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THE NILE – It’s the Best of Billings!

Hope Sickler of Real American Cowboy Magazine

With stock shows in almost every state in the country, something has to set each one apart from one another. From Ft Worth to Denver, each Stock Show is unique and different from the next. When the leaves start to change from lush green to amber orange and deep red and the cattle are brought in from pasture, Montana is preparing for their inaugural stock show, The NILE at Metra Park.

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For 48-years, The NILE (Northern International Livestock Exposition) has made its home in the heart of Montana in Billings. In 1966 an idea was sparked from a few actual cattle ranchers and agricultural enthusiasts and in 1967 an event was planned and executed, showcasing the region’s wide array of livestock. It didn’t take ranchers and cowboys long to catch on to the new hype of this attraction and by the fall of 1968, over 250 exhibitors made their way to Billings to show off their hard work and passion and to cut loose and have a good time supporting their shared love of agriculture.

Over the years, The NILE has stuck to the same traditions as they had when the event first started such as livestock shows, horse shows and a rodeo, and now it has grown to please an even larger crowd bringing in a Ranch Rodeo and many other fun and exciting events.

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There are a lot of things that set The NILE apart from other stock shows but one of the most noted is the special focus the event has on the cow/calf industry.

Northern Broadcasting System, Inc., broadcaster Taylor Brown has been involved with The NILE since the inception and showed a steer at the 1968 stock show as a 4-H member. If anyone knows what sets The NILE apart from the rest, it is he.

“The NILE has a different focus than most of the other stock shows in the country and that is their special focus on the cow/calf industry. They also put a lot of effort in supporting the commercial livestock industry as well. The NILE is an event for the family and the working rancher,” Brown said.

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Another thing that is new to The NILE and different then some is the NILE Ranch Rodeo Finals held the night before the ProRodeo action kicks off. The event showcases 12 of the top teams in the region reigning anywhere from Idaho to Nebraska that have won an event and earned their spot at the NILE Ranch Rodeo Finals. The champion of the finals then qualifies for Working Ranch Cowboy Association Finals held in Texas.

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“The Ranch Rodeo has gained a lot of popularity. The cowboys spend all day shipping cattle and working on the ranch and then when the work is done, load their horse and come to town. The manure you see on their boots is from working out in it all day, not some they got on their boots walking around Metra Park. It is a true cowboy event and it is refreshing to see the spotlight put on the working ranchers for once.”

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NILE General Manager and newlywed (congrats!) Jennifer Boka works tirelessly all year to make The NILE bigger and better than the last and she doesn’t disappoint.

“We strive to support, embrace and promote the future of agriculture. We are growing every year and adding new events each year to bring in even more spectators and exhibitors. We are starting three days earlier this year due to the exceptional growth in entries and exhibitors the last few years,” Boca explained.

One very unique program of The NILE is the Merritt Heifer Program.

“The Merritt Heifer Program is a program where 20-25 heifers are given away to kids, between the ages of 12 and 16-years-old, that have been hand chosen through an interview process. The kids then have a full year of caring for that heifer, learning every aspect of her life from nutrition to breeding before bringing her back to The NILE a year later where they show her. Only then will they have ownership of their heifer. It is a very unique and cool program and something different. The purpose of the project is to help youth get a start in the beef cattle business.”

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The NILE has many events for just about everyone, whether you’re a cattle enthusiast, a horse enthusiast or someone who just likes a good ole fashion trade show with the best shopping in the northwest; The NILE has it all and then some. With over 2,000 exhibitors, 550 vendors, the highest quality livestock and the best of the PRCA and WPRA, what more do you need besides a corndog and a cold beverage?

October 10-17th the place to be is The Metra Park for the 48th annual NILE Stock Show and Rodeo. For more information visit or check them out on Facebook! Stay up to date on what’s going on and get the dates for your personal favorite happenings! We’ll see ya there!

©Copyright 2015 Real American Cowboy Magazine. All Rights Reserved.


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Hope Sickler of Real American Cowboy Magazine

In a state known for exceptional argiculure, 3,100 miles of rivers and lots and lots of dairy farms, Idaho is also known for hosting many of the most exciting rodeos in America during the last few months of the summer.

The industry’s top cowboys and cowgirls point their caravans toward the Idaho side of the Tetons, where there is a fortune of money left to be won in the current rodeo season.

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Communities welcome the contestants and open up their cities as a place of rest and rejuvenation for the competitors while on the dusty rodeo trail. The support and generosity of these communities, along with the great rodeos they produce is what lures the PRCA and WPRA top contenders to the Gem state.

While in Idaho, one can be sure about three things-

  1. Your mouth will taste the best tasting spuds that have ever touched your lips.
  2. You will witness some of the most breathtaking views you’ve ever seen; from the rolling landscape of planted fields to the Snake River, which feeds north from Yellowstone National Park and then the Teton Mountains which can be seen from Idaho Falls on a clear day.
  3. Pulsating rodeo action – guaranteed!

In this article, we are going to introduce you to five communities that host some very action-packed rodeos with guaranteed smiles and laughter for all.


Jerome County Fair & Rodeo / Jerome, ID

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Located in south-central Idaho, the city of Jerome is surrounded by agriculture, with purple mountains to the north and the Majestic Snake River Canyon to the south. It has been home to a rodeo for close to 30 years and every year the committee and rodeo board are always striving to bring more top contestants and attendance to the city of just over 10,000.

The Jerome Pro Rodeo first started as an open rodeo and then switched to a PRCA rodeo through the late 70’s and 80’s. Then in the 90’s it went to an Idaho Professional Rodeo and back again to a PRCA rodeo in 2001, where it has stayed since.

The rodeo takes place during the Jerome County Fair and Rodeo where the community of Jerome is heavily involved starting August 4th.

“The community is great and gets pretty involved. We have our small and large businesses who are loyal sponsors every year and without them we would not be the rodeo that we are today,” explained committee member Bryant Nelson.

In addition, the community and rodeo committee make sure that the contestants are treated like royalty, having free hospitality tents filled with gourmet meals for contestants and their families as well as the generous sponsors.

During the fair and rodeo you will also find plenty of other events to spend your time such as a parade, 4-H Shows, pig wrestling, monster truck action, free stage with entertainment, beer gardens and live local bands in the main grandstands after each event every evening.

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Even more exciting this year is a new attraction to hit the arena in Jerome; Whiplash the Cowboy Monkey. If you haven’t heard of him, I suggest you make it a point to be in attendance at one of the performances this year. He is definitely something you will want to feast your eyes on!

“During the week of the fair and rodeo we have a lot of events going on and it is great to see the community and people from outside our community come take it all in. My committee works hard every year to put this event on and it is very rewarding to see it all pay off every year. What else is rewarding is watching the young rodeo competitors evolve over the years and move up the ranks, from the mutton bustin’, junior barrel racing, and calf riding into the pro events. That would have to be the most rewarding part of the entire thing.”

Jerome gets some of the best contractors in the business as well, supplying the rough stock guys with great stock that are backed by a solid reputation.

“We have Corey & Horst Rodeo Company and Flying Diamond Rodeo Company, both from Moses Lake, Washington, supplying our stock. They have been excellent to work with and the cowboys always seem to be very satisfied with the stock,” Nelson said.

The action in Jerome will begin August 4th and will run through the 8th with the rodeos being Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings.

“I was a professional bull fighter for many years, so my life has been built around the rodeo lifestyle. People ask me what makes my job so rewarding and I say it’s being able to give back to the sport that gave to me for so long. Rodeo is truly America’s sport and we want to do whatever we can to keep it that way!”

Be sure to visit for a look at the events and schedule!


Gooding, Idaho PRCA

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Gooding, Idaho may not be the largest community in Idaho (population just under 4,000 according to the 2014 census) but they dang sure don’t let that stop them from producing one of the best shows on dirt! Gooding is called the “Gateway to a Good Life” and we are quite certain that is because of the small town feel you get when you pull into Gooding. The town has this warm welcoming feel to it that makes it a definite stop to many cowboys and cowgirls on the rodeo trail.

A lot of factors make Gooding Pro Rodeo unique from the rest, including a manmade painted, tooled belt surrounding the arena. Painted by committee member and chairman, Don Gill, the intricate detail that was put into the painting is one thing that always catches the eyes of its audience.

Gooding has also evolved steadily over the years, from being only a $500 added amateur rodeo 15-years ago to a now $5,500 added PRCA rodeo.

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“It has taken a great group of people who have put their heart and souls into this to make this rodeo what it is today. In addition, we have one of the best communities in the country who put 110% into the event. From the small businesses to the larger businesses, all are involved in some way, shape or form,” explained committee member and chairman Don Gill who has been a part of the Gooding Pro Rodeo for 18-years.

Another thing that sets Gooding Pro Rodeo aside from others is their continued efforts to better the rough stock events.

“We hired Summit Rodeo Company, Korkow Rodeo Cowboy and C5 Rodeo Company this year and we will be taking the top end out of all three of the different herds. This will give each rough stock rider a good chance of getting a check. We want to supply the best stock that we possibly can. Instead of adding more money over the years, we made the decision to bring in additional contractors to better the stock for competitors.”

The Gooding Pro Rodeo is held in conjunction with the county fair and includes other fun events such as a golf tournament, live music every night and family fun every day.

“A lot of things set us apart from the other rodeos. We are known for putting on a 2-hour rodeo and we were the first to bring in multiple contractors and the first in the area to use the giant video board which has been a crowd pleaser since day one. Our crowd gets into the action each night of the rodeo, many supplying self-made signs that have evolved as a trend over the years. You will see over 100 signs each performance and the contestants get into it which is awesome,” explained Gill.

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The Gooding Pro Rodeo will see over 500 contestants enter their small community over the course of a few days, all in hopes of taking home the Gooding Pro Rodeo Championship in their desired event.

“It truly is a great rodeo and a great event. The most rewarding part of my work is being able to literally feel the electricity from the crowd during each performance. You can feel that the crowd is into it and is loving every minute of it. To me, that is what it’s all about!”

Gooding Pro Rodeo is held August 20-22 and is sure to be a crowd pleaser as always! If you are in the area, you may want to cancel any plans and see what the hype is all about in Gooding, Idaho! Check out for more information on the fair and rodeo or like them on Facebook to keep up with all the fun things happening in Gooding!


Magic Valley Stampede / Twin Falls, Idaho

The next stop is a larger community with equal love for its fair and rodeo. Twin Falls is nestled in the Magic Valley Region in southern Idaho, hence the name “Magic Valley Stampede”.

The Magic Valley Stampede PRCA Rodeo is a premium three-day event held each year during the Twin Falls County Fair.

Every year, attendance for the rodeo averages over 13,000 spectators, making it one of the largest rodeos in Idaho! The Magic Valley Stampede has all the ingredients for action packed excitement including the top PRCA and WPRA contestants, excellent quality bucking stock, award-winning specialty acts and the fan favorite, the giant video replay/scoreboard.

“The rodeo itself has been going strong for over 80-years. The added money purse has grown to $48,000 this year, averaging $6,000 per event with equal money in the team roping. I believe that will make the total payout this year just under $100,000. We typically see close to 300 entries during the course of the three day event,” explained committee member John Pitz.

The rodeo which used to be called the Twin Falls County Fair and Rodeo, changed its name in 1996 to the Magic Valley Stampede in hopes of building excitement for the event as well as into the advertising.

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One of the best moves made for the rodeo was the investment made into supplying an instant replay video board for the audience.

“The video board has been a real crowd pleaser. It gives the audience a “behind the scenes” look into the life of a rodeo competitor.”

Pitz has spent the last 19-years working on bettering the rodeo and has had some great help along the way.

“We formed a rodeo committee about 8-years old and it has been a huge help. It has helped with production and as an event as a whole. We strive to make each year better than the last for both the competitors and the spectators,” Pitz said.

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One unique part of the Magic Valley Stampede is the Cowboy Club Seating. This is a product of the committee in their efforts to generate enough revenue to help pay for certain amenities that will help better the event.

“The Cowboy Club Seating is VIP seating held during each performance on raised seating with comfortable seats, drink tickets and tasty hors d’oeuvres. We also have a great hospitality tent that allows the sponsors to rub elbows with the cowboys and cowgirls.”

In addition to the Cowboy Club Seating, Pitz and his expert team is working on getting a Gold Buckle Club started to help improve the rodeo and make it better.

“The Gold Buckle Club will help fund improvements to the rodeo grounds, as well as enhance the rodeo with either more specialty acts, more added money… stuff like that. The main focus will be fundraising and we are planning on having two-three events per year in order to help improve the rodeo.”




Cactus Petes Resort Casino & the Horseshu Hotel in Jackpot, Nevada is a solid supporter of professional rodeo cowboys! This year, they’ve really put it all out there!

Truly an oasis in the desert, Cactus Petes hosts a wide array of gaming options as well as the perfect place to hit the snooze button and get some serious R&R, especially after long hours pounding concrete from one rodeo to the next. Cactus Petes offers some of the best gaming experience in the country, fine restaurants, an 18-hole golf course, Olympic-size pool, parking for 90 RV spaces and showroom that attracts nationally-known entertainment.

Cactus Petes fully supports the Magic Valley Stampede as well as their contestants and spectators and hopes that if you are passing through the area, you stop on in and see what the excitement is all about.


Lots of cowboys will be booking rooms at Cactus Petes Resort Casino or the Horseshu Hotel in Jackpot and commuting to the arena which is less than 30-minutes away. It’s a couple of nights out of the horse trailer in a beautiful setting with all the bases covered.

  • Special Rodeo Rates!
  • Stock Watering Pen
  • Trailer Parking
  • Beautiful Facilities
  • Great Restaurants
  • 25 Minutes to Arena
  • Over 26,000 square feet of great casino action!  Table games, slots, poker room, sports book!

Visit Cactus Petes online at To book your stay, call 1-800-821-1103, and USE PROMO CODE: RODEO15  (Offer Valid: Sept 2-7, 2015).

Cactus Petes fully supports the Magic Valley Stampede as well as their contestants and spectators and hopes that if you are passing through the area, you stop on in and see what the excitement is all about.

The Magic Valley Stampede returns to the Shouse Arena in Twin Falls September 3-5 and will have a little something for everyone including a monster truck show, concerts and of course, lots of rodeo action! Check out for the schedule of events!


The Eastern Idaho State Fair / Blackfoot, Idaho

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The Eastern Idaho State Fair started over 100-years ago as a livestock show and over the years has grown into a favorite annual destination for travelers, families and good ole’ country folk. The fair draws in over 250,000 people every year and continues to climb year after year.

This is the fourth year that Blackfoot has hosted a PRCA rodeo, a two-day rode; performances Labor Day Monday and then again on Tuesday. Military Appreciation day is held on Monday evening, honoring the military and their service and then Tuesday is the night to honor domestic violence, Man-Up Crusade. (

The rodeo stock is some of the best in the business supplied by the one and only Powder River Company out of Montana. With $2,200 added to the rodeo and the entertainment is over the top, bringing in some of the top cowboys and cowgirls in both the PRCA and WPRA.

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“Our rodeo is a fast paced, high energy production. It’s not just a regular rodeo, it is a performance! We work hard to make sure everything is run right and fast paced. We also make sure to be much interacted with the crowd which they seem to genuinely love,” said committee member Valorie Smith, who has been one of the individuals in charge of running the rodeo since its conception.

Music and entertainment is held each night after the performance where people can come and let their hair down and have a good time during the last weekend of the summer.

“Our fair board does everything they can to help us out and work with us which is awesome. Idaho Project Filter is the coalition against tobacco and they are our major sponsor. They take a very active role in the education in tobacco awareness and how to quit.  They have been an amazing sponsor to have on board so we are very grateful for their continued support.”

With crowd driven performances each night, the rodeo is a must-attend event for rodeo fans.

“Seeing the crowd participation is the most rewarding part of my job. Our announcer, Chad Nicholson, draws the crowd in and keeps them involved and excited. To find out more about the Eastern Idaho State Fair and Rodeo, check out our website You can find anything you need to know about the fair and rodeo on the website, including a schedule of events, entertainment highlights, history on the fair and much more,” Smith concluded.



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There isn’t a rodeo contestant alive that hasn’t driven I-15 through Idaho and for those of us who do it annually we’ve seen something interesting happening at Fort Hall.

Not so many years ago there was just a small Indian casino, really small. Then, it started getting bigger and bigger and more glamourous and today it’s arguably Idaho’s top destination resort – in fact, its where you will find the finest hotel in the state of Idaho (our opinion maybe, nevertheless, and we believe it’s true!).

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The Shoshone Bannock Hotel and Event Center, a major sponsor of the Eastern Idaho State Fair, is where lots of rodeo cowboys will be staying during the Gem State Classic. They’ll be enjoying some inexpensive luxury – check out their RODEO RATES –, and those tuned-up horses can rest too at the secure Fort Hall Rodeo Grounds, a mile down the road. They’ll be gambling in a fine casino – eating at super restaurants and relaxing in the incredible sports lounge off the gorgeous hotel lobby. There isn’t an amenity that you won’t find at the Shoshone Bannock Hotel including meeting some of the nicest people in the hospitality business. Say hello to Tyson, a former bull rider and one of the coolest people you’ll likely meet when you check in!

The hotel and the fun is just minutes away from the arena.

Check the special RODEO RATES or book your reservations at, or call 855.746.2268 or email:

The Eastern Idaho Fair starts September 5th and runs through the 12th. If you want a fun and family-filled destination to attend before the temperatures drop and the leaves change, be sure to check eastern Idaho’s longest running annual event.


Meridian Lions Club Pro Rodeo / Meridian, ID

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Boise’s largest rodeo, Meridian, has hosted a rodeo for 26-years, this year being its 26th annual rodeo. For 25 of those years this rodeo was open and amateur event, this year will be their first year as a PRCA sanctioned rodeo.

The Meridian Lion’s Club is a major fundraiser that hosts the rodeo. The Meridian Lion’s Club focus is on helping those in need with sight and hearing problems. In addition, they also aid and assist in diabetes research, food banks and youth development.

“We raise money year round and the rodeo is another great fundraiser for the organization. All of the money that we make on the rodeo, after expenses, goes straight back into the community. We love donating it back and seeing results because of it,” said Meridian Lion’s Club member Doug Beehler.

“We have an absolutely fantastic community that completely backs our efforts and looks forward to the event every year. We have worked very hard to get this rodeo to where it’s at today and although this is the first year that it’s a PRCA rodeo, we have put on a professional rodeo since its conception, so we are more than ready for it to be a “professional” rodeo as far as production goes. Without the help from the community, sponsors and volunteers, our event would not be what it is. We are very anxious that it is a PRCA rodeo this year and hope contestants will know that they have yet another rodeo to hit while out on the rodeo trail.”

Meridian has added $1000 to each event which makes for a great paycheck for those competing in their specialty events. It is also the last weekend that cowboys and cowgirls of the PRCA and WPRA can qualify for their designated circuit finals as well as the coveted National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.

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“We hope that cowboys and cowgirls will venture to Meridian and see what we are all about. We love the contestants and we love to accommodate them,” Beehler explained.

September 26-27 is when the action starts in Meridian; a perfect place to end the 2015 rodeo season!

You can find more information on the fair and rodeo; give them a like on their Facebook site Meridian Lions Rodeo.

Yes, summer’s days are numbered… and if you intended to get to a rodeo this year, these are some of the best you’ll find.

©Copyright 2015 Real American Cowboy Magazine. All Rights Reserved.

Cover photo courtesy Sean Halverson.  Other photography courtesy Phil Doyle and Liz Mason.



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Hope Sickler is still a young lady, in her late 20’s but she has already established herself as one of the finest rodeo journalists in the industry and was recently named Editor of Real American Cowboy Magazine. Hope started as a free-lance writer and had many stories published by a number of top rodeo and Western lifestyle magazines.

In 2013 she was named Real American Cowboy Magazine’s Writer of the Year.

Hope was raised on a farm and ranch operation in North Dakota and is herself a rodeo contestant, currently among the barrel racing leaders in Colorado where she lives and trains barrel horses


Thanks to the committee members of all these rodeos, you are the reason Idaho has a long-standing reputation as one of the big “rodeo states” in the nation.


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Sheridan 1


Hope Sickler of Real American Cowboy Magazine

Sheridan, Wyoming has got it going on! Between the breathtaking, beautiful landscape that surrounds the adventurous small town, a community that supports one another and is always striving for better, and quite possibly the premier event of the year in Wyoming, Sheridan is the place to be the week of July 6th-12th.

If you are reading this and have not ventured to the 17,000+ town of Sheridan the second week of July, I suggest you pack your bags, round-up the kids and fuel up the mini-van! Sheridan is more than just a “pretty face”.

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It showcases excitement that is real, with heart-pounding, edge-of-your-seat rodeo action and one of the most talked about side events, the World Championship Indian Relay Races. In fact, if asked what the most popular event is during the entire extravaganza, most would say that the Indian Relay Races takes the cake on that one.

“Our event, Sheridan WYO Rodeo, is much more than just a rodeo. It is an event that is unique and offers a little something for everyone,” explained committee member Zane Garstad.

Garstad has been a part of the rodeo committee for 22-years and has seen firsthand how the event has exploded over the years. 2015 marks its 85th year and after 85 years, people are still coming back for more!

“We just keep growing. The purse for the rodeo has also grown immensely. In 1994 the purse for the rodeo as a whole that year was just over $40,000. In 2014, total payout for the rodeo was $288,000!

The WYO, as they like to call it, is a major stop on the rodeo trail for the top cowboys and cowgirls of the PRCA and the WPRA. The WYO has already been nominated numerous times for large rodeo of the year for the Mountain States Circuit in 2012, 2013 and 2014, so it definitely delivers with some action-packed entertainment and excitement. It is also a part of the Million Dollar Silver Tour, which has to do with most money added at rodeos across the nation. Each year, the rodeo sees its entries spike higher and higher, with more and more contestants wanting to experience the WYO.

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With the rodeo growing by leaps and bounds each year, so are the other events, especially the even popular Indian Relay Races.

“Besides the rodeo, we are known worldwide for our Indian Relay Races. We will have ProRodeo judges that ask specifically for our rodeo just so they can witness the excitement of the races. Even the world champion cowboys and cowgirls that enter the rodeo will make sure they are there to witness the races. It is definitely something that catches everyone’s attention. It is fun, exciting and gives you a “blast from the past” sort-of-feeling watching the horses stampede down the track with their riders dressed in traditional Native American apparel,” explained Garstad.

The Indian Relay Race sets Sheridan apart from all other rodeos across the country. It consists of anywhere from about 18-20 teams and there are 4-heats (races) a night during the rodeo performances. The jockey has to ride bareback and the race consists of two horse exchanges. The race is summoned by the sharp shot of a pistol which the jockey then must hop on their first horse and circle the ½ mile track as fast as their horse can go before making the exchange to their second and last horse of the race. Whomever crosses the finish-line first, is your winner!

“This is the 21st year that we have had held the races and each year, more and more people make the trek to witness what all the hype is about. It truly is one of the most amazing things I have ever witnessed,” Garstad said.

In addition to the Indian Relay Races, there is also the Wild Pony Race that showcases the future champions of rodeo.

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“The Wild Pony Race is a new event that we have added and it has already generated huge attention and is on its way to being right up there with our Indian Relay Races. It is limited to our youth, with teams of three. The clock starts when the pony is let loose in the arena. Each designated team member must stop their pony, hop on and ride for a total of 8-seconds. The total time for all three members is tallied and the fastest time wins. It definitely gets the crowd going and the kids absolutely live for it!”

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With four nights of rodeo, the Indian Relay Races and the Wild Pony Race, you would think that would do it for events. Well my friend, you are wrong! The entire week is filled with other, just-as-exciting events such as the Native American Pow Wow, the Miss Indian America Invitational Art Exhibition, the Rodeo Royalty Pageant, Stick horse barrel racing for the kids, Boot Kick Off Party, Sneakers and Spurs Rodeo 5K Run/ walk, Parade, Live Music, Rodeo after-parties, and much, much more!

