Champion Barrel Racer.
Shannon has driven the Monument school bus for the past 23 years and is retiring after this year.
“I am really gonna miss the kids,” she said. “I have watched a lot of kids grow up. I drove their parents too.”
She works as a paraprofessional and assists with the Video tel Spanish Class and in the grade school as well.
“I help any teacher who needs help,” she said.
Chris and Shannon lease property for their summer pasture and sell their calves in October and November when they bring the herd down off the summer pasture.
“I really enjoy the cattle,” said Chris. “If I didn’t enjoy it, I wouldn’t be doing it. When you are out there at 2 o’clock in the morning with a calf? You have to enjoy it!”