People all over the world knew Carl Weathers as Apollo Creed in the “Rocky” franchise, Colonel Al Dillon in “Predator,” Chubbs Peterson in “Happy Gilmore” and more recently Greef Karg in “The Mandalorian,” but to a select few on Whidbey Island, he was known as Carl the cattle rancher.
Weathers passed away peacefully in his Los Angeles home on Feb. 1.
While working on a show in Atlanta, Weathers was hanging out with a dolly grip and learning about cattle, he said in a 2009 interview on “The Bob Rivers Show.” He was immersed in the stunning landscape and the big animals. He then studied ranching at the Graham School for Cattlemen in Garnett, Kansas and was hooked.
He toured Whidbey Island and thought it was beautiful and decided to buy a ranch, said Eastern Washington cattle breeder Duane Mickelsen. Mickelsen ran into Weathers many times showing pure-bred Limousin cattle at the Yakima fair.
“It tells you how crazy I was,” Weathers said to Bob Rivers.
According to the Seattle-based real estate company Redfin, Weathers owned his Clinton ranch from 1994-2002.
“For such a movie star as he was, you would never know it when you talked to him,” Mickelsen said. “He wore a wool shirt and boots and a baseball cap like I did. I don’t think anyone knew who he was unless you knew him.”
The cattle business is a labor of love, Weathers said on “The Bob Rivers Show.” Income is slow.
It takes a lot of work, too. When it came to de-horning, neutering, inseminating and more, “I did it all,” Weathers said.
He was the real deal, Mickelsen said. He loved the cattle and was in the stalls cleaning and brushing them like everyone else.
“You would never know it was him. It was Carl,” Mickelsen said. “I had a lot of respect for him.”
Langley Councilmember Craig Cyr and his sons helped Weathers bale hay a few times, he said. Cyr described Weathers as soft-spoken and sort of a “gentle giant.”
“Imagine Apollo Creed and me in the back of a truck,” said Cyr’s son, Forrest. “I’m 10 years old, and we’re hauling hay.”
Forrest was too young for “Predator,” he said, but Weathers sticks out in his mind for other reasons.
“He was very kind and quiet, and I knew I was in the presence of someone special,” Forrest said. “That’s definitely stuck with me until today.”
Prior to acting, Weathers played professional football for the Oakland Raiders in 1970 and the BC Lions in 1971.
Comedian and radio host Brian Moote grew up in Clinton, where Weathers would help at middle and high school football practices, he said.
“He was, at the time, a monster actor,” Moote said. “It was just crazy to see a famous person who also was a former professional football player talking about football and also talking about the world outside of Whidbey Island. I remember that a lot too, because for a lot of us growing up on Whidbey, you get used to feeling like your world is really, really small.”
Weathers always gave strong words of encouragement to the students that their goals are worthwhile and achievable, Moote said, and he really meant it.
Years later, Moote was jogging down the road in Clinton along the fence of Weathers’ ranch. Weathers was baling hay and stopped to talk to him, Moote said. “He was like, ‘I remember you from middle school. Keep it up. Keep working hard.’”
He dressed like a rancher, Moote said.
“You would literally have no idea that at one point in time he was one of the most famous action actors in the world during the ‘Rocky’ franchise,” Moote said, “and I feel like there was really no reason for him at that time in his life and career to be taking time out of his schedule to go talk to Langley Middle School and public high school freshmen about football.”
Craig Cyr said Weathers was a cultural phenomenon.
“The whole ‘Rocky’ series was a huge deal in this country,” he said. “He kind of played the villain in those movies, but he certainly wasn’t a villain in South Whidbey.”
Weathers eventually found cheaper land in Iowa and left the island, Mickelsen said.
Over time he had to get out of the cattle business altogether, as there was much more money in acting, Weathers said on “The Bob Rivers Show.” He looked back on his years on Whidbey fondly.
“I loved it,” he said. “I absolutely had a fantastic time. It was one of the best parts of my life, and I learned a lot.”
Weathers probably liked Whidbey Island because he could be his down-to-earth self, Moote said. The people allowed him to be.