“Literally, when we say there is something for everyone, we are not joking. We are busting out of the seams with attraction and events during the entire week of the Sheridan WYO Rodeo. Our committee and our community strives each year to keep people entertained and fully enjoying themselves and I must say, they do a phenomenal job,” said Garstad.

What makes that committee even more amazing is the fact that the entire committee is volunteer. They do everything on their own personal time in hopes of introducing more people to the history and heritage of the Sheridan WYO Rodeo and the community of Sheridan.

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“We are a family and each year when the contestants, the stock contractors, the judges and the rest of the village that it takes to put on an event of this caliber, returns, it’s like a big-giant family reunion. We prep all year for this event and look forward to it every year.”

The WYO could not be possible without all the amazing sponsors that make the WYO the premier event that it is.

“We have some of the greatest sponsors out there and without them, we could not even begin to make this event what it has evolved into today. We are very thankful and grateful to each sponsor that make our dreams a reality,” Garstad explained.

So now let me ask you this- Where will YOU be the second week of July? I sure am hoping your answer is the WYO! Check out their website for more information and take a look at the schedule week to make sure you don’t miss your favorite event!

Some tickets still available:

The Sheridan WYO Rodeo is supported in cooperation with Sheridan Travel and Tourism.

Photography Courtesy Diana Volk and Eva Scofield.

©Copyright 2015 Real American Cowboy Magazine. All Rights Reserved.


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Cowboy Preacher Soul


Shannon Cole for Real American Cowboy Magazine

Nestled deep in the heart of cowboy country, an old weathered barn sits quietly. Surrounded by beautiful Aspen trees covered in vibrant orange and yellow’s of autumn.

The solace of quiet, where there is only the silent beauty of leaves falling. Horses snuggled in warm winter coats graze in the distance beyond cedar rail fencing.

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Thick fog rolls in early morning and brings a bitter sweetness to the air as cowboys ride in by horseback wearing rugged wool shirts with a soft cotton bandana tied loosely around the neck, wranglers, boots and spurs.

Tipping his perfectly shaped Stetson to other riders, as they ride side by side. You can hear the saddles creaking as they ride up, you can see the breath of the horses and the dust from the hooves as they make their way.

The horses wait patiently, tied to the hitching post outside the barn. The sound of boots on the old wooden floor, the soft sound of western gospel music in the background and genuine handshakes that hold true meaning is worth more than gold to some.

Many arrive early to enjoy cowboy coffee and donuts off the Chuck Wagon. Children play and giggle in tall grass and proudly show off scars or tell stories about life as ranch kids. Wives gather to share treasured crock pot recipes they found in Grandmothers old hutch for winter cooking; while some sit alone, knitting thick scarves and soft mittens for the long cold days ahead and wait for the sermon to begin.

The elder folks sit back talking about the good old days, sharing stories of cherished childhood memories and of Great Granddaddy Butch, a man who loved the land and sky; a man who would gladly give to a stranger in need. They pass down the old cowboy spirit to their Grandchildren with love and respect. Keeping the faith in generations, they share the word’s they knew by heart “Our Father who art in heaven”.

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Cowboy church has been around a long time and has grown tremendously throughout our country. Today, there are people from all walks of life who hold a deep respect to our western heritage and have faith in our Creator.

Our traditional cowboy church is known for its rural setting and baptisms are done in a stock tank. Some believe you must be a cowboy to attend, it’s not so, come as you are. Be as you are and be who you are. So many people have disconnected in the past without even knowing why. Our ancestors, our Great Grandparents, they may have started what some have lost. God only knows.

Born and raised, faith for the working cowboy came naturally, simple, yet strong. When I spoke with founder and Pastor Kevin Weatherby of “Save the Cowboy”. He believes, “There’s no transition from cowboy to preacher, we can’t change who we are inside”. His faith in God and old fashioned values of the American Cowboy lead him to believe that once you have courage, honesty, respect, integrity, strength and truth, you will have Christ in your life.

Continuing tradition and preserving history is a way of life. The cowboy culture remains independent, straight forward with respect and honesty and it takes a certain type to be able to reach out to them. Cowboy Pastor, Brad Curtis, reminds us that “God doesn’t want to change who you are, he wants to change what you are”. There are rodeo cowboys that come straight out of the chute and into the arms of the Lord. Sharing, listening and giving a hand in need to those who have been down rough trails, to those who suffer in anger with regret, but sometimes rough trails are great teachers. The enduring American icon, some know him as the “Duke”, John Wayne once said “Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway”. It is his gentle spirit combined with courage that cowboy’s turn to the ones who had ridden those trails and truly believe that faith is the best companion for the journey. When the trail get’s steep, the prayers go deep!

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Once a cowboy, always a cowboy. Saddle Bronc World Champion Mike Fletcher, now, a respected cowboy Pastor out of Texas began his ministry preaching to men in prisons and say’s “You can’t con a convict, just tell the stories”. Often, he spent time in nursing homes sharing his faith with folks who had stories of their own. Later, he was called to cowboy church, to begin his journey with “Spur on Ministry”. Today, he shares extraordinary stories of faith with cowboys and people who attend his congregation. And in the end he replies; “I’m just a nobody trying to tell everybody about somebody who can save somebody”.

Back in 2004, Jeff Smith, cowboy Preacher out of North Carolina started a “Cowboy Church Network”. His mission is to plant and strengthening cowboy churches across the country. The flag ceremony is held each year in October and hundreds attend. Each flag represents the state of which a cowboy church is planted, the flag bearers walk with the flag. The Preachers then kneel down in front of the flag, while Pastor Jeff Smith kneels in front of them to say “let’s pray”. “God Bless our Pastors, the cowboy churches that they serve, and the people that attend them”. Amen.

Born to the life of a cowboy, a feller by the name of Tom Moorhouse who manages Tongue River Ranch, EST. in 1898 says with integrity “I don’t put ranching before God, but it’s like a religion in that I feel a calling to do it. Some people may think cowboys don’t make good enough money, but if they were to cut our wages in half, the truth is, we’d still do it because we love it”.

Recently, I sat down with John Riggs, host for RFDTV “Cowboy Authentic”. Based in Texas, Riggs enjoys spending time at home with his wife Cheryl and 3 kids, when he’s not in the saddle on some of the best working cattle ranches around the country. Riggs has a deep respect for the cowboy culture, he believes in the values they live by and the essence of what they have been trained to do their entire lives. It’s real, he says, the culture has so much to offer, to see who created it. The appreciation turns to awe of and respect for the creations maker. One who can lead a heart to hope like a cowboy leads a herd.

It takes a special kind to be a cowboy Preacher.  One who has a heart for helping people, one who stands for truth and willing to do anything for what he believes. A strong passion for seeking lost people to “Strengthen the Weak”.  Years ago, Riggs began caring for cattle, always looking for the stray; the broken.

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Later, he committed to applying the same comfort to people in need. Sold off the cattle and followed his heart, Riggs journey began as he went off to Bible College in faith. Riggs learned he had everything in his heart to walk with the Lord. I asked him what his greatest fulfillment was when riding with cowboys; he replied, “I get to show them how and why they get to know this god”.

A cowboy Preacher has one purpose, for John Riggs that means a day spent on a large cattle ranch bringing Christ to the cowboy. Each day working with them side by side, sharing stories, hardship, and going back to their roots. Developing strong relationships that last a lifetime. Speaking of faith, value and ethics, Winston Churchill once said, “No hour of Life is wasted that is spent in the saddle”.

The cowboy Preacher continues to spread the word throughout our country. He will bring new hope to those who have faith in the Lord. He will provide a warm safe place to gather, worship and listen to beautiful music. He will accept and love you for who you are. He will comfort you, and he will pray with you.

“Whoever walks in Integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out”. Proverbs 10:9.

©Copyright 2014 Real American Cowboy Magazine.  All Rights Reserved.


shannon cole writer of the year

As a Western Photographer, her work becomes a journal. She loves storytelling using her photographs. Shannon’s journey in photography began while living in a rugged log cabin nestled on Thomas Mountain in California with her two small children. Later, they settled on a beautiful ranch in Canada.

Some days, she would venture out to take photos of old abandoned barns. She discovered that while healing from the loss of her first son Tyler, what she saw through the lens was him. His gentle spirit has inspired her to follow her heart. Since then, her love for the Western lifestyle has grown tremendously.

She looks closely at what something can become and not what is. When an old dusty pair of chaps, the rim of a cowboy hat or something as simple as the chipped tea kettle her Grandmother left behind turns into a beautiful oil painting or photograph, you learn to appreciate the goodness that comes out of them. She tries not to force things. Whatever inspires you, will come in time, if you believe.

Shannon is blessed with a “good eye”, a God given talent for which she is grateful, and the knowledge and skill to capture images that take you right into “Nature’s Breath”.

Tyler Photography, “Nature’s Breath”.

In loving Memory of her son, Tyler 1989-1993


Editor’s Note:

This article originally appeared in October 2014, we reprinted it at the request of many readers.  Thank you.


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Randy Bernard – A conversation with the most important man in rodeo
Hope Sickler for Real American Cowboy Magazine

Ideas happen every day but it takes serious discipline to construct those ideas to follow through and turn them into a vision, and Randy Bernard has mastered just that.

If you are wondering who Randy Bernard is, I suggest you keep reading because he is quite easily one of the most driven individuals in our country.  He is the man behind the face of the hugely successful corporate rodeo, THE AMERICAN and he is aiming to change the face of rodeo as we know it.

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Climbing Ladders
Randy Bernard grew up in the rodeo atmosphere and attended Cal Poly San Luis Obispo where he participated on the college rodeo team. While at Cal Poly, Bernard took a class that was primarily focused on fairs and entertainment.

“Right then and there, I knew I wanted to be involved in the entertainment world,” Bernard explained.

It didn’t take long for Bernard to get his foot in the door, either.

“I was on an elevator and Don Jacques the CEO of the Calgary Stampede, stepped on. We got to talking and he asked if I would be interested in coming up to Calgary and doing an internship with them. “I was perplexed! That was a huge deal and only 3 or 4 Americans have done that internship. I got the paperwork finished and was headed on a plane across the border. I knew then, that this is what I wanted to do the rest of my life. I wanted to be in the entertainment part of rodeos, fairs and the Western lifestyle.”

After his internship in Calgary concluded, Bernard traveled to the California Mid State Fair and didn’t leave for 4 years.

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In 1994, Bernard produced one of the very first PBR bull riding events and was such a success that the following year he was asked to become their CEO.

“The same time the PBR wanted to make me CEO, the commissioner of the PRCA, Lew Cryer, wanted to bring me on board with them. Both companies are outstanding and while it was a tough decision, I went with my gut feeling and what I felt was the best decision for me and the company,” Bernard said.

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Bernard followed his instinct and took the CEO position with the PBR. His first salary with the PBR was a whopping $55,000.00 and the office at the time was the size of a walk-in closet with a folding chair and a card table.

“For the first two years or so we didn’t have any staff. But we went from that little walk-in closet office to two entire floors in downtown Colorado Springs. From there, we relocated to Pueblo when they offered us a substantial amount to move our headquarters there.”

In 2007, PBR was sold and Bernard was ready for a change.

“I was with the PBR for 15 years and to see where it had come from where it had started was something I will never forget. We sold the company but I stayed in the remainder of my contract and had an option out in the 4th year. Several people didn’t think I would leave PBR but I felt like the timing was good and it was time for another adventure,” said Bernard. ‘

It wasn’t long before Bernard found himself with a new job offer.

“Chris Cox, a good buddy of mine, called me up after a clinic he was doing in Indianapolis and told me that IndyCar wanted my number and wanted to talk to me about becoming a consultant for them.”

Bernard jumped a plane and headed to Indianapolis.


“I had to do my homework prior to this meeting,” laughed Bernard.

“I knew close to nothing about Indy Car but I prepared and did my homework. When I got there, they wanted to know if I would be interested in being the CEO of IndyCar. Once again I was perplexed! I thought they wanted me as a consultant but the first thing said to me was, “When can you start”. That was a huge wow moment for me.”

From PBR to IndyCar, Bernard had found the sign that solidified it was time for him to leave PBR.

“I called Ty Murray and Cody Lambert up right after I left Indianapolis and told them I was going to leave PBR. They tried to talk me out of it but I told them my mind had already been made. I left PBR and went to IndyCar where I spent three phenomenal years.”

After IndyCar, Bernard went to work for RFD-TV and the rest as they say, is history. Bernard joined Rural Media Group as Chief Executive Officer in December 2012.

One evening after work, Bernard received a text message from his good friend, Garth Brooks asking if he wanted to have dinner that night.

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“I get this text from Garth asking about dinner and before I know it his private jet is in Omaha to pick me up and take me to Tulsa to his house. Two days later and I am in the same clothes and still at his place in Tulsa. I flew back to Omaha and resigned as the CEO of RFD-TV EVENTS and went to work for Garth.”

Bernard is now the CEO of, LLC in partnership with Garth Brooks. GhostTunes is an online music store that was launched in 2014 and differs from other online music stores such as iTunes Store by allowing the individual labels to choose their selling format and prices.

Face to Face
We wanted to dedicate the next section of this story to getting to know the man behind the vision a little better.

RACM-When in your career have you been the most happy?
RB- I am the most happy when I am building something and when I am passionate about my project. I was so passionate about the PBR that every waking moment I was thinking of ways to make it better. While at IndyCar, I was tremendously happy because it was the toughest job that I have ever had by far but it kept me on my toes. I had to learn the industry and it was a tremendous learning curve for me.  I have had a very great career in my opinion with great opportunities. I don’t think people realize the amount of work that it takes to be successful. It wasn’t always glamourous. It was tough, roll-up your sleeves and put in hundreds of hours hard work.

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RACM- What in your view has been your biggest success and your biggest screw up?
RB- I’ll start with success first. I look at everything I do in different aspects of success. I am very goal oriented and I look at everything as how I can do it better. No matter what you do, there will always be a part where you fail and the most important lesson in life is being able to understand that mistake and figure out how to fix it so it doesn’t have to happen again.
My biggest screw-up? Three things as a kid I wish I would’ve done- learned how to golf, learned Spanish and learned how to play a musical instrument. That’s it.

RACM- What is a day in the life of Randy Bernard like?
RB- It is very fast paced! A lot of things going on but I love every waking minute of it. I live for that kind of stuff.

RACM- Favorite Food?
RB- Mexican food and sushi. I love any kind of sushi.

RACM- Favorite kind of music?
RB- I love any kind of music, from blues to rock to country.

RACM- Favorite pastime?
RB- I hardly ever get any time off. I am so engaged in my work that I really don’t have a pastime. I do like to go on Ranchero Vistadores Trail Ride and go to San Lucas. I also like to hunt but I don’t get to go very much. I just don’t have the time.

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RACM- Can you give us a little hint as to what RFD-TV might be cooking up next?
RB- We do have a bunch of stuff we are working on. We are making huge changes, especially involving the rodeo world and The American. I think The American has a place of being very prestigious and growing. It will help the sport of rodeo and the Western lifestyle tremendously. I have produced over 3,000 events, from the Indy500 to all the PBR events and The American is by far my favorite event that I have produced. I see a lot of potential in it and I think it will continue to grow immensely year after year.

RACM- Where do you see the sport of professional rodeo in 5 years?
RB- I see rodeos at a crossroads but it is a good crossroads. I think it is healthy for athletes to ask questions on how they are going to better their sport. If you look back in the sport of rodeo, the first rodeo was in 1888 in Prescott, Arizona. The prize money was $860 that year. Now, if you look at other sports in the same decade, the first Masters was in 1895 and didn’t even pay prize money until 1961, which was over $100,000.00. The first Masters was in 1881 and the purse was $335.
Today the purse for the US OPEN for golf is well over $9 million, this is almost 9 % compounded annually since 1881 while the purse for the US Open for Tennis is well over $29 million this is 12% compounded annually since 1895 if the prize money would have been similar. If we look at the purse of Prescott at $261,000.00, it shows us how much our sport has failed.

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If Prescott would have kept up with the other two sports even at 8.50% compounded annually, we would see a purse of $12,955,000. When it is all said and done, rodeo is not where it should be. I am not blaming or pointing fingers, but if a voice from the athletes doesn’t step up, it will never change. Committees and promoters will read this story and roll their eyes and say how we can ever pay this. They must remember all boats rise on a high tide and when a sport or an athlete is perceived as successful, it draws attention and more participation. I don’t want to see rodeo as a place where grandparents take their grand kids to show them a tradition that is dying.
I really believe that our sport of rodeo has to catch up with the times. It needs to have significant value and it needs to take care of its contestants.

You cannot run a rodeo association as a club. It has to be run as a business, as a sport, and most importantly be very entertaining. Those three things are the most important ingredients in a company.

We have got to build exposure and a brand. Americans need to see these contestants every week and you don’t do it with 30 hours of programming every year. We, as rodeo fans, need to watch our favorite cowboys and cowgirls weekly and see first-hand their success and failures, this is what ties any fan to a sport.

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In many ways, Randy Bernard is the 21st century Buffalo Bill Cody, the legendary promoter who produced wildly successful Western shows in the late 1800’s.  He rates.  Always a reasonable man working in a sometimes unreasonable environment, Randy Bernard IS the quintessential executive, having achieved that status without forgetting he’s a cowboy.

We salute Randy Bernard and the courage he’s shown in all that he’s done.
©Copyright 20015 Real American Cowboy


About Hope Sickler

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An accomplished professional barrel racer, horse trainer and rodeo journalist, Hope Sickler was named our Writer of the Year in 2013.

An accomplished professional barrel racer, horse trainer and rodeo journalist, Hope Sickler is a frequent contributor and popular writer appearing on Real American Cowboy Magazine. Raised on a mega-ranch in North Dakota, hopes lives, loves and knows the cowboy world.

Hope attended North Dakota State University, Global Equine Academy and Dickinson State University.
You can contact Hope directly at:

Editor’s Note:

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A special thank you to Randy Bernard and the people at RFD-TV for bringing all that they do, especially The American – one day the time will come when we all look back and realize that rodeo changed everything! – Charlie Nicks, Managing Editor


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Why the World Needs Fallon Taylor
Hope Sickler for Real American Cowboy Magazine

Yes, Fallon Taylor is a WPRA World Champion barrel racer but more than that – Fallon Taylor is an industry.

By any measure, Fallon Taylor is maximizing her value as a rodeo athlete in new and unprecedented ways; and she’s already won the hearts and purchases of tens of thousands of fans which has catapulted her to levels of recognition and financial success no rodeo cowboy/cowgirl has experienced in this way before.

Fallon Taylor is a brand.

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And she was a brand long before she won her first WPRA World Championship this past December.  That’s not to say, winning a gold buckle hasn’t been the cherry-on-top, only to point out that Fallon’s success began with some relatively simple marketing decisions she made a while back – and then followed-through.

She’s also moving more mainstream – not with tsunami force – an inch at a time, but more and more non-rodeo people know who Fallon Taylor is and have a lurking picture of a pretty girl in an outrageously colored outfit on a flashy horse racing through the night.  That’s her brand.

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As far as squeezing Mr. Internet goes, Fallon is also a World Champion proving authenticity and fan-focused warmth is what works – her social media presence always free of any hint of narcissism and always fan-friendly.

Fallon’s nature is fairly represented in her online presence – to listen to her is a little like listening to Bill Gates years ago talk about the future of the Internet – her focus, her nature and her mind are always pointed toward the larger and more futurist dreams she has for the sport of barrel racing and rodeo in general.  Yesterday’s times and scores and association-quibbles and prize-money deficiencies and all the politics aren’t where Fallon Taylor’s head is at.  She works around those things.

She’s promoting bigger things, more important things – the use of helmets – barrel racing as an Olympic sport – how to move rodeo into the mainstream.  And, with that mind-set and a fairly unsophisticated marketing plan – Fallon Taylor is making in-roads into the “how to make your rodeo career really pay” world like nobody ever has before.

Her Internet site is literally the AMAZON of the horse community.  A simple, clean and easy to use website, visitors are memorized by Fallon’s fame and offered dozens of products, everything from her autographs to bits, to an entire line of clothing, hats and helmets.   Again, totally and surely intentionally absent of any narcissistic, “look how great I am” – count my buckles – turn-offs.  It’s fair to say, Fallon Taylor “gets it.”

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The tie-dye thing.

“I got back into the world of rodeo after taking a long break from it. My husband, Delbert, was not a rodeo guy, so I bought a DVD after my first year back on the road of the 1995-1998 NFR that I competed at. He immediately noticed all the crazy clothes and said that it was rodeo’s answer to having a jersey number to help make you stand out. That was the start to this crazy fad of clothing that I have evolved into,” said Taylor.

Delbert’s comment sparked a fire in Fallon.  And that’s where good marketing begins – a good idea – one good enough that it moves the mind and excites matched with the guts to try it, then measure it, then tweak it then master it.

“My amazing friends Karen and Brian went into overdrive at home and started making me these insanely crazy outfits so that my fans could easily spot me from miles away,” laughed Taylor.

Although she claimed she felt bizarre at first for wearing these flamboyant outfits, she quickly noted her fans loved it and for a time that was why she was willing to do it.

“Some of my peers even gave me some funny looks when I would step out of the trailer and I would just remind myself that the outfit I had on was not for them but for my amazing fans.”

“My style is getting back to the basics of being a true entertainer. I want to perform with a smile, fringe, and glitter, whatever makes the crowd stand up and cheer for OUR sport of rodeo. It is certainly not about me. It’s about our sport and crowd entertainment. I want my fans to act like unruly football fans, jumping up and down and feeling like my wins are their wins, too!”

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Fallon admits that she has huge dreams of getting barrel racing into the Olympics and she believes that her outrageous and colorful attire will help her accomplish it.

“I would love to see barrel racing get into the Olympics. I would also like to see rodeo get the kind of recognition that the X-Games get. The rodeo athletes deserve that kind of recognition and I am hoping to get them that. I would also really like to see the influence on helmets continue to grow. I think it is overlooked and the safety of a competitor should never be overlooked. I hope that by sporting my helmet, it will show others that safety in our sport in very important,” explained Taylor.

Taylor’s business, Ranch Dressin’, is continuing to customize helmets and hats in order to bring more flash into the arena for the competitors that don’t want to have full tie-dye gear on.

“Our plan is to customize helmets and hats for riders that don’t want to dress as flashy as I do but still want to have a little piece of BabyFlo and I in the arena with them.”

In addition, Taylor is starting a couple new lines such as “Fear” and “XTREME TRAINING TOOLS”.

“My goal with “Fear” is to bring some new flair into the world of dressage and maybe even convince a few of them to come be barrel racers at the same time. I think barrel racing is one of the greatest thrills and such a huge adrenaline rush and I would love to spread that feeing to other areas of riding.”

As far as XTREME TRAINING TOOLS, Taylor hopes to develop a way to virtually work with barrel racers across the globe and help them train their barrel horses.

“Since the demand for clinics is overwhelming and my schedule doesn’t exactly allow for me to be in all places all the time that is why we are working on this new training site. It will give barrel racers across the globe an opportunity to learn my tricks in order to help them become the next world champions,” Taylor said.

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Can anybody in rodeo do what Fallon Taylor has done?   The opportunity is certainly there for dozens of high-end rodeo cowboys and cowgirls, but they’ll have to find their own niche’ and they’re not going to be able to do it with tie-dye.  They’ll have to find their own signature-market – like Jack Nichols did in designing golf courses or Michael Jordon did with tennis shoes.

It is possible for a popular rodeo cowboy or cowgirl today to make more money offering products and services than what they can earn in an arena – and the more of that activity, the more high-quality sponsors come knocking.

Fallon Taylor’s hopes and intentions are the foundation of her remarkable marketing performance – Fallon is focused on things bigger than Fallon – something of rarity in today’s rodeo world and at the core of it all are solid desires.

Don’t think she hasn’t had moments of self-doubt, when you break with tradition, when you present yourself entirely unique among your peers, when you push the envelope, life can get pretty uncomfortable – whether you love her or not – you have to admit, the woman is both courageous and one amazing athlete.

Fallon Taylor is leader in a world that often resists change.  She’s a game-changer. She designing her career her way, on her terms and she’s making it work.  And the world needs more people with that kind of courage.
©Copyright 2015 Real American Cowboy Magazine. All Rights Reserved.


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CORPORATE RODEO – Rodeo’s best way to reach maintstream

Charlie Nicks of Real American Cowboy Magazine

Among the many things Randy Bernard and the gutsy people at RFD-TV have done with their rodeo, The American, is something we can all thank them for.  They have gotten the attention of corporate America.

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Corporations with millions and millions and millions of dollars in the bank are aggressively looking to expand their consumer base and link their brand to the richness of the American West – corporations are now understanding that the cowboy world is a big, broad, diverse, educated and financially solid demographic.  To a competitive corporation, the cowboy world is a juicy, yet still mysterious, potential “market”.

Thanks to RFD-TV, that money is now on the table.  It’s there.  And this CAN happen.

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But… that will all vanish in a relative heart-beat if a few things inside rodeo don’t change.

If the bickering and disorganization and reorganization and cliques and the low-grade politics that plague rodeo and weigh it down doesn’t get in the way – if that doesn’t disappear, and quickly, any interest corporate America might have in dumping many millions of dollars into the sport will fade fast.  Corporations don’t want anything to do with a big, unruly mess.

This article is about what CAN happen.  IF we don’t screw it up.


Rodeo, like everything else, is and has been in a state of constant change since it began in the 1800’s.  Rodeo, like everything else changes with generations, evolves with the economy, and transforms with technology.  But it changes most efficiently with inventive creativity and organizational skills of a lot of people.

Whether rodeo people work together or not to build a popular mainstream sport will determine whether or not rodeo will ever attract a mainstream audience is yet to be seen – by appearances, right now that doesn’t seem to be the case.

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Instead, this is what seems to be happening –

Not so long ago there were three television stations, ABC, NBC and CBS.  That was it.  If you wanted to watch television you have three channels to choose from.  Today my TV flicker can find a couple of hundred different choices, just like yours.

And for a very long time the business of rodeo was fairly simple and made up of few choices.  But today, there are more choices, today a rodeo fan or a rodeo contestant can find someone willing to take an entry fee or sell them a ticket every weekend of the year, and often fairly close to home.

Rodeo break-out formats such as the PRS, the PBR, high-stakes barrel racing jackpots, mega-team roping events, ranch-rodeo, youth rodeo, night rodeos, Indian rodeo, Senior Pro Rodeo, Armed Services Pro Rodeo, gay rodeo and the recent emergence Corporate rodeos like “RFD-TV’s The American” or “CINCH Jeans Pikes Peak or Bust” are all reshaping how rodeo will move forward.

Rodeo (and its companion break-out sports) have largely become a participant-driven sport.

There have never been more people on more horses on more weekends in the history of the world.


The weekend cowboy business is thriving – team ropings, barrel racings, team-pennings and local jackpots of all description are going on 52 weeks of the year from Canada to Chihuahua – people are saddling up and participating.  This will continue to expand and grow and it’s got its own underground economy going.  And that’s good and it’s healthy for rodeo.  But, it isn’t expanding rodeo.

These events are essentially audience-free.  Very few spectators make their way to these events, a few people here and there – relatives for the most part – families, girl-friends, husbands.  And for a lot of reasons, relaxation mostly, the lack of an audience is a plus to the Jackpot world.

When there’s a big audience things tend to get serious in every way and most people in the jackpot world are not looking for “seriousness” in their weekend.

For most of the Jackpot folks, rodeo is a hobby, if they win some money great, but it’s about the good weekend, the horse, the conversation, the beer, the friends, the food and being a legitimate part of the real West.

PREDICTION:  Local jackpot events will continue to swell in popularity.


In February, 2X WPRA World Champion Barrel Racer Brittany Pozzi won $115,000.00 at a “High-Stakes Jackpot” event in Louisiana.  In March, in Bryan, Texas, the entry fee is $5,000.00, the winner gets $100,000.00.  Think about that, an entry fee of $5,000.00.

Today’s cowgirls and their backers apparently have no issue with putting together that kind of money to enter a race – when there’s a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

PREDICTION – There will be many more of these kinds of High-Stakes Jackpots in the future, barrel racing, team roping most typically.

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Traditional rodeo is less diverse but nevertheless expanding in terms of the number of people who “participate” – in 2014, Cheyenne Frontier Days had more contestants pay an entry fee than would make up the entire crowd at lot of rodeos.

There have never been so many events for the cowboy or cowgirl to choose to compete in, or more choices for the ticket-buying rodeo fan to attend – and there will be more every year – at least for a while.  But at some point things reach critical-mass, when there are too many events both fans and contestants will become harder to attract.  And at that point a lot of rodeos will be faced with closing their doors.

The larger rodeos, both sanctioned and non-sanctioned, have by necessity already spaced their rodeos apart on the calendar so not to compete with one another.  But the calendar is full which means new events will have to schedule themselves in competition with other shows, often bigger and more established shows.

Every rodeo has its own personality; and that’s never been more true than with small town rodeos. No two arenas are the same and audience composition is always uniquely local, and this won’t change.  The small town rodeo is a very old, established and solidified part of the bigger rodeo picture.

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In many ways, small town rodeo is the backbone of rodeo – it’s where modern day rodeo has it’s roots, the competitors are usually local, typically summer outdoor events that are well attended by the locals and well supported by local merchants.

PREDICTION: Small town rodeo isn’t going anywhere.  It’s not trying to get television coverage or win an award from an association, they’re just local rodeos and they’re usually great rodeos.  But, small town rodeo doesn’t expand the fan base.


Now this is where you might want to really pay attention:

CINCH Jeans and RFD-TV (and their partner Polaris) have opened the door to Corporate Rodeo, potentially the biggest money shift in the history of the sport.


What’s still unknown is whether it’s a hit on television – ratings drive the important decisions as to whether or not rodeo will continue to crawl along toward becoming a mainstream sport, or whether it will be catapulted into the hearts and minds of many millions of Americans.

Television.  You have to get that.  Mainstream sports appear on mainstream television.

Let’s talk about money for a moment.  While some people in the rodeo world like to complain about “marketing people” and “corporate interests” and “media people” and “business people” being involved in rodeo – here’s the bottom-line – no money, no rodeo.

To produce a rodeo, especially a large rodeo today, takes millions of dollars – and that money has to come out of somebody’s checkbook or there is no big time rodeo.

Entry fees don’t carry a rodeo.  Ticket sales don’t carry a rodeo.  Vendor rentals don’t carry a rodeo.

SPONSOR MONEY pays the tab.  Sponsor dollars create the atmosphere and environment for rodeo cowboys and cowgirls to do what they do – not the other way around.

Does this suggest the diminished importance of contestants, not at all.  The contestant pool matters and matters a lot – but, make no mistake about it, so does the money.  Fair to say, no cowboys – no rodeo – but it’s equally fair to say, no sponsors – no rodeo.

It is high-time for teamwork and that can’t and won’t happen until everyone involved in rodeo has a genuine respect for everyone else involved in rodeo.

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Now, if you were the CEO of a big brand name Western-oriented company, and for years you’ve been writing a multi-million dollar check to be one of the major sponsors at a national sanctioned event, enough money to easily produce a rodeo the size and quality of The American, and likely be able to do it at a profit, wouldn’t you be considering using that money to produce your own big brand rodeo instead of promoting someone else’s?”

PredictionThere will be more major corporations putting together big brand name rodeos, ultimately a circuit will emerge, not unlike the PGA (Professional Golf Association) which is entirely funded by big corporations. 

For example, a corporate tour could be put together, like the John Deere Classic, the Priefert Open, the Tony Lama Invitational, etc.  These would be high-dollar events, like The American, and will attract the best competitors who will be treated like royalty, like they are at The American and paid millions of dollars to be there.  (These corporate names are only used here as an example).

In less than 3 years time, with a concerted effort and a plan, not a promise – there could be a complete corporate-tour organized and running, comprised of about 30 big time rodeos, all corporately sponsored – some will start from scratch – some will take over existing rodeos and rebuild them all together.  It’s “The American” times 30.

There will have to be a governing body of some sort but one fashioned more like NASCAR than the tradition decision-clumsy, politically-messy associations.  A league – smaller, less rule-oriented, less political, more product-driven body and because they control the money, they’ll control the top end of the sport.  And, that’s all right.

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The good news is they’ll be more money than ever available to contestants, stock contractors, contract acts, announcers, bull fighters and the visual television and Internet presentation will be dramatically enhanced and will become a more competitive on-the-air product – and then, and only then, will rodeo get a fair shot at mainstream audiences on television.

Which personally is all I think it needs – or deserves.  Two years on a big network – if America doesn’t buy it by then, fair enough.

The PGA (Professional Golf Association), which incidentally is not even as old as the PRCA, sanctions around 40 tournaments each year.  Each tournament, and each golf course different and distinct and possessing its own personality.  And so it is with rodeo.


Television is the quickest way to expand the collective rodeo audience – and rodeo’s biggest current challenge.  It’s a problem that has penalized rodeo for as long as I can remember – I cannot tell you how many nights I’ve had to get up late at night to watch the NFR on some back channel broadcast.

The problem is simple to identify, a little more difficult to resolve: rodeo, as it’s currently packaged and presented is not a good television product.  If it were, major networks would already be all over it.  Rodeo has just not kept pace with other sports programming.

Rodeo on television doesn’t draw significant mainstream viewers.  That is not a knock on rodeo, it’s the obvious conclusion of highly-competitive and competent television executives and it’s based on solid, irrefutable data – not on gut feelings.

Rodeo, as currently presented, is just not selling on television.  And that has to be fixed.


So how do you get more people to watch rodeo on television – a large but simple question.

Most people laugh and say, “well, you’ve got to get rid of the team ropers”.  Personally, I like team roping and team ropers and I don’t believe removing any current event from the list is the way to solve the television problem.  Believe it or not, there are people who know how to do this – no, they probably don’t wear a cowboy hat but that does not disqualify the importance of their contribution to you or to rodeo.  Odds are, your dentist doesn’t wear a cowboy hat either.

I need to take a break here and say something.  RFD-TV, the courageous people who I feel have broken-the-code and opened these doors, and who should be given total credit for doing so, should have no fear of say ESPN broadcasting rodeo.

RFD-TV is a wonderful cable content producer, in every way – but, when you’re talking about expanding a rodeo audience, you have to understand, RFD-TV preaches to the choir.  For rodeo to expand, it has to be put in front people who can be attracted as fans – not to people who are already fans.

If ESPN committed to two years, covering 25-30 “American” style rodeos – the fact is, RFD-TV’s audience would dramatically expand as the fan base expands, not retract, as a result.  The scarcity mentality has to go;  it’s only scarce out there when there is no expansion, no growth.  And then it’s dog-eat-dog.

I know rodeo people are sick of hearing about how well the PBR continues to do.  And it must be very frustrating to those who produce rodeos at any level to watch the PBR bolt ahead in fan attendance, social-media popularity, television time, money and power the way they have.

But, think about the changes and upgrades the PBR has gone through over the past 20 years.  Today’s PBR show is light-years ahead of the first model the PBR presented.  They’re working at it.  AND, they’re run for the most part by business people – not cowboys – no offense to anyone – but, it’s time a lot of people in rodeo understand that smart marketing people are their ally, not their enemy.  The PBR is the vision of Ty Murray and 9 cowboys, honed over time by people who know television.

The PBR is locked onto specific goals, not “feelings”, not “opinions”, not “separation”, not “cliques”.  Rodeo – well, not so much.

Rodeo could learn from the PBR – not to replicate the PBR, because that won’t sell either – but somehow, some way, the sport of rodeo, as presented to the general public – has to improve its visual presentation.

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Social-media is important part of the marketing mix for any professional sport today – NASCAR has invested millions in a very sophisticated social-media strategy.  Rodeo, because it is so fragmented, still does not utilize social-media at that level – but, once corporate dollars are producing rodeos, you’ll see that change.

I have a Facebook page with more than 400,000 fans – I’m as active as anyone in Cowboyland when it comes to social-media and I fully believe the opportunity for rodeo to expand its fan base through social-media is an obvious one.

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But so far, that hasn’t happened.  Almost all the social-media chat on or about rodeo is going on between rodeo insiders – “the choir is talking to the choir” – and preaching to choir won’t expand a fan base.

PREDICTIONPromoting rodeo to the mainstream audience through successful social-media strategies will not happen for rodeo until there is some serious leadership established.


If you were to ask yourself, “what other sport has a fan base similar to the psycho-graphics of rodeo, you’d have to first determine, what is at the core of that fan-base, what is it they have in common?

And, if you can ask that question in an adult, objective, businesslike way – at least some of what gets people to rodeos is anticipated violence.  And violence is interesting, something humans have been attracted to for some mysterious reason since the Romans were feeding Christians to the lions – and charging to see it.

The PBR literally exists on potential violence.  NASCAR sells millions of high-dollar tickets and gets constant and prime television coverage and it does because of the loud, chaotic environment and the potential for real violence.  The NFL sells violence.

Is rodeo violent?  Parts of it inarguably are violent. You can’t watch a bucking horse or a rank bull do their job without the potential of real violence.  People die in rodeo arenas.  People are sometimes paralyzed having been in a rodeo arena. There are ambulances at every rodeo and that has to tell you something. And with that in mind, the only logic answer would be, “yes, rodeo can be a violent sport.”

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Violent enough to attract violence hungry NASCAR fans?  Violent enough to get the attention of hordes of NFL fans?  Or boxing fans?  Or pro-wrestling fans?  Or the Harley Davidson culture?  We shall see.

But, and this makes rodeo different from any other sport in the world, it’s more than just the potential for violence that attracts people to a rodeo – something bigger, something more emotional, something deeper and something certainly more valued.  It’s Americana.

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Rodeo is the only glimpse most urban people ever get at the traditions of the West.  For millions, it’s the only link.  It’s a dad and his daughter and a souvenir cowboy hat and a tray full of over-priced crappy nachos together for a couple of hours watching “the West.”  It’s an accountant who gets to have a cowboy fantasy for two hours for $30.00.  Rodeo is FOR people.  It’s a young girl seeing herself as Fallon Taylor.

If you have ever truly studied the composition of a rodeo crowd, and I have, you’ll figure out that the reason people buy a rodeo ticket has less to do with big names or even potential violence – and has everything to do with a culture who still admires the American cowboy and wants some connection, some tangible link to the traditions and values of the West.

Rodeo needs to cross-market itself to the fans of other sports, people who have similar beliefs.

There should be a rodeo going on in conjunction with every NASCAR event – their fans are often at the race site city for 4 or 5 days with pockets full of money and looking for things to do.

A rodeo could be produced at or near each NASCAR race track with little trouble and I believe it would sell-out a dozen performances and introduce tens of thousands of fans to the sport simultaneously.

NASCAR typically brings 200,000 or more fans to a site – 200,000 people looking for excitement – smells like a rodeo opportunity to me.

We need to make friends with NASCAR.  But, NASCAR doesn’t want a big fat mess either.

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Forrest Lucas, CEO of Lucas Oil Company, has been a PBR Sponsor for a long time, he owns a pen of top bucking bulls himself – and a couple thousand head of fine Missouri cattle, and he’s one of the biggest names in motorsports – Lucas Oil is cross-marketing with rodeo now – rodeo should be cross-marketing with NASCAR.  The door is open.

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What do the demographics and analytics say?  Frankly, that’s a question not often asked in rodeo.

One of the biggest challenges rodeo has chronically faced is making big decisions generally with a total lack of data.  Cowboys tend to operate on gut-feelings, and that’s all fine and good, only the boys with the big checkbooks don’t do things that way.  They don’t “wing-it”.  And they don’t invest in people who do.

Not that it’s scientific but I can tell you from working with focus groups within the advertising community for 25 years, this is pretty solid information.  Curious to know whether rodeo audiences were attending a rodeo to see cowboys they knew or celebrity cowboys, I personally took a little unscientific, unstructured survey at the 2014 at the National Western Stock Show.

I stood in front of the Denver Coliseum after one of the rodeo performances and I asked 100 people, “Can you tell me the name of any rodeo contestant you just watched?”

Two said, “Charmayne James”, one said, “Ty Murray”.  Neither of whom of course have competed in Denver in more than a decade.  The other 97 couldn’t name a single cowboy they’d paid their money to watch.  Not one.

According to my little survey, the answer is… the ticket buyer is going to see a rodeo.

Ty Murray said in his book, “King of the Cowboys”, “rodeo is like a traveling circus coming to town.”

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Except for the National Finals Rodeo, which is an audience comprised of “the choir” people buy tickets to see the circus, not to see a “famous” circus performer.  That can change with the advent of corporate rodeo, that should change – and while there are certainly tens of thousands of rodeo fans who can recite every big name cowboy or cowgirl in the book, by and large, the average guy with a box of popcorn in his lap watching a rodeo has absolutely no clue who, or often even what, he is watching.

The point is… in the world of rodeo, numbers, information, facts, demographics and analytics are rarely part of the equation.  And they should be.  They need to be.

Even simple demographic facts matter:

  • The population is getting older. About 1/3 of the country is now 60 years old or older.  1/3 of the nation’s population that were potential ticket buyers 20 years ago, aren’t buying tickets now. This makes television more important than ever before.  Fans from the Larry Mahan era don’t go to many rodeos anymore.  The people from the Ty Murray era are now turning 50 years old.  The Trevor Brazile era still buys tickets and rodeo “stuff”.  And the Fallon Taylor era, which is just beginning, I’m guessing, will reshape “marketing” for many top contestants savvy enough to take advantage of their status while they have status to cash in on.
  • American’s have less discretionary spending money than they’ve had in the past 20 years.  Which means rodeo is competing with other “events” for fans with fewer dollars to spread around.  The upside?  Even the priciest rodeo ticket is modest when compared to any mainstream sports ticket.  As ticket prices go – rodeo is very competitive and well positioned.
  • More people compete in rodeo and spin-off events than ever before.  Whether its weekend barrel racing or a jackpot team roping or a regional team-penning, more people saddle-up a horse and pay an entry fee than at any time in history.
  • More people are promoting rodeos and spin-off events than ever before.  There is only room for so many – if the NFL expanded to 100 teams, it would crush the sport.

Corporation, network television and cross-marketing have to be the focus if rodeo is to grow

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Rodeo cannot become a mainstream, mega-dollar sport until it becomes popular on the same playing field that the mainstream sports appear on.

We have to quit accepting that rodeo deserves no better than some back channel at 11:00 at night.  And that’s exactly what rodeo’s television exposure has been for 30 years.  “Finding Bigfoot” draws more viewers than the sport of professional rodeo on television.  Friends, that is pathetic.  P-A-T-H-E-T-I-C.

I have talked with executives from ESPN about rodeo – they’re open to it, they’re open to any sport that gets them ratings.

But, television executives have two problems with the whole sport of rodeo – (1) the presentation (2) dealing with it organizationally and logistically.

Who do they deal with?  The PRCA?  The ERA?  The IRA?  The big independent rodeos individually?  They know who to deal with at NASCAR.  And when they deal with them, NASCAR speaks for all of NASCAR.  Not the case with rodeo.

And THAT is just killing rodeo.

I promise you this – if THAT doesn’t get resolved, and soon, there will never be mainstream rodeo.

Rodeo has made itself IMPOSSIBLE for television people to work with.  And we need them a hell of a lot more than they need us.  Also true of the big corporate brands.  They aren’t looking for problems or egos, they’re looking for consumers.  And if “Finding Bigfoot” can deliver those consumers – “Finding Bigfoot” will get the air time.

The more rodeo fragments itself into to tribes, the more obstacles it creates for itself.  Instead of being one brand, rodeo is, because of division, is a dozen less significant brands – and less significance is not what rodeo needs to be if it’s seeking mainstream attention and the money that comes along with it.

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Rodeo, and rodeo people, are going to have to focus on improving its visual presentation and becoming a single-voice resource before any major network will open its programming.

That is a fact.  A literal fact and it won’t change.

Rodeo doesn’t need more exposure on small cable networks, and no offense to anyone – it needs a two season, prime-time commitment on ESPN, NBC, CBS or ABC and that should be the collective goal.

If rodeo doesn’t break-through to mainstream in two years’ time – so be it.  I have a feeling it will.

And if it does, everything changes – sponsor money will come out of the woodwork, and not just from ag-oriented marketers.  Mainstream is mainstream – advertisers and sponsors of all makes, models and descriptions will be on rodeo’s doorstep. Lined-up with their checkbooks in hand.

The big money at The American can become common place as more and more corporately sponsored rodeos emerge – 30 weekends a year there could be big money corporate rodeos, super-cowboy hospitality, entry fees waived – all of it better for rodeo, sponsors and cowboys/cowgirls who want to earn big dollar sponsorships and market their own version of tie-dye jeans.

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Rodeo, as a sport, has some decisions to make.  If collectively made right rodeo has a remarkable future, if no decisions are reached, if it just continues down the same old clumsy path, 10 years from now I’ll be getting up at midnight to watch the National Finals, like I have been for the last 30 years.

There is no shortage of money IF rodeo can deliver an audience – and given the chance, I believe rodeo can.

I think rodeo has earned it’s place at the table, don’t you?


Where there is no vision, the people perish.”  1st Samuel 3:1.

©Copyright 2015. Real American Cowboy Magazine.  All Right Reserved.

Cover photo courtesy Sean Halverson.


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Charlie Nicks grew up on a cow-calf operation in beautiful Western Montana.  He worked for more than a decade as a full-time working cowboy and learned to write on winter nights in a delapidated bunkhouse by the light of a wood-stove.

Before launching Real American Cowboy Magazine in March 2013, now among the leading cowboy and Western lifestyle publications in the world with more than 400,000 Facebook Fans, he worked professionally as an advertising and marketing executive and served many years as the CEO of a mid-sized Denver advertising agency.

Today, Real American Cowboy Magazine and Charlie Nicks directly and indirectly provide sponsorships and sponsorship opportunities to more than 30 rodeo cowboys and cowgirls all across the U.S.


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Montana Barrel Daze, An American Qualifier

Meg Stanley of Real American Cowboy Magazine

Pretty women, fast horses, and red, white and blue were all the rage at The Cottonwood Equestrian Center in Silesia MT. It was home to the 7th qualifier for RFDTV’s The American Semifinals in conjunction with ever popular Montana Barrel Daze.

Just last March, the world witnessed the inaugural RFDTV’s The American and since that day the momentum skyrocketed with competitors wanting their shot at the million dollars.  The interest snowballed into more semi-final qualifying events. One of those added happened to be Montana Barrel Daze.

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Lana Tibbetts of Terry, MT is not only an accomplished barrel racer but is also known for putting together world class events.  Montana Barrel Daze and this American qualifier were no exceptions. This year’s two day event is among the biggest and best paying race in the North West for barrel racers.  Tibbetts and Cottonwood put in countless hours preparing the race making sure it went off smoothly and safely for all of the competitors.

Clad in patriotic decorations, the arena was buzzing with energy and anticipation from spectators and contestants alike.  In true western fashion, the race started off with a salute to our nation’s flag and a prayer that raised goose bumps and stirred emotion throughout the complex.

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Like she was shot out of a cannon, Cayla Melby riding LZK Dashus Valentine made a blazing first run of a 14.884.  Historically, low 15 second runs will pull a check in this pen, but that would not be the case this qualifier.  When the dust settled at the end of the race, her run would be the last qualifying hole.

To say that this qualifier was tough is an understatement.  The ground was incredibly fast that day with most of the runs clocking in the 14.9 to 15.2 second range.  At least the jockeys that could keep all three barrels up had fast runs.  The third barrel turned out to be the graveyard for many of the qualifier hopefuls, and names that have become synonymous with barrel racing championships did not make the qualifying cut. Both world champions Brittany Pozzi and Lindsay Sears failed to make the cut off.

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Success came again for a young barrel racer coming fresh off her qualifying run in Loveland, CO.  Cassidy Kruse of Gillette, WY took second place honors with a 16.834 on her horse JKR Assured to Win in Loveland.  With that qualification already under her belt, she saved her other horse Dash To Tim for a pen that she knew he would excel at.

“He does well in big pens, but I knew that Cottonwood is more his style,” said Kruse.  That statement is proof that she knows her horse, because she clocked a 14.730, putting her in third place.

It was a twist of fate considering Kruse was thinking about selling Dash To Tim not that very long ago.

“I just couldn’t figure him out, and we weren’t making very good runs,” but when her parents said sell him, she felt like she couldn’t give up on him and kept pushing to be successful with him.  Putting in that extra time paid off, “…ever since we figured it out, it’s been great…he gives me 110% every time,” she said with a smile.

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Her parents along with her whole family are a tremendous support system for Kruse considering her barrel racing career hasn’t always been this bright. When Kruse went to college in Texas on a rodeo scholarship, her coach told her that she would only ever be a third string barrel racer at best.

“At first, that really shook me…I thought I was out of my league,” explained Kruse, “but with the support of my family it only drove me to strive towards my goals.” She knows she has the talent, drive, and the horse power to be a champion.  Two American qualifications of blazing fast runs are a far cry from third string.

Last year was her rookie year in the WPRA, and she had little success. She is hoping that her American push will spiral into her rodeo career.  Like most young barrel racers, she has always had the dream of running in the “bright lights of Vegas”.  Right now she is going to take it one rodeo at a time and looks forward to the semi-finals.

“I am going there for my horses; I am not running to be faster than anybody else. I am going to make the best possible runs on my horses and beat my own times.”

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That sentiment was true of another barrel racer at Cottonwood.  Kathy Grimes is the current arena record holder there and came back to defend her title.  Though she didn’t break her record, she did however put down a smooth and speedy run of 14.667 on her record holding horse KG Justiceweexpected.  Her run came out on top to win the qualifier by just 2 one hundredths of a second.

Other qualifiers included futurity veterans Kelly Conrado and Megan Lewis and the Montana favorite and NFR qualifier Shelley Anzick on her great horse Scooten Ta Fame.

Anzick is no stranger to the American, as she made it all the way to the final round but had heartbreak with a tipped barrel.  This year she is coming back all business and laid down a 14.796 that put her comfortably in 6th place.

Sunday’s qualifier proved to be an incredibly tight race and some of the most exciting barrel racing Montana has seen.  It is uncertain which barrel racer will win come March, but with only 2 tenths separating this qualifying field, there will be no room for error to be the next RFDTV’s The American Champion.

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The American will be held March 1, 2015 at ATT Stadium in Arlington, Texas, for more information contact


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Charlie Nicks of Real American Cowboy Magazine

So it’s a brand new year.  The time a lot of us evaluate our lives, set new goals, give ourselves a kick in fanny and make resolutions.  A really good time for an inspiring story about a truly inspiring person.

And this is such a story – a story about a little cowgirl from a little town who happened to have an extraordinarily big dream when she was small and how two decades later, she’s made it come true.

Moriarty, New Mexico is a small town in Torrance, County, New Mexico, less than an hour east of Albuquerque, a world away from pretension, happily quiet, a place where you can see all the stars at night.  It is also the hometown of Western actress and model Bobbi Jeen Olson.

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According to the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau 1,836 people live there – of course that’s now – when Bobbi Jeen Olson grew-up, Moriarty was probably half that population.  One stop light, one movie theater, one high school – home of the Moriarty Fighting Pintos – an agriculturally under-pinned community replete with the unique nature that both blesses and plagues small town communities.  It was a good place to grow up.

From the time she was just a kid, Bobbi Jeen saw herself one day growing up to be an actress.   What she didn’t know then is that Hollywood is full of girls from towns like Moriarty, New Mexico who for the most part arrive unprepared and naïve when it comes to dealing with the cold and often unauthentic realities of California’s silver-screen culture.

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Bobbi Jeen was raised an Ag kid, active in FFA, numerous 4-H projects under her belt.  She graduated from Moriarty High School in 1991, worked some local jobs and served as Torrance County New Mexico’s Rodeo Queen in 1995-1996.  In 1997, overwhelmed with pursuing her dreams, she packed her bags and took a leap of faith heading to Los Angeles, California.

Bobbi Jeen wouldn’t return again to live life in the community that lent her the sound personal constitution she carries so steadfastly today.  A lot of kids that grow up in small towns dream about “bright lights” and a lot of those kids move to big cities and live for years with the bittersweet dilemma of going home again.  But Bobbi Jeen wasn’t chasing bright lights; she was instinctually satisfying a drive, perhaps a God Given drive, one she woke up with each morning, she was chasing the mental pictures she saw in her mind.

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Hollywood can be a harsh and unfriendly environment and a curt introduction to the brutally manipulated world of would be actors and actresses new to town.  The culture clash, the attempt to mix small town New Mexico with the sophisticated social-dynamics of Southern California, soon enough resulted in Bobbi Jeen recognizing that she needed to find another way to develop her acting and modeling career.   She decided California wasn’t the match she’d hoped it would be and she returned to New Mexico where she attended acting, drama and modeling classes.


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In time, the former nationally-ranked World Series of Team Roping header, Torrance County Rodeo Queen, 4-H’r, FFA Member and small town girl poster child began to land acting and modeling jobs that were a better fit – modeling Western clothes, appearing on the covers of Western magazines, playing roles in Western movies.  She decided it was time to put down roots and after a lot of soul-searching, she decided to move to Stanfield, Arizona – south of Phoenix.

And, according to plan, Bobbi Jeen did put down roots; she got married, had a son, Rowdy, now 14, bought property and started a business.   She and her husband Jim, a Western author, own & operate the Western Trading Post a world-class Western Trading Post-Pawn Store, specializing in Western & Native American items in Casa Grande,

You may see Bobbi Jeen in a magazine ad wearing an expensive bracelet or necklace or earrings – you may see her riding a horse full tilt with a pistol blazing in a movie – you may see her signing autographs at a cowboy gathering, rodeo or livestock show.  You may even see her behind a jewelry case at their family Trading Post.  Bobbi is a lady in motion.

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Today Bobbi Jeen Olson is a beautiful, distinguished, admired, successful, grounded, well known Actress and Model.  The foundation of her acting and modeling career has been successfully built and cemented.  Her cell phone contact list is full of important of numbers, she’s built her professional relationships right, she’s performed to the high expectations of directors, and colleagues and producers. She’s paid her dues and kept her end of the bargain, something they respect even in Hollywood.

Bobbi Jeen recognized that accentuating her skills with a horse, her authentic abilities riding and handling horses, could be the edge she needed when competing to be cast for a movie.  She is something of a modern day Annie Oakley, riding, shooting, jumping on run-away stage coaches and generally able to do anything a woman of the Wild West could do.  And that’s Bobbi Jeen; had she had been born 125 years ago she would surely have starred in Bill Cody’s Wild West Show.

At 41, it would appear things for Bobbi Jeen Olson couldn’t be going better.  She enjoys a happy family life rich with activity and health and happiness and prosperity.  Her career is solid and still blossoming – she’s on that fine line between “well known” and “famous”.

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As you can clearly see, Bobbi Jeen is a fitness nut.  At 5’6” and 115 pounds with shinny Auburn hair and just a shake of freckles accessorizing her photogenic face, she is, as they say, “a show stopper”.  On top of her enviable movie success, Bobbi Jeen does a surprising amount of commercial photography and runway modeling, Western or otherwise.

2014 was an especially good year for Bobbi Jeen; she had leading & supporting roles in 4 feature films, one of which was “Deadly Sanctuary” also starring Eric Roberts, Dean Cain & Daniel Baldwin. And you may even remember seeing her alongside Chuck Norris on Walker Texas Ranger!

To get to this level in a super-competitive career doing photo shoots, runway modeling, western movies, magazine covers and personal appearances is an accomplishment in and of itself.  To do it your way, on your own terms and in line with your own values is even a more impressive achievement.

But, it’s even more remarkable when you consider, Bobbi Jeen Olson has a detached retina and can’t see out of one eye.

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When she was 17, she and “Old Man Carl” – a local cow man Bobbi Jeen befriended as a girl and someone who still occupies a very special place in her heart, were loading cattle at the sale barn in Belen, NM.  They had separated a cow and a calf, the cow took exception, decided to fight, jumped a gate, knocked down a fence and attacked the teenager breaking her nose, eye socket and leaving her knocked out in the corral.  Much later, in fact not until 2013, would she learn about the damage to her retina.

“My eye (retina) detached for the first time in August 2013, then again in April 2014, resulting in a Total Eye Repair surgery and I have had 4 surgeries since then to repair it with hardly any sight,” she explains.

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Eye injuries very often result in the victim suffering a lifetime of at least partial isolation, when you can’t see you tend to limit activities as opposed to chasing dreams.

Very little and often no sight out of one eye makes for a difficult situation when you’re talking about riding a horse at an all-out run shooting a gun, hopping on a run-away stagecoach or even walking in high heels down a runway in an expensive dress.

Bobbi will soon undergo yet more medical treatment to reattach the injured retina, hopefully having a miracle happen but prepared for anything in front of her.

The life Bobbi Jeen has created for herself may or may not be the exact picture she carried in her mind as little girl, which would not be at all unusual.  When you set a goal, when you write it down and make a commitment to achieving it, you can only see so far down the road.

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But people like Bobbi Jeen, people who have made a commitment to their own success, have learned, if you’ll go down that road as far as you can see, you’ll be able to see farther.

Achieving goals requires long term commitment, re-direction and modification and allowances for all kinds of things and situations.  Bad eyes included.  Divorces included.  Illnesses included.  Financial collapse included.  Bad weather included. Past failures included.

We all have our issues, we all have our challenges, our reasons, our excuses; winners learn to work around them, overcome them and to succeed in spite of them.

So when you admire the glamourous Bobbi Jeen Olson on the cover of a magazine or in a movie or walking confidently down a runway respect what she’s overcome to get there.

It’s really quite incredible.  She’s really quite incredible.  And she believes everyone can be incredible too.

You can reach Bobbi Jeen personally at: and visit Bobbi Jeen’s website at

©Copyright 2105 Real American Cowboy Magazine.  All Rights Reserved.

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Filling Dad’s Legendary Boots

Shannon Cole of Real American Cowboy Magazine

Some cowboy legends seem like myths because the memories remembered or the stories told are portrayed so deeply.

Born on October 2, 1948 in Biloxi, Mississippi, Chris LeDoux was loved by many; sadly his life was taken home to the Lord on March 9, 2005 in Casper, Wyoming by a rare form of cancer at a young age of 56.

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Growing up with a father who was an Air force Pilot, LeDoux traveled the world with his family when he was just a boy. He dreamed of being a rodeo champ one day, he looked up to rodeo stars and sang along with Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings. Later, as his success began to grow, he was lead to follow his heart in country music and rodeo. There, he found who he was; a tough cowboy and a talented country artist.

His many poems became the lyrics to some of his most remembered songs we know and love today. Cowboys and rodeo fans would buy his 8 tracks he sold off the back of his tailgate. Ledoux’s passion for rodeo reflected in his music, songs like “8 Second Ride” or “Look at you girl” became some of our all time favorites. His music captured the spirit of the American West and the hearts of millions of faithful fans that were wowed at every concert he played. LeDoux even played the Grand Ol’ Opry in Nashville.

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Long before his music career, LeDoux began competing in junior rodeos in Texas when he was just a Buckaroo barely in boots. The seriousness of this young man leads him to believe that he would become a world champ and a well known rodeo cowboy. LeDoux won the world title in bareback riding in 1976. His titles earned him four qualified rides to the National Finals Rodeo. After numerous wins, awards and dedication, he was inducted into the Rodeo Hall Of Fame in 2005. LeDoux once said “The road to Heaven is a hell of a ride.”

Back on the ranch in Wyoming, LeDoux’s home is filled with priceless photographs hung on the walls, saddles, worn out chaps and gold buckles that glisten from the soft light in the room where his fame is displayed. His gentle spirit brings his family comfort and beloved memories of their life together.

Despite being famous; LeDoux was very well grounded, naturally gifted and knew his heart belonged in Wyoming where the roots grew deep. LeDoux’s music career brought him fame and recognition outside the rodeo world. He retired his warn out leather chaps in the early 80’s to focus on home, ranching and his musical journey.

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LeDoux lived a blessed life, nestled quietly for many years on his family ranch in beautiful Kaycee, Wyoming with the love of his life, Peggy and his 5 precious children, Ned, Clay, Will, Beau and Cindi. He taught each one of them to believe in their dreams, to treat other’s the way they want to be treated and to lead by example.

Home was where is heart was when he was on the road; LeDoux was a true family man, a hero to his children and a blessing to his wife. The small community of Kaycee, Wyoming welcomed him as if he was one of their own. Down at the local diner, they talked about the price of cattle over the next rock and roll rodeo show. While the family sometimes traveled with him, he felt most comfortable at home gathered around talking to his children about how their day went at school. Sports played a big part in their lives and he was always interested in how well they played. “Above all my achievements, I want to be known as a good family man.” His son, Ned says proudly, “And he was.”

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Recently, I sat down with one of Chris’s sons, Ned LeDoux. He shared some heartwarming stories, timeless memories from childhood and how he carries on his father’s legacy in his own life today. With a family of his own, Ned and his beautiful wife Morgan are tucked back along the countryside with their sweet boy Bronson. LeDoux began playing drums at age 5 and with musical inspirations he quickly learned he was gifted, he continued to play drums until the first time he discovered his voice at age 36. He would sneak up on stage and sing his favorite song, “Rodeo Man” as a tribute to his father, shortly after he passed. Inspired by the music of Chris LeDoux, Ned joined his father’s band “Western Underground.”

To honor a great American icon, the band would carry on the musical spirit of LeDoux. When I asked Ned what his greatest fear was, he replied “Getting up in front of an audience, but it wasn’t too long before I realized, “People want to hear me sing, it makes me feel proud to sing my father’s songs.” Ned remembers some of the last words his father said “Play all the shows with your best, give it your all son.” One song that spoke straight to Ned’s heart was “Song of Wyoming”, “It was like beautiful poetry.”

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Ned’s father set down a pretty good stone for his children, “I want to be just like him, if I end up being half the man, I’m good with that.” Say’s Ned.” “My father passed down good work ethic in all of his children and now I can pass it down to my own son Bronson, to achieve, work for it and to dream big, become who you are meant to be.”

One year, the boys and their dad built a barn. They would sing along to oldies but goodies and build miles and miles of fence. One of the things he remembers hearing was “If I need your help, I’ll holler!” There’s nothing like a good honest day of work. When I asked Ned what he missed the most he replied quietly “I miss his handshake, I really miss his handshake.” “Sometimes I would find my father sitting alone in his truck or out in the barn singing, those are some of my best memories.”

It’s Christmas time in Wyoming at the LeDoux ranch. Winters are cold and frosty; Grandmother’s gifts are beautifully wrapped with love under the tree, Christmas music playing quietly in the background and Grandchildren are snuggled in soft footed pajamas enjoying hot coco and buttered popcorn. The smell of pot roast and fresh baked pies fills the room. Family is gathered around laughing and sharing priceless childhood memories when their dad was home. When I asked Ned what his favorite childhood memory was, he said, “Our family tradition was going into Wyoming’s Big Horn Mountains, stomping through deep snow, cutting down our Christmas tree and bringing it home.”

“There were so many treasured Christmas memories growing up with dad, LeDoux says, but this one was one of my favorites. When I was only 6 years old my father said “Let’s go out to the barn son, I got something to show you.” “Being a young boy, I brought my cap pistol Santa brought me and followed dad to the barn. There behind the old barn doors stood my very first horse wrapped in a big red ribbon! Those are special moments shared with my dad that I will cherish in my heart forever.”

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When we lose a loved one, we sometimes wish we had said what was in our hearts before they go home to be with sweet Jesus. I asked Ned, “If you could send your father a message in heaven, what would it be?” It got real quiet, and then he said “I know you’re up there looking down, proud of who I’ve become, carrying on in your honor, singing the songs that you loved and wrote straight from your cowboy heart, being a good father to my son Bronson, a strong loving husband to my wife, I learned from you dad, to be a man.”

Faith in God includes Faith in His timing and Ned said, “I believe God needed a pretty good ranch hand.” LeDoux said it best when he sang “God must be a Cowboy”.

And in the end, a great American Author Louis L’Amour once said, “No memory is ever alone; it’s at the end of a trail of memories, a dozen trails that each have their own associations.”

©Copyright 2014 Real American Cowboy Magazine. All Rights Reserved.


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Shannon Cole for Real American Cowboy Magazine

Before the rooster crows, Colorado ranch wife and mother of three little ones, Laurie Schmidt, quietly wakes to bless her family with a hot, hearty breakfast before the long day on horseback begins. As the sunrise comes slowly over the snow dressed mountains, the children wake to the smell of fresh biscuits and gravy and hurry to the kitchen. The youngest boy, Duke yells out “Momma made biscuits!”

“Children,” a wise man by the name of Maltbie Babcock once said, “We have hard work to do, and loads to lift; Shun not the struggle, face it; ‘tis God’s gift.”

A devout woman of faith, Laurie took the reins of raising 3 small children; with grace and determination. Laurie shares her heartwarming story of her life as a ranch wife and mother to all.

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Winters can be bitter cold in the high country of Colorado. The children are dressed in long underwear, soft flannel shirts, wool socks, wranglers and handmade scarves by Grandmother, each wrapped with love. On the way out the door, they slip on cowboy boots and grab the straw hats Granddad gave of them with last Christmas. With temperatures in the low 20’s and frost on the ground, they are bundled and ready for the long day ahead. After a hard day’s work, Laurie says proudly, “Watching and guiding my children as their love and passion for this way of life grows takes my breath away, they truly care for the animals.”

Destry, Laurie’s oldest boy, leads his siblings to the barn to saddle the horses. Duke, the youngest, he just tags along with his big brother, trusting him every step of the way and learns courage by facing his fears, ready or not.

Laurie’s daughter, Talynn, she is all cowgirl and when she’s not riding her horse “Wildfire” or giving shots at brandings, she loves to spend time cooking for the crew with her mama. “Watching, as my children are there for each other amazes me, they look after Duke, teach him to ride and keep him safe throughout the day.”

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When I asked Laurie what she loved most about being a ranch mom, she replied, “My children truly are a blessing.” “Many times, just listening to them causes me to be humble, I think I’ve learned, sometimes it’s more important to “hobble my lip” and hear what they have to say, rather than me preaching to them.”

“I love seeing my children grow, as Talynn becomes a good hand and helping me cook, Dukes awareness of what we do and hunting his dad down to help wrestle a calf, Destry heeling during brandings and now helping us shoe the horses, at the end of a long day, the children have sleepy eyes and dirty hands, so often too tired to bathe, I watch as they fall asleep peacefully.”

The family often moves from ranch to ranch, forged ahead into some of nature’s most harrowing challenges. They do their best to survive along the way, until they are settled safely. Laurie has many treasured memories and she explains, “It’s not what state or ranch we are on, but what’s in our heart, we don’t do it for the money or the county, we do it because we love it and are passionate about this lifestyle.” As James R. Lowell once said, “Endurance is the crowning quality and patience all the passion of great hearts.”

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Laurie’s deep love for ranching will never fade. The smell of wet saddle blankets and burning hair during brandings, shipping and receiving cattle or just being there to help birth a troubled calf. Watching from a distance, as her children learn “tricks of the trade”, comforts her warmly inside. Some days, riding alone on her horse “Buck”, she quietly spends intimate time with “The Creator of Heaven and Earth.”

Growing up on ranches, Laurie’s little girl, Talynn has become quite a responsible hand. She is blessed each day with a good horse named “Wildfire” and even though this little cowgirl’s been bucked, sure enough she climbed right back in that saddle! I asked Talynn what makes her feel proud and she responded with a sweet smile “I’m proud of myself for becoming a better rider and a good hand to those who need me”.

“My favorite memory is driving the team, feeding the elk in the winter with my father.”  Young, determined and a born natural with a cowgirl heart, she has big dreams of riding on her own ranch someday. She is fearless, bold and has guts and she is up to the challenge. She looks up to the famous cowgirls who, in her eyes are role models. Her kindred spirit is creative and vibrant and at the end of each day, she knows she’s done right with the gift God gave her.

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Duke was born with a cowboy spirit. When he’s not riding his old pony “Pinion”, you might find him kickin’ a cow pie or splashing in the mud hole on warm summer days! On cold wintery mornings, he’s dressed in tiny wranglers, wool socks, the scarf Grandmother made, a chunky warm sweater, leather chaps, boots and he never leaves home without his cowboy hat! Duke is ready for a day in the saddle with his papa. As one of the old cowboy codes reads, “Learn all you can and cultivate wisdom,” and for this little cowboy, as his passion for this lifestyle grows each day, he experiences different challenges and begins to know the cowboy part of him.

Growing up a fine young man, Destry is becoming who he is meant to be. Independent and wise, he is grows confident in his journey. The boy loves to rope and ride! Saddled up on his horse “Easy”, Destry enjoys moving cows across the land with his family; it teaches him the importance of this lifestyle and what it really means.

Starting at a very young age, Destry was taught to respect the land and animals. Brave and courageous, he rides mini bulls with no fear; Destry is inspired by famous bull rider, Lane Frost and hopes to be as good as him one day.

Spending time with his father is what makes Destry want to work hard; watching him work from sun up until sundown merely to provide for his family makes him feel loved and very proud to call him dad. He dreams of becoming a devoted cowboy like him when he grows up. Destry cherishes long rides alone with his dad, so they can share memories that last a lifetime. Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best “We find in life exactly what we put into it.”

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Being a ranch wife is more than tending to a family and housework between brandings.  Laurie is blessed with good hands, her children and her dedicated husband Johnny, some call him “Hondo”. “I couldn’t imagine any greater gift than riding side by side with the love of my life, watching my husband passionately care for the wellbeing of livestock, the being there to encourage and edify during hard times.”

Laurie is passionate about this lifestyle and feels humbled that God trusts and gave her such a tremendous about of responsibility. Beautiful words by a cowgirls heart came from May Sarton, “A woman’s work is always toward wholeness.”

This cowboy’s honor leads the way, a faithful husband, dedicated father. “My love for ranching began at the first moment I was on a big ranch; I was very young breaking horses for the Taos Pueblo Indian Reservation. Moving around to different ranches, I quickly learned all I could from all the hands. Some more wise than others, they were proud to share cowboy wisdom that may have been stored in their war bag of memories we call a “mind.”

Raising a family on a ranch, teaching his children to be respectful, hardworking and hopeful, Johnny would love for his children to be the best they can be.  “They have watched my mistakes and learned to figure their own way out.” “My children see what I miss, hear what I can’t, they speak so much better than I did, my hopes are limitless for them.”

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The stillness and silence on the trail quiets the mind. “When I’m out riding my horse “Cruiser” I often think about if I am doing the best for the cattle and the horses, I ride for my wife and for my family.”

After long journeys together, everlasting adventures and their fascination with the authentic cowboy culture, the Schmidt family, who live each day with gratitude, faith and devotion, will stay forever loyal to one another.

An English author by the name of “Eliza Cook” said it beautifully when she said “There’s a magical tie to the land of our home, which the heart cannot break, though footsteps may roam.”

©Copyright 2014 Real American Cowboy Magazine. All Rights Reserved.


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Thomas Fuller Cover Final


Brooke A. Johnston for Real American Cowboy Magazine


Real American Cowboy Magazine is very fortunate to bring you not only this amazing story at Christmas time, but also for the opportunity we can present to our readers to be able to access some of the most extraordinary Western art produced by Thomas Fuller, among the most valued Western artists in the world.

His original oil paints sell for as much as $60,000.00, but what we’re so excited about is this:  Through an exclusive agreement with his agent, you can obtain this unbelievably beautiful work in the form of a limited edition, signed and numbered print at a price anyone who truly loves and would gladly pay to enjoy it.

These are the only two of his works available: 


11.5” tall, 32” wide – only 24 of 50 Limited Edition Prints are being offered.  $125.00 Each (plus shipping)

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11.5” tall x 26 1/8” wide – only 30 of these are being offered. $125.00 Each (Plus shipping)

You can purchase these fine prints and see more of Mr. Fuller’s work at:

Real American Cowboy Magazine is not compensated for any art purchase you might decide to make after viewing this exceptional work, we simply love his work and are grateful for the opportunity to offer it to our readers; in fact, we purchased the very first print.  Whether you brighten up your Christmas gift list by ordering one or more of these remarkable prints or not, we hope you enjoy Thomas Fuller’s work as much as we have.  And Merry Christmas.

-Charlie Nicks, Publisher/Managing Editor / Real American Cowboy Magazine


And now for the story…

For Thomas Fuller, passion is the driving force behind every successful masterpiece. With the correct mixture of passion, hard work, focus, and talent, he continually finds himself crossing the threshold between cowboy and artist. The overlay of space between these two worlds is what leads Fuller to create some of the most realistic and culturally relevant pieces of Western art available today.

On July 10th, 2013, the naturally talented Thomas Fuller sat for a one on one interview in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Throughout the course of discussion, this contemporary oil painter’s overwhelming passion and character became the highlight of his visit.  For over two hours, Fuller took the time to be candid about the driving forces behind his paintings, and the ideals he works to preserve.

As a proud native of Wichita, Kansas, Fuller’s youth was filled with the integral morals and character that surround western culture. Born in 1958, Fuller still remembers the day his grandfather gave him his first pair of cowboy boots. The cowboy boots, hats, and horses that filled his youth sparked the need to capture the adventure and culture that was so prevalent in his life.  As he puts it, “The best I can explain, I was born to paint the West. I cannot imagine painting anything but those footprints.”

For many art collectors, cowboy enthusiasts, and equestrian aficionados, the fact that Thomas Fuller captures those footprints so authentically and accurately is what leads them to praise his work. Any individual appreciative of Western culture can be sure to know that the lifestyle of the West is safe in the interpretation of Fuller.  He put it perfectly saying, “It is my intention to preserve and promote the West in its greatest traditions. That’s the cowboy in me.” While Thomas Fuller preserves and promotes the West through his art, lovers of the West promote and purchase the pieces created by Thomas Fuller. This cycle of an artistic creator and consumer is almost as natural as the talents Thomas Fuller possesses.

When discussing his artwork, Fuller admits, “It isn’t something that I can describe as a hobby, or that it is even something that I have consciously decided to do. Painting is something that I wake up every day to do, and it’s not only what I do, it’s a part of me. ” There is no doubting that his work is an essential part of his everyday lifestyle. Fuller has to paint like he has to breathe. He states, “I wake up in the morning and I paint, I fall asleep and I paint, and I will do this until the day I die.”

Thomas Fuller, with all of his natural talent, is quite humble and introverted. He remembers hiding away from the rest of his family with his sketches as a shy young boy. After saving up enough of his allowance to buy a small easel, a small canvas, paintbrushes, and paints, Fuller had everything he needed to dive into the world of art. Allowed to paint on the dining room floor, next to a window in a small corner, Thomas Fuller began to experiment with his paintings.  He remembers propping up his canvases with a set of encyclopedias his mother had just bought, often being creative and resourceful for the sake of his artwork.  Eventually moving his workspace upstairs into his calming childhood bedroom, Fuller found that working in a quiet atmosphere helped him to create more efficiently. To this day Thomas Fuller tends to work alone in his studio, much like the quiet bedroom he used in his youth.

In the beginning stages of his growth as an artist, Fuller did a series of drawings of different types of animals. He reminisces, “I remember at that point they were as realistic as I could get. Unknowingly, my realism started to set in.” While he can see now what brought him to his current career as a professional artist, he is quick to state, “I would not have known that I was going to pursue realistic art. In fact, I never really thought about the kind of artist I would be, or even that I would be an artist.” Fuller is truly a man who feels called to his art form.  Without the intention to pursue a career in art, the pursuance of an art education, or the specific need to categorize himself at a young age, Fuller still stands today as a professional oil painter.

Thomas Fuller was commissioned to paint “Hellenga’s Pride” as a Christmas present from a husband to his wife. He worked on this piece for four months from September to December.  On Christmas night he received a phone call from the woman who had received the gift, and whose horses had been painted in the piece. “She was crying, I was crying, it was a very emotional experience.” Shortly after the painting was finished, one of the horses depicted passed away. However, because of Thomas Fuller this horse’s spirit has become immortal, not only in the hearts of its owners, but also in an original oil painting that will last for generations.

As a man that sees his work as an external reflection of himself, perfection and attention to detail is essential to Thomas Fuller.  Every fiber of a horse’s face is important in the final picture. Standing before his latest piece, “El Caballo Bonito”, Thomas Fuller can still be seen looking for imperfections in his work. Of course not finding any, he just smiles and takes in his latest masterpiece. For Fuller the face of a horse can tell the story of its lifestyle and personality. “The scars and marks that are on a horse’s face are what make that specific horse unique.” Fuller ran across the subject of his latest piece when driving down a backwoods country road. With his wife in the vehicle, he had pulled over to look at a vibrantly contrasting horse in the middle of a pasture.  Fuller made contact with the owner and asked permission to photograph in order to paint. After permission was given, Fuller decided that the vibrantly beautiful horse that caused him to stop his vehicle would be his next subject. The effect the horse had on him is what led to the title of the piece being “El Caballo Bonito” translating to “The Pretty Horse” in Spanish.

Thomas Fuller’s artwork represents not only his passions, but also his heritage, childhood, culture, and character. To walk away from a piece that represents such monumental aspects of his personal life after seven months of patient and careful work is strenuous.  Fuller states, “When you finish it, after you work on a piece for so long, no matter if it’s commissioned or not, it becomes so much a part of you,” he continues, “ Once you are done with it, then you are done. All of the sudden there is this separation, and you have to let it go and move on to something else. For me, it’s that gap between finishing a piece and starting something else that is the hardest part.” Fuller ties this connection in with the fact that art is everything he is. He exemplifies this, “I’m a guy who admits that art is everything I have got, and is everything I am.  Not necessarily art in a broad sense, but particularly my paintings.”

Thomas Fuller’s artwork cannot be compared to any of his contemporaries. Having never attended art school, or received any formal training, Thomas Fuller has a style of his own. He attributes his unique abilities to his trial and error style of learning his art form.  Fuller explains, “I didn’t go to art school, nor have I had any professional training. I don’t feel like this has hindered me though, because by never being taught to paint in a particular way, I found my own artistic voice. Every stroke of my paintbrush is uniquely and completely my own.” Many are appreciative of the fact that Thomas Fuller has his own artistic personality, whether they are the owners of the horses he has captured, the possessor of the pieces he paints, or the observer who stands in awe in front of his photorealistic paintings.

For such passion and talent to be infused into one individual is a rare occurrence.  For that talent to be natural and untrained is an even further uncommon incidence. Often, it seems people in possession of such talent lean on their natural abilities to get them by. This is not so when dealing with Thomas Fuller’s artwork. Using his natural talents, Fuller also makes sure that he is researching and understanding the subjects of his piece. This includes every scratch, vein, and shade that is visible in his portrait. Fuller has spent years studying anatomy, and finds the anatomy of a horse very unique.  He finds himself intrigued by the landscape of a horse’s face, and states, “It is my belief that you have to paint the landscape of a horses face in order to create the aura of its personality. All of that is accumulated in its colors, in its hair, and every fiber in its face.” Fuller continues, “It’s the glimmer in its eyes, the shape of its hairs, the way it points its ears.” For Fuller, the ability to capture these aspects of a horse is necessary in order to fully capture his subjects.

As a man who feels as though he is living out his passion, Fuller believes that “Life has a way of coming full circle. If you don’t do what is inside you, what you want to do, you’re going to end up doing it anyhow.” With such an insightful statement, Fuller went on, “You may try to make it work, doing something else, but it will never feel right.”  Fuller’s understanding when viewing life is perhaps another reason that many are drawn to his work.  By being able to understand his own life’s calling, he is able to understand and relate to the emotional connection of each horse, scene, and story he captures. Through Fuller’s work, a moment in time becomes immortalized and captured in the eyes and hearts of the observer.

There was a time when Fuller had no interest in selling his artwork. He would paint because, in his own words, his “paintings [were] an external reflection of who [he] is”. Working out of a community art center in St. Joseph, Michigan, Thomas Fuller came upon a stroke of luck. It just so happened that Bob Tol, the president of an online gallery for fine art and furnishings, was walking through the building. Coming across Fuller’s work, Tol promised to give Fuller a call in six weeks. Fuller, unaware of who Tol was, nonchalantly handed over his phone number, and continued painting.  Six weeks later, as promised, Bob Tol called Fuller asking to have a meeting in his Grand Rapids office. Fuller laughs about it now, “He didn’t say who he was or anything. So when he called and asked if I wanted to come meet with him, I said no.” Shaking his head, Fuller continues, “Looking back now I laugh because, despite the confusion, it was the start of a really good friendship and business relationship.”

Fuller’s work is present in various locations throughout the United States. Currently one of these locations includes the Santa Fe Art Collector Gallery of Fine Art and Sculpture. In the past, Fuller’s work has been featured in the Arizona Fine Art Expo, as well as the ArtPrize competition in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Fuller’s main outlet for his work is through Bob Tol’s online art gallery David Layne Designs. Featured as one of David Layne Design’s exclusive artists, Thomas Fuller currently has thirteen pieces placed on the website.

As a man who is as intriguing as his artwork, Fuller’s personality in combination with his paintings shine through when in the room. Through his ingenious and creative approach to photorealistic oil painting, Thomas Fuller has captured the hearts of many western art lovers. He is, without a doubt, intrinsically a cowboy and an artist who finds himself constantly combining the aspects of both worlds. With a paintbrush untouched by the trends of artistic teachings, Fuller’s paintings are a timeless addition to any collection.

Visit Thomas Fuller’s website for more information, to purchase and to see more of his remarkable art.

©Copyright 2014 Corduroy Road, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Thank you to Brooke A. Johnston for sharing this fine article and to Bob Tol for considering our audience.  We appreciate it.


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elk cover 1


By Colt Kaufman for Real American Cowboy Magazine

The smell of smoke permeates the air, pitch black except for the bright orange and white glow coming from the camp fire, silent is the night other than the crisp explosive pops of the green wood burning with the cedar and oak piled onto the fire.  And the temperature is not cold but it is humid out with the front which has blown in whipping the fire into an occasional burst of embers into the night sky.

Camp is set, the chuck box is set up and the tents anchored down, there is restlessness in the air in the anticipation of tomorrow mornings big hunt.  Each wondering, will I see that monster buck, should I shoot a doe and just take home the good meat?

The camp chairs are out and it is time to choose a spot around the fire and share the comradery of generations of hunters who live for this each and every year, starting as soon as they are old enough and each year until we are too old to again gather at the camp fire.

Often the evening begins with a bourbon, ice cold beer, or hot cider and the conversation begins with the person who is closest to the lease or has been coming to set the feeders.  You should’ve seen, is almost always the beginning of the tale of the big buck, he was majestic and a Boone and Crocket by any standards, you just should’ve seen him, he came out not far from here along that canyon and he cut across and up that hill where the huge oak is, not 50 yards from the old blind!

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This tale goes along with rural folklore and emanates through the generations along with the legend of the Black Panther known to roam these parts and the 8 foot rattler which was in the blind, years back.  We old hunters listen as do the young for the story every year, it does not get old, and dates back to the Paleolithic drawing of our ancestors!

These tales of magnitude are important to the culture of the hunting environment, sometimes true but always embellished, what one cannot shoot before season or across the fence and of what one is told, is always bigger and better than the reality.

I mean really, do you want to sit by the fire and hear well I just saw an old doe walking across the road when I came to check the blinds? No this would never suffice!  The anticipation of the upcoming hunt heightens the senses of sight and sound especially when all one can do is to listen to another describe what they have seen.

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As the evening progresses the tales of the old days will become the focus of interest, especially for young and impressionable hunters on their first hunts.  They have yet to spend a freezing cold morning moist from the dew barely above freezing, attempting to keep your teeth from chattering so loud it can be heard from the next field over!  These truths are not discussed, because we old timers know this is coming in the still morning darkness, in just a few hours.  We love this part of the hunt as we have become seasoned and know what to expect, especially when it is to be a great hunt.

I’ve often told friends and young folk, and I know this to be true, the worst hunting experience you will ever have will be your best!  You will remember and embrace every minute of misery you went thru between the time you arrived at the hunting property until the time you are once again in the safety and comfort of human controlled environment!  These are the hunts to live for, for nothing else will make you feel more alive.

Hunting is not about going out to kill something at all, that is merely a bonus to bag and process meat for your future meals and dining pleasure.  Of course that is great and the ultimate outcome, but it is the commonality of being with friends and in the wild for the weekend, to live as our predecessors did to survive and provide for their family to live.  To Daniel Boone, he did not hunt for sport, he hunted to eat every day and to persevere and forge ahead to Texas where he would spend his final days.

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There is no other than the smell of that fire, the warmth provided by the embers glowing into the middle of the night before turning it in to sleep in that sleeping bag which you bought believing it would make you sleep like you were home in a king sized bed!  The warmth of the people and the sincerity of friends around enjoying the same.

There is nothing like hunting and camping out among the stars, or rain as sometimes the case may be, it is all part of the greatest experience life has to offer.  The accomplishment of the return with meat, stories of your own misfortune or outstanding results, cannot be replaced by going to the movie or reading on the computer.  It is to be an adventure, to be cherished each and every time you can go!

It is important to preserve this part of our culture and of the cowboy ways.  Those of us who have enjoyed the packing in on horseback and staying days on end to hunt, know there is no grander experience or connection to the American cowboy and hunter.  We pay homage to a great people, who traversed this land not by car or by plane from above, they foraged, hunted, fought and struggled to survive a live like no other here on the North American Continent.

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Cowboys traveled hundreds of miles along the great cattle trails, carrying only basic provisions and made do with what they had and could acquire.  This experience is to be handed from generation to generation, it will not be long before this is an extinct existence, even in history.  Many skills have already gone by the wayside, most hunters now days (admittedly myself included) don’t process their own deer, they take them to a processor who will for a fee, handle everything including labeling of the meat packages to put in your freezer.

The cowboy did not have this, what they killed was dressed, skinned, processed (a great deal of which was made into jerky for future meals which would not spoil) and eaten in camp and perhaps, in the very spot you are camping in yourself!

A tradition which has gone by the wayside, I’ve personally enjoyed, is in the first days of hunting having a smaller deer killed for camp meat, processed on site to eat while there for the duration of the hunt.  Food prepared over the campfire and goodies made in the cast iron cookware and Dutch Ovens.

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There is no better than the early morning smell of breakfast being cooked on the campfire coals with bread or beans cooked along with campfire Coffee.  It not only confirms that you are alive, but that you are alive and doing very well!  The smell of the mesquite, oak and cedar mixed with coffee and bacon absolutely makes for a breakfast like no other, one can enjoy!

Happy hunting, I hope you get that big buck coming up that canyon in the morning before he tops that hill and lives to see you again next season!  Both of you either little older and wiser, or meat in the freezer!

There are no bad hunting trips, only the ones you regret you could not take the time off to go on!

©Copyright 2014 Real American Cowboy Magazine.  All Rights Reserved.


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Charlie Nicks of Real American Cowboy Magazine

Idaho’s Magic Valley. Safely nestled in the high dessert country of south-central Idaho.  Probably as good a locator as any would be just to have you find Twin Falls on a map and draw a circle 50 miles wide around it.  Rupert.  Burley.  Gooding.  Jerome. Twin Falls and a half dozen tiny agricultural communities in the mix.  Nice communities all.

This is agriculture country – on steroids – and it’s full of people whose lives are lived mostly working outside, where you’ll see plastic roping steers in most backyards, potato trucks lined-up at local truck stops, Blue Heelers in the bed of most pick-ups and local summer rodeos that actually sell-out.

This is the country where Hali Stutzman, Miss Rodeo Idaho, was born and raised. The Snake River. Beef cattle.  Dairy cows.  Potatoes.  Cheese.  Pretty basic.  Pretty earthy. Pretty Idaho.  Precisely the kind of place where rodeo people tend to live.

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If you’re an everyday corn-dog eating, ticket-buying rodeo fan you already know the color, emotion and tradition rodeo queens bring to the “show”. It’s really not talked about enough.  Typically, it’s not talked about at all.  But, what rodeo queens contribute to the sport of rodeo is in many ways the solution to a widening static fan base.  The fact is rodeo fans “connect” with rodeo queens.

You might be surprised to learn that following bull riding, rodeo queens rank second in terms of being fans favorites in rodeo. A surprising A.C. Neilson statistical fact.

Rodeo has drastically changed over the past 20 years – the Larry Mahan generation has retired and they aren’t buying tickets anymore. The Ty Murray generation is getting older and not turning out in the numbers they once did.  Many active rodeo fans are younger.  And they are used to being entertained by the best of them – which puts rodeo in something of a strained position – the “show” has to get better and nobody seems to be coming up with many answers.

Another evolving phenomenon is that more people compete in rodeo, equine sports, racing, futurities and jack-pot events than ever before – contestant numbers are up, way up – but, very few rodeos could claim “sold-out” in 2014.

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The competitiveness forced on the higher echelon of rodeo cowboys and cowgirls has them showing-up at rodeos late; getting their run in and pushing to get back on the road so quickly that contestant parking lots often look like a new timed-event.

It’s just the nature of modern day big time rodeo. It’s as much a “race” as it is a “rodeo”.  It’s not a fault but it is coming with a price and that price is fan-detachment.

When you think about it, there’s very little inner-action between the rodeo contestant and the rodeo fan. Not many hand-shakes, not many personal “thanks-for-coming-out”, not many “we couldn’t do it without you” expressions of gratitude going on.  Fans don’t feel like they KNOW contestants.

NASCAR pays attention to fan-attachment. Country music stars fall all over themselves gushing fan appreciation.  The NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL devote millions of dollars every year connecting their athletes to their fans.  And, there is a reason they do.

The rodeo “queen” possesses one of the major keys to what kind of future rodeo has – fan relations. The savvy rodeo queens, the best rodeo queens, know their first job is to connect people to the sport of rodeo.

Rodeo fans are no different than football fans. You’ve seen a wide-receiver score a touchdown and jump into the crowd.  You’ve seen how the fans grab and hug and hold those athletes.  There is a gigantic desire on the part of all sports fans to FEEL CLOSE to the participant.

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That’s what makes them a “fan”.

And that attachment is never at a higher peak than during a rodeo when adrenaline is high and the action is taking place in an area.

Rodeo queens, the beautiful young women who are literally “trained” to be Ambassadors for the sport, are too often the only connection rodeo fans have with the sport on a personal basis. The best of them actually make time to meet and greet fans, sign autographs, tell jokes, high-five a few kids, and generally humanize the sport.

Buffalo Bill Cody, the greatest showman in the history of the West, would surely have agreed that the rodeo queen is a vital part of not only the performance but one of the foundations of the health of the sport. After all, the first “rodeo queen” appeared in his Wild West Show in the 1800’s.

Back to Hali Stutzman.

Over the years, 7 young ladies from Idaho have been named, “Miss Rodeo America”. Hali, like each of the 34 girls who will be competing for that title this year, hopes to be number 8.  And like each of the 34 contestants, she’s spent a lot of blood, sweat, toil and tears learning the trade.

Hali is 24. She was born in Twin Falls in 1989.  She graduated from Kimberly High School, another Magic Valley community.  Her first year of college was at Southern Idaho College in Twin Falls.  Then two years at Mesa Land Community College in Tucumcari, New Mexico, on a rodeo scholarship. An Associate’s Degree in Ag Business.  She returned to Idaho, representing the Gooding ProRodeo she qualified for the Miss Rodeo Idaho contest and in July 2013 was named, Miss Rodeo Idaho.

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Then the hard part. And it should be noted, Hali Stutzman is not the only rodeo queen who is doing “the hard part”.  The hour after hour after hour driving down the highway getting to events.  The dirty truck stops. The icy roads.  The rude hotel desk clerks.  Lots of events, including even some rodeos.  Actually, lots of rodeos.

So far, during her tenure as Miss Rodeo Idaho, Hali has logged over 40,000 miles. Most of it alone.  Her sole purpose – to professionally promote and serve as an Ambassador for the sport of rodeo.  And that she does.

Hali’s mother, Laura Stutzman, a reputation team roper herself and heavily involved with the Idaho Rodeo Hall of Fame, like the mother of most rodeo queens, well knows the training regimen that goes into becoming an effective rodeo queen. “It takes a family effort, it takes the dedication of an entire family… an entire community,” Laura says, “when someone from a small town makes it to the National Finals Rodeo, it’s a big thing in that town – a really big thing and these girls know and appreciate that.”

There are serious riding skills involved when you’re a rodeo queen. Very often when you see a rodeo queen dashing into an arena with a flag waiving proudly in the sky, she’s on a horse she’s never ridden before, sometimes on a horse who has never seen a flag before.  Riding skills can come in pretty handy about then.

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And rodeo queens, unlike bull riders, unlike team ropers, unlike barrel racers or anyone in rodeo other than a clown and an announcer have to “talk”.

They have to face crowds and talk about rodeo and livestock and tradition and the West. They have to face little kids who are under the ether just being close to them.  They have to face angry PETA supporters and explain the difference between Animals Rights and Animal Welfare – and if you’ve ever tried to explain that to an Animal Rights Activist, you know how much fun that can be.

They have to have some media skills – you just don’t sit down in front of a radio microphone or a television camera and “pull it off” without spending some time learning at least some of the finer points of broadcasting.

A rodeo queen can easily be on 2 local television shows, 2 radio shows, at an elementary school, at two high schools, 4 rodeos and committee functions… in 4 different communities… all in a week.

And buddy, they better look absolutely flawless at every single stop because nobody is scrutinized more closely than a dolled-up rodeo queen.

And the queen world is largely a “handmade” world; custom chaps, spotless custom hats, hand-sew clothes or hours with a blow dryer – the making of a rodeo queen takes a lot of hands that know what they’re doing.

But at the end of the day anyone who has ever sat in the grand stands on a nice summer night and listened to the booming voice of an electrified rodeo announcer talking about the things to come in tonight’s rodeo performance… anyone who has ever stood up and removed their hat and placed it over their heart… anyone who has ever seen two rodeo queens enter an arena presenting their local and state flags… anyone who has ever seen a stunning young woman on a beautiful spirited horse ride into an American rodeo arena hoisting the American flag and felt their heart swell with pride understands, fully understands, the very real emotional power rodeo queens deal with every day.

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That’s their job. That’s what they do.  And it’s not an easy job.

The good ones literally glue an audience to the sport of rodeo FOR LIFE. They create a very real, very significant and very lasting emotional link between the rodeo fan and rodeo itself.

A good rodeo queen is above all things an Ambassador of the sport of rodeo.

And Hali Stutzman fits that description, to the “t”.

We wish Hali Stutzman and the 33 other contestants the best of luck in the upcoming 2104 Miss Rodeo America competition.

©Copyright 2014 Real American Cowboy Magazine. All Rights Reserved.


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Cowboy Preacher Soul


Shannon Cole for Real American Cowboy Magazine

Nestled deep in the heart of cowboy country, an old weathered barn sits quietly. Surrounded by beautiful Aspen trees covered in vibrant orange and yellow’s of autumn.

The solace of quiet, where there is only the silent beauty of leaves falling. Horses snuggled in warm winter coats graze in the distance beyond cedar rail fencing.

Thick fog rolls in early morning and brings a bitter sweetness to the air as cowboys ride in by horseback wearing rugged wool shirts with a soft cotton bandana tied loosely around the neck, wranglers, boots and spurs.

Tipping his perfectly shaped Stetson to other riders, as they ride side by side. You can hear the saddles creaking as they ride up, you can see the breath of the horses and the dust from the hooves as they make their way.

The horses wait patiently, tied to the hitching post outside the barn. The sound of boots on the old wooden floor, the soft sound of western gospel music in the background and genuine handshakes that hold true meaning is worth more than gold to some.

Many arrive early to enjoy cowboy coffee and donuts off the Chuck Wagon. Children play and giggle in tall grass and proudly show off scars or tell stories about life as ranch kids. Wives gather to share treasured crock pot recipes they found in Grandmothers old hutch for winter cooking; while some sit alone, knitting thick scarves and soft mittens for the long cold days ahead and wait for the sermon to begin.

The elder folks sit back talking about the good old days, sharing stories of cherished childhood memories and of Great Granddaddy Butch, a man who loved the land and sky; a man who would gladly give to a stranger in need. They pass down the old cowboy spirit to their Grandchildren with love and respect. Keeping the faith in generations, they share the word’s they knew by heart “Our Father who art in Heaven.”

Cowboy church has been around a long time and has grown tremendously throughout our country. Today, there are people from all walks of life who hold a deep respect to our western heritage and have faith in our Creator.

Our traditional cowboy church is known for its rural setting and baptisms are done in a stock tank. Some believe you must be a cowboy to attend, it’s not so, come as you are. Be as you are and be who you are. So many people have disconnected in the past without even knowing why. Our ancestors, our Great Grandparents, they may have started what some have lost. God only knows.

Born and raised, faith for the working cowboy came naturally, simple, yet strong. When I spoke with founder and Pastor Kevin Weatherby of “Save the Cowboy.” He believes, “There’s no transition from cowboy to preacher, we can’t change who we are inside.” His faith in God and old fashioned values of the American Cowboy lead him to believe that once you have courage, honesty, respect, integrity, strength and truth, you will have Christ in your life.

Continuing tradition and preserving history is a way of life. The cowboy culture remains independent, straight forward with respect and honesty and it takes a certain type to be able to reach out to them. Cowboy Pastor, Brad Curtis, reminds us that “God doesn’t want to change who you are, he wants to change what you are.”

There are rodeo cowboys that come straight out of the chute and into the arms of the Lord. Sharing, listening and giving a hand in need to those who have been down rough trails, to those who suffer in anger with regret, but sometimes rough trails are great teachers. The enduring American icon – John Wayne once said “Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.”  It is his gentle spirit combined with courage that cowboy’s turn to the ones who had ridden those trails and truly believe that faith is the best companion for the journey. When the trail get’s steep, the prayers go deep!

Once a cowboy, always a cowboy. Saddle Bronc World Champion Mike Fletcher, now, a respected cowboy Pastor out of Texas began his ministry preaching to men in prisons and say’s “You can’t con a convict, just tell the stories.”  Often, he spent time in nursing homes sharing his faith with folks who had stories of their own. Later, he was called to cowboy church, to begin his journey with “Spur on Ministry.” Today, he shares extraordinary stories of faith with cowboys and people who attend his congregation. And in the end he replies; “I’m just a nobody trying to tell everybody about somebody who can save somebody.”

Back in 2004, Jeff Smith, cowboy Preacher out of North Carolina started a “Cowboy Church Network.” His mission is to plant and strengthening cowboy churches across the country. The flag ceremony is held each year in October and hundreds attend. Each flag represents the state of which a cowboy church is planted, the flag bearers walk with the flag. The Preachers then kneel down in front of the flag, while Pastor Jeff Smith kneels in front of them to say “let’s pray.” “God Bless our Pastors, the cowboy churches that they serve, and the people that attend them.” Amen.

Born to the life of a cowboy, a feller by the name of Tom Moorhouse who manages Tongue River Ranch, EST. in 1898 says with integrity “I don’t put ranching before God, but it’s like a religion in that I feel a calling to do it. Some people may think cowboys don’t make good enough money, but if they were to cut our wages in half, the truth is, we’d still do it because we love it.”

Recently, I sat down with John Riggs, host for RFDTV “Cowboy Authentic.” Based in Texas, Riggs enjoys spending time at home with his wife Cheryl and 3 kids, when he’s not in the saddle on some of the best working cattle ranches around the country. Riggs has a deep respect for the cowboy culture, he believes in the values they live by and the essence of what they have been trained to do their entire lives. It’s real, he says, the culture has so much to offer, to see who created it. The appreciation turns to awe of and respect for the creations maker. One who can lead a heart to hope like a cowboy leads a herd.

It takes a special kind to be a cowboy Preacher. One who has a heart for helping people, one who stands for truth and willing to do anything for what he believes. A strong passion for seeking lost people to “Strengthen the Weak.”  Years ago, Riggs began caring for cattle, always looking for the stray; the broken.

Later, he committed to applying the same comfort to people in need. Sold off the cattle and followed his heart, Riggs journey began as he went off to Bible College in faith. Riggs learned he had everything in his heart to walk with the Lord. I asked him what his greatest fulfillment was when riding with cowboys; he replied, “I get to show them how and why they get to know this god.”

A cowboy Preacher has one purpose, for John Riggs that means a day spent on a large cattle ranch bringing Christ to the cowboy. Each day working with them side by side, sharing stories, hardship, and going back to their roots. Developing strong relationships that last a lifetime. Speaking of faith, value and ethics, Winston Churchill once said, “No hour of Life is wasted that is spent in the saddle.”

The cowboy Preacher continues to spread the word throughout our country. He will bring new hope to those who have faith in the Lord. He will provide a warm safe place to gather, worship and listen to beautiful music. He will accept and love you for who you are. He will comfort you, and he will pray with you.

“Whoever walks in Integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.”  Proverbs 10:9.

©Copyright 2014 Real American Cowboy Magazine. All Rights Reserved.

Cover Photo:  Dan Boyd, Cowboy Preacher / Photo Courtesy Betty Blackman


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CODY CUSTER – A Father and Son Dream Team!

Kori Skurja for Real American Cowboy Magazine

At a small, family-owned, five acre campground and arena in Flagstaff, AZ a half-pint cowboy, raised on a strict diet of rodeos and cattle drives, found his passion on the back of a steer.

Trying his hand at over 2500 head of cattle over the next three years, his humble beginnings had set the stage for the adventure of a lifetime. Surrounded by generations of cowboys— a granddad who rode broncs, team roped, and ran a ranch just south of the Grand Canyon, an uncle who rode rough stock, a dad who competed in bareback, bull riding, and team roping, and a mom who excelled in trick riding—the scene was set for a little boy to have big dreams.

In 1972, a young Cody Custer started the process toward becoming a world champion with nothing more than a few good steers and a heart to succeed. Ten years later, in 1982, his journey towards success was no longer a pipe dream, but a calculated goal.

“If a guy has goals set before him, you can look at them, and you got a better chance. It just puts something in your mind, a strategy. When I was 17, in 1982, my goal was to make the National Finals within five years, and I qualified in 1987.  My long-term goal was to win the world in 10 years, that was 1982, and I won the world in ’92.”  -Cody Custer

Years after his world championship win in Las Vegas I had the pleasure of talking with Cody about success and the road to achieving great dreams. In a world consumed by the endless, exhausting race towards financial and career success, it is rare to find a man who finds as much pride in his family as he does his career and personal accomplishments.

Custer, a champion, with the world at his fingertips in the sport of bull riding and the cowboy community as a whole, proves to have just as much pride, if not more, in his family as he does his career accomplishments.

Father of three, Cody has moved from bull rider, to Dad, friend, and coach. As our discussion led down a road surrounded by little boys and big dreams, it was only right that Brett, Cody’s youngest son joined the conversation. Only a few moments and it was clear just four words were needed to define their relationship “like father, like son.”

Brett, 16 years old and a sophomore at Merritt High School in Elk City, OK, is a specimen of athleticism, taking part in football, basketball, baseball and track throughout the school year, but his heart is in the arena, carrying on the bull riding legacy for the Custer family.

Some may allow the pressure of a successful father to overshadow or hinder their efforts as they head down the same path, but rather, Brett has a fire within him to be the best, and to have his dad there beside him the whole way.

Attaining sponsorships from multiple entities such as Priefert Manufacturing, Rafter W Bull Ropes by Jason Wilhelm, and Tres Rios Silver and being chosen as a member of the Panhandle Slim Rock and Roll High School Rodeo Team, he has already proven himself a top contender in the high school rodeo circuit.

In 2013, competing in the Texas High School Rodeo Association- Region 1 and Tri-State Rodeo Association, Brett was able to finish the year in 2nd place after missing the entire first half of the season. His 2014 season has started with a bang as he won his first event in Pampa, TX last month and followed that with a win at the Bull Bash in Amarillo, TX just a few weeks later

It’s no surprise that the sport of bull riding has changed over the past decade. Greater athleticism in stock through an increased interest in the breeding of quality bulls has created an added obstacle that was never experienced by Cody and the generation of bull riders he competed against.

According to Cody, the “Born to Buck” era is in full force, with an ever-increasing number of contractors bringing a completely different caliber of bull to junior rodeo events. Standing at the threshold of their career, it has become apparent that the odds are stacked against this generation of young bull rider.

The problem? Junior rodeos, which were once an opportunity to gain confidence and create a love for the sport, have now become a mismatched display of athleticism. Cody explained, “[The born to buck bulls] are so athletic, and a 14 to 17 or 18 year old kid, they’re just not developed… Very few, zero, at 18 years old are athletically at the peak of where they’re really ready for those types of bulls.” Attempting anything before you’re ready can have its adverse effects, but the sport of bull riding is on an entirely different level. Risk of injury and the like are obvious, but as Brett described

“If someone’s just starting out learning and they go to someone’s house, if they put them on those kind of bulls, it’s gonna ruin them… There’s a bunch of kids getting hurt trying to get on them kind. If they get hurt and they can still ride, it still scares them.” That fear that exists within them is no longer a healthy fear of failure, but rather a crushed spirit and daunting memory of a close call that could have been avoided.

Though there was opposition from others in the sport, Cody’s humble respect for the bucking bull industry and the ever-growing athleticism in the bulls of rodeo today does not outweigh his concern for young athletes. Having achieved his level of success throughout his career, he speaks with authority and complete understanding of the sport and the necessity to take baby steps towards big dreams.

Cody’s confidence in Brett’s potential is unwavering, it comes not only from Brett’s God-given abilities, but also from the steps he’s taken to ensure he is prepared for the task ahead of him. Cody describes the journey toward success “like stepping up the rungs of a ladder,” and is raising a son, a bull rider, who respects his own limits and the patience it takes to grow into a champion with each step he takes.

©Copyright 2014 Real American Cowboy Magazine. All Rights Reserved.


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Shannon Cole for Real American Cowboy Magazine

Settled on a beautiful ranch, quietly nestled in the heart of California’s famed wine country, Luke Branquinho shares some of his most memorable times growing up.

“Big Luke” as he is often called by friends and fans, a term of endearment, was born in Santa Maria, California on September 17, 1980. Growing up on a ranch, early on he learned the skills that helped mold him into the man he is today. He was born and raised a cowboy, born to ride.

Luke Branquinho knew that one day he would make his daddy very proud. His mother and father are still very involved in ranching today. While his father tends to taking care of two ranches, his mother organizes horse camps and gives lessons on basic horsemanship. Their grandchildren, Jameson and Cade have both strived to become great athletes like their daddy, also attend her lessons.  As a family, they own and operate cow/calf outfits here in California and in Oregon.

When Luke became interested in steer wrestling he was only 8 years old – he would stand back and watch his brother Casey wrestle one after another. It wasn’t too long after before he took a shot at it himself.

By the time Luke was 11, he was being dragged around the arena by steers. He was determined and fearless; he was a champion in his own mind.  “When I was 14 years old, my father found me a grey steer with nice horns”. From that day on, Luke knew what he had to do to become World Champion Steer Wrestler.

Over the next few years, Luke’s father made sure he would provide the best livestock for his son. After being in the spotlight at some big time rodeos, Luke holds deep respect for his father who stood behind him and gave him the confidence at an early age to go after what makes him happy.

Later, Luke joined the California High School Rodeo Association and in his sophomore year became a California state champion. Then in his senior year he won all around state champion in California in steer wrestling and team roping. Soon after High School, Luke went off to West Hills Community College. There he won at the National Finals in team roping and calf roping, West Coast Region.

Throughout his entire rodeo career Luke has performed the best to his ability and with an extremely supportive family behind him, he says; he wouldn’t know where he’d be without them.

In 2004, Luke won his first World Championship, had it locked up by round 9. Then again in 2008, he won the WNFR World Championship Title and set a new PRCA record earning $242,018.00.

In 2011, Luke brought home his third title. His fourth title was earned in 2012, Luke placed in seven out of ten rounds at the WNFR winning the fourth round in 3.3 seconds making him a four Time World Champion. Gold buckles hang on the rock wall in his trophy room back at the ranch; a place that reminds him to keep his head in the game.

When asked what his proudest achievement in his career has been, he replied humbly, “winning four World Championship Titles, I strive to set goals as high as I can, and my family being there made the experience more of an honor.”  “For me, that’s as good as it gets,” Branquinho says.

As a big name in rodeo, Luke Branquinho can naturally say with confidence, “I’m just Luke”.  He strives to get better, to be the best he can be, not just in rodeo but to be a good person, a good champion. He enjoys teaching people of all ages to be better at the sport, by holding clinics around the country.

Luke spent some time in Australia for some steer wrestling clinics. He says, “At one clinic, we had 28 guys and about six that had never jumped a steer before, by the end of the school everyone had caught a steer and the best part was they were all willing to learn and better themselves, I appreciate all their support and I am blessed to have this opportunity to travel to Australia to share my knowledge with the steer wrestlers there.”

When he’s on the road, he spends time with the fans signing autographs and taking pictures. Luke gives a tremendous amount of recognition to his sponsors and fans that have supported him throughout his entire rodeo career.

Diagnosed with diabetes at a young age, Luke deals with it on a daily basis. Luke says, “I find that it’s a challenge, not a struggle, because a struggle is something that beats you, when you’re given a challenge, you beat it and I’m always up for a challenge.”

Luke shares his feelings on how being a father has touched his life. “I’m proud to be the father of  these little boys, I want to grow with them and teach them everything my dad taught me, they look up to me, trust me and there is no better feeling in this world knowing that.”

There are many people who have made a difference in Luke’s life, but no one quite like John Black. “I look up to him; he taught me basics in rodeo and has helped me advance more than anyone.”

Throughout Luke Branquinho’s rodeo career he has been rewarded with supportive fans, sponsors, great horses, good cattle and outstanding arenas to ride in. With his patented booty-shake after each ride, Luke is sure to get a rise out of the roaring crowd!

Luke’s life as a rodeo champ has brought him great success, but there are only a certain people or things that have the most impact on him. Life on the road, competing to the best of his ability, his ongoing support and love from his parents, his children and his wife Lindsay, all stand behind him.

When Luke is home in sunny California, he enjoys spending valuable time with his wife Lindsay and two sons Jameson and Cade. On warm summer days, you’ll find Luke sharing special moments with his boys, who love to be with daddy. Luke is quite the handyman, building fence and tending to things around the ranch.  But, Luke stays out of the woodpile, he hates spiders!

During hunting season, he and his father enjoy the outdoors; he has cherished memories from childhood, and is proud to call him “his hero.”  He’s comfortable knowing that when he’s home, steak and potatoes are what’s on the supper table.

Recently, Luke ruptured his tendon from the Humeral Shaft. The Latissimus Dorsi Muscle is known as “the broadest muscle in the back.” His surgery went well and he is recovering. Luke is happy to announce, he will be competing at the 2014 NFR in Las Vegas.

At the end of the day, Luke Branquinho is on his way to winning more World Titles and hopes you can be there to support his dream that he’s worked and still works so hard to achieve.

“It’s those times in my life when my little man and I are walking into the rodeo; he grabs my hand and asks Daddy is it ok if I hold your hand? That makes it all worth it – at least for me.”

©Copyright 2014 Real American Cowboy Magazine.  All Rights Reserved.
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Trevor Knowles Final Cover FB

Katie Bartlett for Real American Cowboy Magazine

Whether you’ve met him in person or just seen him on your TV screen, without a doubt Mount Vernon, Oregon cowboy, Trevor Knowles captures the attention of the ladies.
A smile that captivates people straight away and, well, he wears a cowboy hat and isn’t afraid to get dirty (literally).   But there is more to this three time Calgary Stampede Steer Wrestling Champion than meets the eye; his life away from the spotlight.

The only problem is that the real Trevor Knowles will probably just make the ladies swoon even more but this everyday cowboy is a lot more than ‘just a pretty face.’

If you ever have the chance to chat to Knowles for more than a few minutes, you’ll quickly learn that although steer wrestling is an important part of his life, his work with ‘Operation Comfort Warriors’ (OCW) is what he holds near and dear.

For Knowles his father, Jeff, is not just the man who raised him or taught him everything he knows, but his best friend and idol also. Raised in a ranching family, growing up watching his father and uncle rodeo, it wasn’t until Knowles was in college that he began focusing more on rodeo. A sports star throughout his high school years, he was a state wrestling Champion and made the all-state team in baseball, there was no doubt this talented man would be an athlete of some sort one day.

However, beyond all the awards and titles and past the smile and his good looks is a man respected by more than just the ‘lady fans’ for his passion for his family and support of OCW. Growing up with a veteran father, Knowles witnessed and experienced, alongside his idol, the ups and downs of life after military service and decided he wanted to get involved in helping others just like his father.

Operation Comfort Warriors is a program dedicated to meeting the needs of wounded, injured or ill military personnel by providing them with comfort items not usually supplied by the government. OCW ensures that patients at U.S. military hospitals and warrior transition units are given items like sweat suits, DVDs, puzzles, electronic devices, books, calling cards and more – source:

It may have been 40 years since Knowles father served in the military but there are still times he can see his father struggle with it. Raised working hard for what they have, Knowles knows the smallest things are not to be taken for granted and it’s the comfort items OCW provides to our men and women that can help; even during the hardest times. Each and every time you see Knowles ride into the arena, make appearances or even at sign autographs; he proudly wears across his back and is never shy to talk about his passion for the organization.

Wanting to use the name he had built within the rodeo world to raise awareness, it took Knowles roughly a year to find the right organization to work with; which he found in The American Legion. One of the biggest factors that drew him to the organization was the fact that every dollar raised goes to the soldiers. Not only raising awareness for the cause, Knowles also takes time to visit different houses accommodating soldiers; more recently The Fisher House in Fort Sam Houston during the 2014 San Antonio Rodeo.

Touring the home that has helped many soldiers with the transition back into normal life, Knowles credits it as first class for helping them adjust back into their current situation. No matter where he travels or how big or small the arenas are he throws down steers, Knowles hopes fans will leave with more of an awareness for the organization and perhaps want to help more by donating to The American Legion and OCW.

Outside of promoting OCW, he makes the journey all the way back to Oregon any chance he gets to help his parents on their family ranch. With early mornings and late nights, he rarely gets a moment to relax but wouldn’t exchange the hard labor, sweaty shirts and long days for anything else. In fact in 2009 Knowles was a part of a proposed documentary, Rodeo Road, which followed the lives in rodeo athletes as they hit the road that season. Not only filming the highs and lows of rodeo life, the film crew followed each of them back to their home towns; capturing the true Knowles in his home environment working alongside his father each day.

It’s easy to see just how important family is to the 10 times WNFR steer wrestling qualifier and although he would move mountains to help on the ranch, his family also supports and pushes Knowles to continue to live his dream. Proud of how much Knowles has accomplished in the arena, his father is just as equally proud of the efforts his son does to raise awareness to cause that affects him daily.

So beyond the success we’ve seen Knowles achieve so far in the 2014 season, which has him sitting in the #1 position in the PRCA standings, there is a man inspired by his father to help others in need. And past the starched jeans and pressed shirts, black velvet hat, sparkling smile and a cowboy that has the women swooning, is a family man who is definitely more than ‘just a pretty face.’

To learn more about The American Legion and Operation Comfort Warriors or make a donation to the cause so close to Knowles heart, visit There are many ways you can help the 65,000 hospitalized veterans through another day or mentor youth through the sponsorship of wholesome programs in ‘out’ communities or serve as an advocate for troops wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan who are recovering in military facilities around the country – you can help.

©Copyright 2014 Real American Cowboy Magazine. All Rights Reserved.
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CHARLIE NICKS – “Building Better Cowboys”
Alex A. Lavotore for Real American Cowboy Magazine

Charlie Nicks learned to write by the light of an open woodstove door in a dilapidated ranch bunkhouse during the many years he was a working cowboy on a large cow-calf operation in Western Montana.

With no television and no radio, winter nights in the bunkhouse were most often deaf quiet – almost hypnotic when coupled with a nice midnight fire.  A perfect environment for writing and many nights he would write almost all night – as he still does, 365 days a year.

Charlie worked for 10 years on that ranch, some years not making a single phone call, irrigating, fencing, haying, doctoring, calving, feeding, weaning and shipping calves.  It was the simplest of lives in every way and what he calls, “his best years.”

His life was rich with long days working horseback – many days in dangerous weather conditions – some days facing dangerous wildlife encounters – 45 miles from civilization – the beauty of Western Montana – it was the very best of the cowboy life as far as he was concerned.  He didn’t make much money, $250.00 a week in cash, a tank of gas and a carton of cigarettes.  Friday afternoon to Saturday morning off.

Charlie’s Montana birth certificate lists his father’s occupation as “cowboy” something he’s proud of too this day.  And while most of his family members were rodeo people, Charlie was usually the one who stayed home, working the ranch, working the cattle.  And that suited him just fine.

At first he wrote some pretty mediocre cowboy poetry, then some pretty mediocre short stories about small town cowboy life.  Then some better cowboy poetry, then some better short stories and eventually books and eventually historical novels, two of them becoming national Best Sellers.

He spent a lot of years just being a cowboy – drinking beer and baling hay – and to a large extent that has been responsible for his popularity among “cowboy people” – a culture who knows authenticity when it sees it.

When you read Real American Cowboy Magazine or any of his books, you know it wasn’t written by some guy with a pony-tail and earring living in L.A. trying to live out a cowboy fantasy – Charlie Nicks was born, raised and will be retiring – a cowboy.

His books are available at more than 800 fine booksellers throughout the West and on and  He is also the Publisher and Managing Editor of Real American Cowboy Magazine.

He’s been married three times, divorced twice, audited by the IRS five times, overcome a nasty drinking habit that once landed him in the pokey for bouncing two checks in 1994 – a wake-up call he heard loud and clear and one that ended his drinking career instantly.

Since giving up alcohol, he’s not only happier and healthier; he hasn’t had so much as a parking ticket in more than 20 years.  “I don’t preach to people about drinking, all I know is I can’t, and that’s all any problem drinker really needs to know,” he says.

Charlie Nicks has had a very interesting life.

He’s had a horse drown under him in a river while surrounded by 600 splashing cows.

He’s been run over by a buffalo.  He was once trapped in a good old fashion stampede.  He’s survived a dozen broken bones and luckily beat a very serious form of cancer in 2002.

He once bought a horse named “Bucky” without asking why the horse was named “Bucky,” proving, as he says, he’s not that smart.

He’s been lost in the Montana mountains in January, befriended some pretty famous people and some genuine low-life’s and loved them both equally, he’s worked in national politics, caught a skunk, a fox and a baby black bear, got “saved” – several times, donated money to television evangelist’s and paid for the funeral of an Indian man he never met.

Charlie’s owned a night club, a collection agency, a miniature golf course, an insurance agency and for 10 years served as the CEO of one the largest advertising agencies in the Rocky Mountain West.

He’s written some cowboy poetry that hangs in the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City, fought an occasion bout of depression, borrowed tons of money, and repaid most of it – sometimes a little late, never given-up on a person or a project.  He’s been a toothache of a relative, friend and family member, loved his family, paid for the college education of a young lady whose parents couldn’t, quit hunting, plays crummy golf, left the Republican Party, doesn’t trust bankers, sneaks an occasional smoke, hardly ever swears any more, tries to keep his word, has a few dastardly enemies, many wonderful friends, a great sense of humor and a pretty good heart.

Charlie is deliberate, he does his homework. He loves libraries, hardly anybody knows that and he visits libraries almost everywhere he goes. His two favorites are the Mike Mansfield Library at the University of Montana in Missoula, MT and the Klamath Falls City Library – you can guess where it’s located.

He’s taught classes at Central Colorado College, the Demming Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellent AT the Leeds School of Business AT the University of Colorado AT Boulder (a great business school with a ridiculously long name), and the University of South Carolina. He is or has been a member of the Colorado Council on the Arts, Montana Historical Society, Wyoming Historical Society, Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, Colorado Author’s League and Western Writers of America.

He likes quiet places where people are well behaved, libraries are the best but golf courses, camp grounds and churches work pretty well too. His favorite writer is James A. Michener who passed away in 1999, but he confesses having read most every John Grisham novel. He guesses he’s read a couple of thousand books, too many of them business-oriented oriented, and he regrets that.

He loves the art of the great Charlie Russell who died in 1926 leaving the world with a glimpse of Montana’s formative years and some of Fredric Remington’s work. Tom Bodett is his favorite storyteller and commercial radio broadcast voice, Motel 6 however is not his favorite motel.

He likes Dave Barry’s newspaper commentaries and those written by the late Lewis Grizzard from Atlanta. George Strait tops his music favorites, followed by Led Zeppelin. He has yet to buy into Lady GaGa, handicapped principally by her stage name choice. Lewis Black and Ron White are his two favorite comedians – Chris Rock is right up there too.

In March of 2013, he launched Real American Cowboy Magazine expecting a modest audience.  Within a matter of months the publication, as they say, “exploded”.  Today, well over 2,000,000 “cowboy people” are touched by Real American Cowboy Magazine every month – it has become the leading online Western magazine in the world, read in more than 60 countries, 350,000+ Facebook fans and has a phenomenal return reader record.

“Sometimes people ask me if we’re trying to take over the Western publication world… and while it’s true that our social-media fan base is one of the two highest of any Western publication, we’re a very different magazine, so making comparison’s isn’t really fair to us or to the other publications,” he explains.

“I subscribe to most Western publications; I love American Cowboy Magazine and have read it for years.  Same is true with Western Horseman, the Rodeo News, and ProRodeo Sports News, all great publications!”  “We don’t publish times and scores – we tell the personal stories of ranch and rodeo people – some famous, some you’ve never heard of, but they’re all cowboys through and through,” he finishes.  “And, we’ve been lucky.  Lucky to have built a team of outstanding writers, lucky to have a new Editor, Katie Bartlett, 3 time Australian Rodeo Journalist of the Year and lucky to have an audience curious about cowboy life outside the arena,” Nicks says.

Charlie works closely with several large regional firms whose customer base is comprised of rodeo and equine discipline products and services.  Together they form a partnership of sorts that allows for a great deal of “cross-marketing” – reducing marketing expenses and increasing everyone’s visibility.

Most recently, Charlie has been focused on helping cowboys and cowgirls develop solid sponsor relations with companies and organizations who are serious about the sponsorship relationship.  In just the past couple of weeks, working with one of his social-media partners, Transwest Truck Trailer RV from Frederick, CO, he has been able to place patches on the backs (and a little money in the pockets) of 13 regionally popular rodeo cowboys and equine professionals.

“It’s like an audition, we ask each cowboy or cowgirl to commit to an undetermined period of time to see how the relationship works for everyone – if, after a trial period, everybody is happy, we sit down and structure a long term, tailored sponsorship package that brings even larger companies into the picture for funding,” he says.

The basic thing the program is geared to is to help cowboys and cowgirls learn the appropriate way to develop and keep significant sponsors.

“Money is the fuel that drives rodeo – just like it drives most things – and where money is involved, it has to work for everybody in the deal or it works for nobody in a deal,” he says.

“Sponsors aren’t hard to find so long as there’s something in it for them and you make sure they get it,” but the day of picking up a $500.00 check from the local feed store and putting it in your pocket like they owe it to you… well, those days are gone,” he goes onto say.

Charlie also serves as the Corporate Partner Director for Mile Hi Barrel Horse Association, the leading barrel racing association in the Rocky Mountain West.  “What I have learned from Carol Crowder, the Executive Director of the association and producer of more than 30 events a year, including being the first qualifier for The American, is staggering,” he says.  Mile Hi Barrel Horse boasts more sponsors in Colorado than anyone other than the National Western Stock Show and the Greeley Stampede.  “Mile Hi sponsors step-up to the plate big time, whether it’s the association’s new Cimarron LQ, or mid-five figure range cash sponsorships, our sponsors back us big time and we reciprocate by giving them our very best effort, communication and team work,” Nicks says.  “We’re as aggressive serving our sponsors as we are finding our sponsors and that formula seems to work,” he finishes.

Charlie is considered a world-class marketing expert by many and an exceptionally unique speaker who has performed before thousands of business and sports groups – something that has always come natural to him – he’s made a life helping hundreds of organizations perform at a higher level as a hands-on marketing consultant and motivational figure.

He is a man who owes a lot of gratitude to a lot of people – none more so than his family who have always seen fit to support him in every way. He’s also grateful to the hundreds, if not thousands of people who have always been so nice to him – friends, customers, waitresses, pilots, policeman, critics, publishers, employees, bankers and competitors.

He also believes in saying you’re sorry when you’re wrong… straight-up and fast… and inspired by the television show “My Name is Earl” keeps a list in his pocket of people who he needs to mend-a-fence with. If he hasn’t gotten to you yet, he says, “Be patient, it’s a long list”.

Charlie believes in human beings, he believes there is good in everyone!  He also believes that man was endowed with the seeds of greatness and that America is still the best place on Earth, it is truly the land of the free, the home of the brave, a place where any man or any woman can get, do or become anything they’re willing to work for.

Charlie is a guy who thinks transparency precedes authenticity – and that is a good thing and he works hard at the risky practice of putting it all out there, “what you see is what you get mind-set”.

He doesn’t expect himself or others to be perfect, he does expect himself and others to be kind to one another recognizing most of us are trying to do the best we can and in the end, we’re only imperfect humans.

In the deepest recesses of his heart, Charlie Nicks wishes all people most of the things money can buy and all of the things money can’t buy.  And that includes you.

Copyright 2014 Real American Cowboy Magazine. All Rights Reserved.


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Shannon Cole for Real American Cowboy Magazine

As the sun sets in the distance and the hot summer day fades to cool picturesque nights, western performers from all walks of life gather together to share a passion that runs deep in their blood. Men and women, both young and old, some dressed in old trousers made of wool wearing a loosely tied bandanas and others in perfectly pressed jeans and colorful shirts, tell their own stories just by glancing across the room.
Passionate storytellers with their own legendary humor and talented musicians playing traditional music on guitars, mandolins, banjos, harmonicas and bones; there is no denying to excitement with the sweet sound of laughter floating through the air.
With courage and honor, performers stand spirited and humbled on stages across the nation weekly, telling their stories, reciting western poetry and performing authentic old time western music about cowboys who live and work off the land.

For years cowboys have been sharing tales by campfires with family, friends and even the occasional traveller stopping by for a good night’s rest. Lies and lost dreams still echo through the wind by thousands born and raised on ranches that were taught to respect the land where these stories were born. Folks come from near and far for a unique experience in discovering, celebrating and preserving our western heritage and cowboy culture. With plenty of exhibits to explore, featuring exquisite western artwork and merchandise, the family friendly fun filled days also have activities for all ages.

The gathering attracts some of the most famous performers throughout the country each with their own stories and unique style or portraying a scene. There’s a blend of romance and wisdom, love and loss, mystery and honesty and the traditions of the Old West for all spectators tastes. Performers from all walks of life grace the stage from old traditional cowboys to modern stylish cowgirls and everything in between. It’s a place where families can come together to make new friends and learn the importance of our culture and traditions.

‘Male Performer of the Year,’ Dave Stamey, a well-known Californian cowboy, comes to perform classic cowboy songs and his original compositions about the West. Mike Beck brings a mellow sound to the stage and all who hear, with his unique blend of western, rock, and Americana styles. While other entertainers included Don Edwards, a member of the ‘Cowboy Hall of Fame’ and Baxter Black, a crowd favorite with his truthfully funny humor, all keep audiences hanging on every word spoken.

Another well-known performer is Chuck Wagon Cook, Kent Rollins whose passion for cooking was brought on at an early age taught by his mother. Known as the ‘Chuck Wagon Cook of Oklahoma,’ Rollins has a slew of titles to his name but that’s not all he is known for. His poetry and storytelling talent have earned him the ‘Skinny Roland Humor’ award and has been nominated three times for best storyteller by the Academy of Western Artists.

Musicians are also very popular at these events with the man known as the ‘Harmonicowboy,’ Gary Allegretto, an award winning artist being a crowd favorite. A harmonica player that leaves audiences breathless, Allegretto also dedicates much of this time to teach special needs children to play through his nonprofit organization, ‘Harmonikids’. Furthermore, he also offers workshops to attendees and school outreach programs, which leaves students walking away knowing how to play four cowboy tunes.

Lastly, another acclaimed entertainer, Mike Moutoux, frequently attends gathering all across the country with his own style of true western songwriting and music. The ‘enchanting cowboy’ as some known him as, Moutoux has a smooth voice, authentic material and a great sense of humor that doesn’t take long for audiences to appreciate the nickname given to him.

With events all across the country throughout the year, once you’ve been to one it’s easy to understand why they are so popular among the western community. In fact one popular gathering couldn’t be held in a more perfect place; nestled in the mountains in Colorado’s high country in the historic town of Durango. With an abundance of history in the little town itself, showcasing gatherings each year only adds to the town’s unique charm.

As our Western nation continues to celebrate the Cowboy Gatherings, it’s a way to honor each and every one of the talented performers who tell the stories through song or poetry. With a strong belief in the western lifestyle, every word spoken is not only a “tribute to our western culture” but also way of life that still lives on today.

©Copyright 2014 Real American Cowboy Magazine. All Rights Reserved.


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Jimmy Grayson Cover 3


Katie Bartlett for Real American Cowboy Magazine

Many times throughout the 17 long years that led to this moment he had thought about getting out, thought about quitting, thought about changing his life; but the disease had too strong of a hold over him. Yet, in this moment, unable to move lying in bed starring at the ceiling, it was one call that was nothing short of a miracle that put an end to his pain.

You could say it had never let go of him since the moment he first tried that white powder that seemed to be the rage, but his turn around started a week before this moment. A prison cell, a phone call begging his mother to bail him out, a three day “bender” and a work accident leaving him with a broken back all led him to this moment that put an end to the addiction that had killed many of his friends over the years. The room was black, curtains drawn with only the slither of light sneaking through the crack, there was a musky smell like fresh air hadn’t been let into what felt like a prison in days; so quiet he had no other option than to replay his life over and over in his head.

Breaking the silence the phone rang; startling him as he nervously answered dreading the news of what he knew would only be a positive drug test leaving him helpless for any help in recovering and ultimately, a prison cell. He held his breathe as he answered, “Mr.  Grayson we have the results back from your drug test…it’s clean.”

Growing up, country music singer Jimmy Grayson was just like any other teenage boy; he went to school, rode bulls at local rodeos, helped around the house and even the occasional party; yet his childhood haunted him for many years afterwards. There was no denying his father was an alcoholic, with whiskey and beer flowing daily and an abusive hand, and his mother, who was always so strong in his eyes, grew hard over the years and difficult to get recognition from. After his father walked out on them at an early age, never to be seen again, Grayson’s mother later re-married a wonderful man who played a huge role in his life; yet still that void couldn’t be filled.

After rodeoing throughout high school and college, Grayson dreamed the same dream so many other bull riders had before; to make it to Las Vegas. Well, he made it to Las Vegas but not as a bull rider but a country music singer in which he had a natural born talent. He’d had his fair share of whiskey, beer and parties but Grayson had never been to a city “that never sleeps” before and looking back now it was that trip that changed his life forever.

It looked harmless enough, fine white powder that gave you a high within seconds and days with no sleep, yet all it took was one hit to take a hold of the gifted singer who had his whole life ahead of him. From that moment forward for 17 years Grayson took drugs every single day; cocaine to begin with then meth followed by ice. It was the ‘wonder drug’; it fixed everything, made your mind and heart feel better and took the pain away…or so Grayson thought.

Following his trip for Las Vegas, Grayson spent the following five years on the ‘Superbull Tour’ travelling from North Carolina to California and everywhere in between. The only professional sport where a drug test doesn’t determine whether or not a cowboy will ride in the arena that night, many turn a blind eye to it, many don’t even know what goes on behind closed doors; none the less drugs are a part of the rodeo world.

Much to Grayson’s shock everyone seemed to be taking the ‘wonder drug’; from barrel men and rodeo clowns to cowboys and stock producers (who were cooking and selling it on the side). It was during his time working on the tour Grayson can look back now and see that is where drugs really took a hold of his life.

In the mid 90’s Grayson hit the road working front of house audio for country music superstar, Toby Keith where the party never seemed to stop. Spending most of his time with the road crew, ‘using’ became an ‘all day, every day’ habit and even took the lives of crew members who would go home to Nashville for a weekend and never come back. Yet, he was alive, time and time again Grayson thought; that would never happen to him he convinced himself.

As the years went on the addiction never waned, Grayson was spending as much as $400 a day on drugs. All he wanted was for someone to love him but instead he lost everyone he called a friend and was lonely. He had tried so hard from the moment his father walked out on them not to be like him; yet in the end he was an addict just like his father. No one wanted to be around him, unless they were buying drugs, and before long he was paying ‘professionals’ for no other reason than to hang out with him.

Seven years into the addiction Grayson married and had a son, Garrett who he cherished and loved deeply; however he didn’t have a good relationship with his now ex-wife. His mother didn’t know about his addiction, his step father had suspicions but yet nobody spoke up; not that it would have helped at the time said Grayson. He knew the Lord and spent his whole childhood attending church, in fact worked at a church from time to time during his addiction but still that didn’t stop him.

The thing with drugs, explains Grayson, is they are great when you’re with people but if you’re left alone paranoia sets it. Everything you were trying to run from races around your head, you get amped up, start thinking things and sometimes end up in the emergency room claiming you’re having a heart attack; but they know better and don’t help you.

For 17 years all he wanted was for somebody to love him; somebody to love him the way his wife, Danielle does now. Of course he knew his mother loved him but she constantly compared him to the likes of Garth Brooks and he got no recognition. Grayson felt like nothing in his life was ever good enough and he had lost everything he ever worked hard for; a house, seven horses, horse trailers, bike trailers, motorbikes and more. He loved to team rope with his son but even when he bought motorbikes to appease Garrett’s new found hobby and be a better father than he had been; drugs continued to rule Grayson’s life and he lost it all.

As he lay in the bed, broken back and all alone in an empty hotel room, Grayson repeated those words over and over again in disbelief, “Mr.  Grayson we have the results back from your drug test…it’s clean.” Surely not he thought, after a three day bender there had to be a mistake; he didn’t even feel pain when he fell and felt something terrible in his spine. But there was no mistake and it was in that moment Grayson turned from drugs and instead dove into his bible.

It’s been five years since that day he went ‘cold turkey’ and turned his life around. No alcohol. No drugs. Looking back now if the drug test hadn’t of comeback clean, Grayson knows he would of went to jail, possibly ended up dead and/or out on the streets; but he knows God had his hand in it. Reviving his music career, Grayson has recorded and released several hit songs and dedicated time to telling his testimony hoping that it might touch the lives of many musicians and rodeo athletes who may be in the same place or heading down the same road.

Grayson now has custody of Garrett, 16 years old, and lives with his beautiful, supporting wife, Danielle and her two children in Texas. Never in those 17 years did Grayson imagine he’d be where he is today and happier than ever. It may have been a rough road and hard lesson to learn but Grayson makes it a priority to show his children his love for them and how proud he is; as that is what left a void in his life for so long.

There is a feeling so indescribable when listening to a story such as Grayson’s that it’s hard to ignore. The look in his eye and the way he describes each and every step along his journey that changed his life; it’s easy to feel his pain yet joy at overcoming this disease. A true inspiration to many people, Grayson preaches that it may not be drugs, it might be relationships issues, work issues, family issues; but through God you can overcome obstacles. For a man who spent 17 years high on some of the roughest drugs known to man; it is nothing short of a miracle he is alive to tell his story today.

No matter what lifestyle you may lead, Jimmy Grayson chose to tell his testimony in hopes to help others who may be going down that path. There are a lot of different reasons people may turn to drugs but Grayson’s story proves how quickly addiction can take over and just how far it can bring you down. He recommends recovery programs if you, or someone you know is trying to quit, however he would love to talk with anyone who may need a friend, mentor or just someone to talk to.

To contact Jimmy Grayson you can send him an email at or visit his website

Photography courtesy Jenna Reagan Photography

©Copyright 2014 Real American  Cowboy Magazine. All Rights Reserved.


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Walt Garrison Cover

WALT GARRISON / Still a Cowboy
Katie Bartlett for Real American Cowboy Magazine

It’s hard to pinpoint one achievement in Walt Garrison’s life that wouldn’t intimidate any person who met the man idolized by many.

Maybe it’s the two Hall of Fame Inductions during his football career or the two Super Bowl rings proudly displayed at this ranch. Perhaps, it is the charities he has supported along his journey or his achievements as a businessman after a rodeo injury ended his career.

But from the moment Walt Garrison holds out his hand to meet you the nerves float away, the sense of intimidation is gone and his friendly voice and humble attitude automatically make you feel like you’ve known this living legend forever.

Not too good for anyone, not boastful, not raised on a pedestal…Garrison is without a doubt a genuine person; he’s a cowboy.

Pulling into the ‘Garrison Ranch’ it’s easy to get excited as you’re greeted by a playful longhorn tossing his head and kicking as his runs along besides you till fence ends and he watches you drive around the corner.  As you pass through a second gate you stop in awe of the magnificent horse ranch presented in front of your eyes. It’s hard to believe the man, known to most as an ex Dallas Cowboys football player, is so invested in his first true love; rodeo.

Once you’ve caught your breathe and taken in everything from the arena to stables and barn to horses, you quickly find yourself uttering “wow”, out loud, as you approach a log house; beautifully crafted without an inch overlooked by the designers. It’s hard to take it all in as you’re drawn to the huge hand-crafted solid wooden door first, followed by the detailing of tree limbs on the porch railing, then the blue stadium chair with ‘32’ in the top right corner of the back rest. However, as the man who once thought ‘he wasn’t that good at football’ approaches you, the time following those first few moments passes by quicker than ever, as you’re drawn in, giving him you’re undivided attention as Garrison takes you down memory lane.

If the NFL did not, for some reason, have a Hall of Fame, then Garrison’s ranch would definitely pass as the next best thing.  No matter where your eye drifts to in the carefully architectured house, Garrison’s life long journey to present day is displayed proudly on every wall, shelf, desk, cabinet and more. From one of a kind art pieces by westerns best artists to personal photos with some of the biggest names in world; Garrison humbly laughs “oh that old thing” as one stares in awe. And yet amongst all the memorabilia, sports and music fanatics would die for, you can see Garrison’s modest side through personal belongings and little knick knacks mixed among some of sports most priceless mementos.

But past all the trophies and awards, the art and the keepsakes and the ranch that you dream of for years later, lays a side to the ‘famous’ football star unknown to many. A humorous side, with wit that could leave anyone in tears from laughing and a passion for rodeo many knew about; but just quite how passionate he was, many may have indeed not known. Nowadays, it technical terms Garrison has retired, but with more energy that most at the ‘mature’ age of 69 years, he finds himself constantly busy and showing no signs of slowing down soon. From launching his own BBQ rubs and sauce line, Walt Garrison Foods, to participating in charity events across the country; Garrison is still as diverse as he was 50 years ago.

When he does happen to find some “free” time, you’ll find him in his studio at home carving wood into absolutely anything you can think of. Displayed all over his house, with some of the world’s best treasures, one thing stands out the most in his woodwork; his humorous side. From functional apparatuses to games and witty display pieces, it’s easy to say Garrison has a gift when it comes to woodwork; most of which he donates to charity.
Then there is the side of Walt that makes his eyes gleam with excitement and passion, the career path he ‘thought’ he’d go down and the one that ended his football. It all sounds a lot like a tragic fiction story, but the accident that ended his career and busted his knees is one that, to this day, Garrison has never regretted.

In his later years of high school, Garrison dreamed of one day qualifying for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. Living in town, Garrison wasn’t born into a rodeo family but instantly fell in love with the sport once he first laid eyes on it and like most cowboys, tried his luck in the rough stock events first. ‘Back in the day’, as Garrison likes to say, competitors only paid one fee at a rodeo and could compete in as many events as they wanted. Not a world champion by any means in the rough stock events, it was a friend that pushed Garrison to try out steer wrestling and the rest is, as they say, history.

While studying Veterinary Science at Oklahoma State University, Garrison was drafted in the fifth round of the 1966 NFL Draft and quickly became known for his ‘toughness’ and ‘dependability’. Playing for nine seasons, missing only seven games, Garrison was notorious for taking off to rodeos during the off season. Sometimes during training camp Garrison even snuck out to compete at a rodeo; that was until he got caught. Gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated, claiming two Super Bowl rings, 1973 Pro Bowl title and more, it’s without a doubt Garrison had a very successful football career.

However, it’s outside of the field that well and truly makes this man so intriguing; a man who seems to be successful at anything he puts his mind to.

For 30 years Garrison played a major role in helping to raise funds for Multiple Sclerosis, through annual celebrity rodeos with the likes of Charlie Daniels, George Strait and more attending. At the time, Strait was still an up and coming artist with one song on the radio, but performed at their first ever rodeo for a mere $10,000. Now one of the biggest stars on the planet, Strait happily returned to play at the final charity rodeo for the same price he was originally paid; a testimony of the strong friendships Garrison has formed over the years.

As Garrison remembers a life only one would dream of, he portrays each encounter in such detail that you know this cowboy at heart is genuinely thankful for the life he’s had so far. While many would think an ex professional football player and rodeo athlete would be slowing down at the age of 69; there are no signs of that in Garrison’s.

Seemingly still, just as fit as ever before, Garrison’s heart has never swayed from the rodeo arena, as he now fulfills his love of the sport with team roping. It’s easy to assume someone who had led a life such as Garrison could have a personality other than ‘humble and genuine’, but then again Garrison is still just a ‘cowboy at heart’.
©Copyright 2014 Real American Cowboy Magazine.  All Rights Reserved.
Photography courtesy Jenna Regan.


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Josh cover

JOSH GRIDER – The Eyes of Texas are Upon Him
Katie Bartlett for Real American Cowboy Magazine
New Mexico born country singer, Josh Grider, is no ‘rookie’ when it comes to the country music…more specifically Texas country music. After a stint in Nashville working with some of the industry’s best, Grider recently released his new album, ‘Luck & Desire’ and returned to Texas. With nearly 150 tour dates booked for 2014, one could say Grider has paid his ‘dues’ and now with his latest single, ‘White Van’ topping the Texas Music Charts for over two weeks, Grider is a name you’re going to be seeing more of. A family man with a talent for writing songs that speak to the soul, Grider is no ‘one hit wonder’, with an album full of potential hits. Real American Cowboy Magazine caught up with him while taking a little time off to find out what’s next for the superstar.

What does Texas mean to you Josh?
It means freedom to do whatever I want to do when it comes to music. It means family, I met my wife here and both my sons were born in Texas; a lot of very important things in my life have taken place in Texas.

They say people move south when they retire! What do you think it is about Texas that so many people love?
Texas has a LOT of personality and LOTS of character. It’s is a very unique place, the people and the state, and I think that is really attractive to folks.  When you are in Texas you know it, it’s unlike any place else I’ve ever been.

Why did you gravitate towards Texas country music initially instead of Nashville?
I grew up watching national acts and it was the semi-trucks, busses and stadiums and it was so big, it was hard to imagine how you could ever get there.  When I moved to Texas I remember seeing Pat Green, and Cory Morrow, and Robert Earl Keen and the music and the artists seemed so much more accessible; there is an intimate connection with the artist, music and places they are singing about in our scene.  I started seeing bands in honky-tonks instead of stadiums and that made more sense to me.  I saw a scene that I knew i could be a part of.  I saw how I could actually start a career.

Do you believe Texas country music is the next big thing and why?
I think the Texas music scene will always be what it is; an amazing place that supports its own and provides a place for acts that may never be household names nationwide, but will have great careers and get to make records for as long as they want to.  However, I think that this music has reached far beyond the borders of Texas thanks to acts like Pat Green, Cross Canadian Ragweed, Eli Young Band, and Randy Rogers Band.  From the South to the Midwest to the West Coast there are a lot of places that like to book TX/Red Dirt music, and a lot of people that like to come out and here it.

What was your childhood growing up like? 
I grew up in Las Cruces, NM.  My dad built houses and we always lived in the city, but cousins lived on a farm out in Deming and I spent a good deal time out there.   I got my country raising and education there; hunting, shooting, riding horses and things like that.  I am very grateful to have had that opportunity.  I think fewer and fewer kids get to grow up with that in their lives.

Where does inspiration for your music come from?
Life experience!  My life shows up in a lot on my songs; writing is very therapeutic to me. The older you get, the more emotions and experiences you have, the more you have to write about. I think that’s why there is so much nostalgia in what I write about.  I’m at a point that I can look back and try to make sense of some of the stuff I’ve done.  I can also borrow from the world around me when I’m feeling bored or uninspired.  I ride around the country in a van with a bunch of single guys.  I’m surrounded by inspiration!

Tell us what you like to do when you have time off work?
Being married with two boys means family time.  We like to go camping, hit the river, fishing and floating. Spending time with the boys is important to me, but if I can sneak off to play some golf or throw some meat on the grill I like that. Like to keep pretty local and tame cause I’m very lucky to travel and see a lot of things for work. Vacation for me is home.

If you could pick any other job what would it be?
Ummm I don’t know. Whitewater river guide (haha) I’m an adventure man!! I like outdoor adventure for sure. We spend so much time driving around and looking at the country side, making a living playing around in it sounds pretty fun!
If we asked your wife to tell us who Josh Grider really in 3 words what would she say? I hope she would say….funny, good, provider.

What do you believe is the key to keeping the family close even when traveling on the road a lot?
Maximizing the time at home.  Clearing my schedule and focusing on the family.  Doing something special like go camping or just playing ball. I’ve got a 5 year old now and as he gets older and gets into sports I plan to be as involved with that as possible. Technology has helped a whole lot too.  I can’t imagine doing this years ago.  Face time makes things a lot easier.

If you could pick from any of the rodeo events what would you chose and why?
I think team roping. My roommate in college was a calf roper but did a little team roping and he and I had this roping dummy we named ‘Algebra’. We’d be out in the front yard having a cold beer and throwing a rope at him. We’d watch a lot of team roping and I came to have great respect for the ropers. Maybe when I was younger and crazier I’d want to ride something that threw me off but nowadays I just like to watch those events.

Three favorite foods?
Growing up in New Mexico, I’d have to say Mexican food is at the top of the list. The red and green chili – anything with a south western vibe is right up my alley. I could eat tacos for every meal; I even have a song about tacos on my new record.  Sometimes I go to fancy tacos places to try finding some crazy new taco recipe ideas. I also love smoking meat, anything that is an all-day BBQ thing with lots of cold beer. Plus what guy doesn’t like to play with fire?

What is in your CD player right now? 
If you hit eject right now it would be my friend Drew Kennedy’s new project. It’s funny but I don’t listen to a whole lot of country; if I listen to too much I’ll start copying because I write music. I’m a sponge like that, so I don’t listen to any one genre too much.  I’m always changing it up. I’ll listen to country to see what’s popular and going on but I enjoy instrumental and blue grass; no words or singing. Oh and I love sports talk radio.

Tell us about the new single, White Van?
It was sort of a calculated risk on our part to put it out. I mean we’re talking about a white van and it’s not a real relatable subject matter; normally hit songs have some universal message that a lot of people identify with.  But, we had just moved back from Nashville and I wanted to make the statement, ‘We got a new record coming and we’re going to load up in this white van and hit the road’. I wanted to let folks know, ‘hey we’re coming’. Luckily fans and radio responded to it well. It stayed in the #1 spot for two weeks. I think in this case maybe the overriding emotion is bigger than the song.  It’s a song about hope, but also being happy where you are.

Where would you like to see yourself in 10 years?
Professionally, I’d love to have a few more number 1s under my belt.  I’d love to have heard some major country artists record my songs too.  What I KNOW is that no matter what I’m up to professionally, I’ll still be a father to my sons and husband to my wife.  That’s the beautiful thing about having a family; it’s like a guarantee that you’ll have something interesting to do for the rest of your life!
©Copyright 2014 Real American Cowboy Magazine. All Rights Reserved.
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sean cover 5

SEAN HALVERSON – Confessions of an acclaimed ranch and rodeo photographer 

Charlie Nicks of Real American Cowboy Magazine

I first met Sean Halverson at a breakfast and lunch only kind of café in Canon City, Colorado on the 17th of December, 2013.  It was 12 degrees below zero that day, a toothache of a drive from Denver to Canon City.  The food was crummy.  It was a Friday and that was the only thing good about that day.

Like most high-end photographers my first impression of Sean was that he was a little eccentric but a cowboy nonetheless.  So we spent that hour assessing one another – skeptically thinking of reasons we shouldn’t work together but knowing there was something special lurking in our possible association.

We’ll get back to all that.  First, let’s do the background stuff.

Sean comes from the Pacific Northwest – Washington/Oregon – he grew-up in a family that didn’t have much money – he remembers as a kid moving from Spokane, Washington, everyone and most of their possessions on the bus.  At 14 and 15 he spent his summers working on commercial fishing boats off the Oregon coast.  He grew up in the midst of the Spotted Owl era that crippled the logging communities in Oregon.

At 17, Sean’s mom signed him into the US Army where he served 10 years all over the world and was honorably discharged.

Sean attended Regis University in Denver eventually earning a prized MBA in International Business which he has since put to good use.

Everybody has to go to their “first rodeo”, and Sean was no exception – though that didn’t happen for him until he was in his late teens, but once it happened, it happened!

Sean describes it like this, “I just wished I had discovered rodeo at a younger age but did manage to get to it as quick as I could.  I was in Alabama with an Army buddy of mine who asked me if I wanted to go to a rodeo.  I was absolutely fascinated with what I saw.  That was Friday night, Saturday we drove to some town in Northern Alabama for a jackpot bull ride.  I entered up and never looked back.  Had I discovered rodeo growing up I probably would not have joined the military.  It’s funny how things work out”.

“It was never really about the riding for me… it was about the travelling, being on the highway, new places, always moving that attracted me to it -I get that from my mom.  And if I could make a buck or two doing it – it sounded like a good deal to me.  I picked up a few checks here and there and it was always a good feeling handing those over to my wife Heidi – it was a real sense of accomplishment.   The friends are life-long that is for sure,” he says.

Photography faded in and out of Sean’s life for a lot of years – and then one day someone bought a photograph from him and somehow that simple act clicked in his brain, raised his confidence, something a photographer needs as much as a camera, and he’s never looked back.  He surrounds himself with mentors who specialize in certain areas of photography and puts it all together with his own concept.

Just this year, Sean’s photographs have been on the cover Real American Cowboy Magazine and The Rodeo News, two huge cowboy magazines.  He’s also had the cover of Mile Hi Barrel Horse Magazine and was runner-up in a national photo contest sponsored by Cowboys and Indians Magazine.  And, in just the last month Sean had received his PRCA permit making him an official photographer for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, fulfilling a long time goal.

I first worked on location with Sean at the National Western Stock Show – we met in the Media Lounge tucked upstairs away from the show in a quiet and semi-luxurious room.  It’s a good place to plan a shoot – and that we did – basically coming up with the idea that we were just going to walk around and shoot what was happening rather than try to make things happen.  And we did.  For several days.

And what resulted was a 5-minute documentary film on the National Western Stock Show which we titled, “15 DAYS IN DENVER”, you can watch it at, believe me, if you care about the Stock Show, it will make your heart swell with pride.

After working with Sean for a few days it was obvious to me, as photographers go, he was someone we wanted to partner with.  Sean has “the eye” – most professional photographers can use their sophisticated equipment – few really have an “eye” for the unusual.  And Sean not only has it – he’s something of a genius at it.

Sean shoots what’s there – whether it’s a little girl’s wide-eyed amazement with her first encounter with an Alpaca, the blue evening January sunset over the food concessions or a saddle bronc rider hung-up and in trouble, Sean sees the shot – and THAT is where you separate professional photographers from the wanna-bes.

Sean shoots everything from cowboy weddings to expensive sponsor-trailers going to world champions like Sherry Cervi to horse trainers, barrel racers, rough stock guys, ranches, cattle, show horses and large and small rodeos.

You can see Sean’s ranch and rodeo portfolio at

Today, armed with a wickedly expensive and precise HD video camera, Sean has just started producing corporate video for companies in the agricultural world.  He’s formed a new company, DREAMWEST Cowboy Films, LLC., to shoot video documentaries for ranch and rodeo customers.

You can see their first production, shot for Vista Equine Colorado, LLC., a horse breeder in Fort Collins, CO.

Since December, I have had the pleasure to spend the day with Sean on numerous occasions shooting a variety of different projects – always a pleasure to work with – always to the point – always gets the shot.

On the day we finished the shoot at the National Western, Sean and I were in the parking lot all packed-up, just leaning on the truck and talking the way guys do.  We talked about a lot of things that day, a lot of things besides rodeo and photography and magazines and livestock.  We became friends that day and I’m glad we did – since then we’ve become real friends which didn’t and doesn’t surprise me in the least.

Personally, and granted photography is a subjective thing to evaluate, I think there are a lot of truly great rodeo photographers out there – and we’re convinced Sean Halverson is among the top 5 – which is saying something.

As the summer begins we wanted to introduce Sean Halverson and his art form to more people but we also wanted to wish him a great summer shooting America’s rodeos both for our magazine, other magazines and for the Professional Rodeo Cowboy’s Association.

Today, Sean and his wife Heidi live in a cabin outside of Westcliffe, Colorado with three dogs and a couple of horses.

You can reach Sean Halverson directly at:  You can LIKE his Facebook Page at

©Copyright 2014 Real American Cowboy Magazine.  All Rights Reserved.
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Ranch Way Cover

Ranch-Way Feeds, Inc.  – The Spirit of Independence

Charlie Nicks of Real American Cowboy Magazine

So this is dedicated to everyone who has ever dreamed of owning their own successful small business, to those who already own a small business and to those who make their living selling themselves and their services and especially those people engaged in providing goods and services to the agricultural community.

This is a true story about a real business serving the agricultural community for 145 years; the oldest company in Fort Collins, Colorado, likely the oldest company in Northern Colorado though no records exist to confirm it, and certainly one of the oldest companies anywhere in the West.

General Robert E. Lee, in charge of the Confederate Army, surrendered to the commander of the Union Army, General Ulysses S. Grant on the steps of the Appomattox Court House in Virginia on April 9, 1865 ending the Civil War.  Three short years later, Elizabeth Stone and Henry Clay Peterson, the early owners of the mill, decided to take a chance – so they bought the best milling equipment possible which in those days came from Buffalo, NY, and began milling a superior-quality flour product.

Ranch-Way Feeds, then called Lindell Flour Mills, opened their doors to the public in 1869 and has managed to keep those doors open, on an uninterrupted basis ever since, for nearly 150 years.

In 1868, Fort Collins and the region looked exactly as it does today, minus the people and all their “stuff”.

There was pretty much nothing from Casper to Denver to Laramie to Nebraska –except Cheyenne.  And Cheyenne was THE most important town in the region in those days because the railroad came through it.  Cheyenne was where goods and commodities and very often fine cattle came from the East to the West and where the few products being produced in the West were shipped to customers in the East.  No railroad, no Ranch-Way Feeds.

In 1868, barbed-wire hadn’t even been invented; that U.S. Patent was awarded to a man named Lucien Smith of Ohio in 1867 and didn’t evolve into a widely used product in the West until 1874.  In other words, Ranch-Way Feeds was here before there were even fences.
There were a lot of cattle coming in the area in those days, for the most part on huge cattle operations that covered thousands of acres owned by investor groups from England run by American cowboys who often spent entire seasons in small shacks dotting the West called “line-camps”.  Months on end, alone, days away from another human being, a few horses, rationed food, tough weather and a thousand head of cattle to watch over.  There were no squeeze-chutes or panels or corrals then, cattle weren’t “worked” – they were left on the plains of eastern Colorado, western Nebraska and southern Wyoming pretty much to fend for themselves in the winter and do their own calving chores.

The original grist mill was built on the Poudre River which runs through downtown Fort Collins.  The water flowed through “millrace” to power the grinding of wheat into flour.  The flour was then sacked under great old Western brand names like, Defiance, Snow Drift, Pride of the Rockies and Jap Rose then loaded on wagons and taken to Cheyenne to be shipped by train to eastern customers.

Between 1868 and 1948 the company had its ups and downs as all companies do.  Investors came and went; ownership churned and the company naturally evolved.  It was in 1948 when the company stopped manufacturing flour and first began manufacturing animal feed.

As the world changed, Ranch-Way Feeds changed and in 1968 it came under the ownership of a group of investors from Nebraska and Wyoming including the Bixler family – and members of the Bixler family have been on site ever since. That was also the year the company gained its current name, Ranch-Way Feeds as part of the acquisition.

The company was troubled when the Bixler’s came into leadership – it struggled at times to even stay open, interest rates in the late 1970s’ and most of the 1980’s were astronomical 18% and higher, money was hard to find, making the cost of borrowing operating money almost the kiss-of-death for any business, a mill included.

It was during this time Ranch-Way began transforming its product line, developing new and better feed products for livestock, dairies, feed stores, boarding stables, and, even zoos.

Now the story.  I met Bonnie Bixler Szidon (Skip the “S” – it’s pronounced Zidon) recently to do this interview and write this story.  Bonnie attended Chadron State College, graduating with a Liberal Arts degree.  Bonnie is 61, very fit, pretty, highly intelligent, exceptionally pleasant and knows every nut and bolt holding this business together.
Now the President of Ranch-Way Feeds, one of Bonnie’s most important early decisions, made along with her mother Phyllis Bixler, in an attempt to turn the company around was to hire a manager; they chose a man named Henry Owings.  While Henry didn’t make many friends, he was able to reduce inventories, reduce debt, and move the company forward in a way that improved things.  During that era of the company, a period of time when both Bonnie and her brother Joe matured as business people, the company eventually got solidly on its feet and operating profitably.

Today, Ranch-Way Feeds is a sophisticated, computerized, state-of-the-art feed manufacturing facility. The company is completely debt-free and operates without borrowing money.  Products are sold through more than 120 independent retailers, they employee 60 people.  They have mastered the art of packaging – today producing a high-quality, high-image line of retail feed products that feed everything from alpaca’s to zebras, including the wide menu of cattle and horse feeds for which they’re most well-known.  And finally, many Ranch-Way products are delivered to customers by their fleet of delivery trucks.

The business offices are adjacent to the milling facility, I toured the warehouse, the milling area, I saw raw product and how it’s fed through a complicated conveyor system 100’ in the air, the milling machines doing their thing and eventually seeing custom feed pouring into a feed bag, sewn shut by an automatic bag-sewing machine, loaded on a pallet, picked-up by a fort lift and taken to the warehouse where it will be stored until it’s shipped to a ranch or a retailer.  Some of their feed is marketed in their own retail locations, both super-cool stores, one at the mill in Fort Collins the other at their store in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  Most of their product is shipped to ranches and retailers.

Today, by any measure and by any standard, Ranch-Way Feeds is an American success story largely based on the creative minds and principled resolve of Bonnie and her husband Kim Szidon, General Manager, an effusive man I also got to meet who has run the day-to-day operations of the company for more than 27 years.

It was Kim’s creativity and vision that is responsible for the 2011 installation of a new mill, within the existing mill to manufacture “Easy Feed”, the company’s new line of Certified Organic Feed Products.  The “Easy Feed” products are already more popular than originally projected and expanding with a certain and growing demand.

The company, because of the challenges associated with valuing their historic facility, has an unknown value – but it’s safe to say Ranch-Way Feeds is worth a lot of money.  And that’s good, but it’s really not what this story is about.  Money comes and money goes and there are good times and there are bad times and the world can throw you a curve ball.  It’s more than about just “the money”.  Ranch-Way Feeds is the story of how business REALLY works and the commitment and endurance necessary, no, make that “required”, to make a go of it in the long run.

I kid you not, as I walked around the premises the place reminded me of Santa’s workshop – EVERYBODY – happily doing their job, the place bustling with super-competent people, all with smiles and friendly natures about them, the facility sparkling, the company in compliance with dozens of regulations imposed on them including batch and shipping lot tracking to be used in the event of a feed recall, something Ranch-Way Feeds has proudly never had to do largely due to the nutrition expertise of Dr. Kelcey Swyers, a cutting edge nutritionist who is charged with the quality of Ranch-Way’s products.

I saw stacks and stacks of feed products, impeccably packaged in colorful, high-concept bags in the warehouse.  You see a super-modern “factory” operating fluidly tucked inside a historic renovated building that is literally spotless, you hear the sounds of custom-tooled machinery doing its part, you see upbeat employees meeting and greeting and helping retail customers in one of the most charming retail feed stores you will ever visit, you see an administrative office that’s relaxed, where the doors are all open and people are alert and involved in the projects their working on.  It’s a good environment and it didn’t happen by accident, and it didn’t happen overnight.  But it did happen.

On the wall outside Bonnie’s office there’s a sign that says, “BECAUSE NICE MATTERS”.  And “nice” does matter, and “nice” is getting to be rare thing in this world.  And Bonnie is nice, and Kim is nice, and every person I met at Ranch-Way Feeds was nice.

So what’s the message?

If succeeding in a business of any kind is something that appeals to you, you might consider the path Ranch-Way Feeds has chosen to follow – super-high-quality products/services, relentless dedication and perseverance, creativity and the ability to make decisions quickly, flexibility and nimble operating skills that allow a company to compete with anyone, fierce independence, stern financial discipline, incredible dedication, participation in the community and giving back to its customers and future customers through 4-H funding, appreciation and application of a remarkable work-ethic and the ability to be nice while doing it all.

In a world full of gurus selling get-rich-quick success secrets that almost always fail, Ranch-Way Feeds has taken the road less traveled; their success has never been quick, nor easy, nor guaranteed, nor secret.  Instead, Ranch-Way Feeds has succeeded because the family running the company has been willing to pay the price of success – and while sometimes that success has been part of a long, tough road, I think they’d tell you it was worth it.

In America, most people who go into business fail, 93% of all business start-ups, according to the United States Chamber of Commerce, fail within 5 years.  Ranch-Way Feeds has probably failed a number of times over the last 145 years, but Ranch-Way Feeds has never quit.

And when you go into a business, or revive a business, or turn a business around, you can’t fail so long as you don’t quit.  Is it hard?  Winning in business can be so hard it’s bizarre!  It takes time.  145 years for Ranch-Way Feeds, hopefully not so long for you.  Is it worth it?  That’s for each individual to decide, I think for Bonnie and Kim Szidon and Joe Bixler the answer is a resounding “yes”.

I think the deep personal satisfaction of achieving the national respect and notoriety their product line has, I think these three fine people have to FEEL good about what Ranch-Way Feeds is and how it’s been able to contribute to the agricultural community.  I think they FEEL right about the financial commitments they routinely make to the communities of Larimer County and to Fort Collins.

I think these fascinating people FEEL right about their company, their employees and their contribution and I think those good things drive them to continue operating in one of the most competitive business environments in our economy without any fear of failure.

Ranch-Way Feeds is perhaps the very business model that not only permeates its own success but guarantees anyone, anywhere willing to commit to high-quality, innovation and just plain being “nice” can achieve, so long as they’re willing to stay with it.

If you have a business and it’s just plunking along, think about these things, think about the life-long commitment of the Bixler/Szidon families and all they have learned to represent, fashion your attitudes around Bonnie’s mind-set on being “nice”, recommit to new things and new ways, endure the struggles, pay your dues and do things YOUR way – THAT’S what being an INDEPENDENT business is all about – putting YOUR HEART and YOUR SOUL and YOUR SWEAT and YOUR TIME and YOUR MONEY into what YOU BELIEVE IN and finding ways to SHARE it with others.

Ranch-Way Feeds is more than a company, it’s a prime example of American independent thinking, it’s alive and powerful and helping people in so many ways – it’s a company concerned with their own contribution and community footprint and it chooses its own standards and it does things its way.  It IS an Independently Owned and Operated, Made in the U.S.A. company whose attitudes, spread wide-enough, are the only reliable answer to many of our nation’s economic woes.

The spirit of Ranch-Way Feeds is real, and it’s right and it’s infectious.  It’s an American dream that actually came true.  And it’s something that you can make happen in your own life, business and world, you really can and Bonnie and Kim Szidon and Joe Bixler would be the first to congratulate you.

For more information on Ranch-Way Feeds or their products, visit them online at
©Copyright 2013 Real American Cowboy Magazine.  All Rights Reserved.


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Hope Sickler 8 FB

Charlie Nicks of Real American Cowboy Magazine

2013 was a big year for Hope as a writer – she was named Real American Cowboy Magazine’s Writer of the Year and in October she launched Mile Hi Barrel Horse Magazine ( which has already skyrocketed from relative obscurity to having established itself as one of the most popular barrel racing magazines in the industry expanding its readership base each and every month.  Her article in Real American Cowboy Magazine last September covering the deadly snow storm in South Dakota that killed more than 100,000 head of cattle was read by more than 1,000,000 people – big league numbers in the publishing business.
Hope, who is a petite girl will tackle anything – head-on, right now and full tilt.  She is an accomplished barrel racer and rapidly building a name as a reputation barrel horse trainer developing a barn full of young barrel horses.  What I have loved about knowing and working with Hope is her solid personal constitution and credit for that probably has to go to her parents, Shane and Jana Sickler and her agricultural upbringing on their mega-farm in North Dakota.

Today, Hope now lives in Pueblo, Colorado where she spends her time training barrel horses, writing, enjoying time with her boyfriend Brice and their 4-legged mascot, companion and side-kick, Iggy.   She is truly a remarkable young lady – a role model for young cowgirls – she’s someone we respect and hope you enjoy getting to know too.

Here’s what Hope had to say:
RACM:  When did horses come into the picture for you?
HOPE:  I have been a diehard horse fanatic since the day I was born. Both my grandpas loved horses and I think I got the interest and passion from them. Neither of my parents were ever involved with horses much. My mom grew up a city girl and my dad grew up on a farm. When I started riding, I actually wanted to do hunter/jumper and my parents flew me out to Ohio where my aunt and uncle lived at the time and they took me to Kentucky, to the horse parks and I got my very first jumping helmet! I can’t say I really ever used it because somewhere right after that is when I fell in love with barrel racing. Horses are part of my life every single day and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Although some days are trying, I am blessed to be able to do what I love every day.

RACM:  Brothers and sisters.  Birth order?
HOPE:  I am the oldest. I have a brother Lenci, who is 25 and a sister, Stormie, who is 20. My brother is a farmer and he and my dad work together farming my family’s farm of close to 10,000 acres of small grains, mainly wheat. We also raise buffalo, horses, run some cattle and also own/run a hunting lodge. My sister runs college track and cross country and is also a very accomplished photographer! If I ever get married, she will have dual jobs being a bridesmaid and a photographer! My family is extremely important to me. I have the world’s greatest parents who have been there through some of the lowest parts of my life and never gave up on me. My parents have worked hard to get to where they are today and have instilled that same work ethic into myself and my brother and sister.

RACM:  Did you enjoy school – any particular memories?
HOPE:  School was fun. I always tried to have a good time, sometimes too much fun! I was the kind of person that talked to everyone and tried to be friends with everyone. School was always hard for me though, and I struggled, especially with math. I think I took college algebra 3 or 4 times before I passed it. In fact I took it my last semester before I graduated college and I think my teacher only passed me because she felt bad for me and knew that I was graduating. I remember my senior year of high school when I was named biggest flit… which if you knew me in high school, you would’ve agreed!

RACM:  College – anything you want to say about college?
HOPE:  I LOVED college! I spent a few years at Dickinson State University and then in 2008 I transferred to North Dakota State University in Fargo, ND. I then spent 2 ½ years in Fargo where I finally graduated, along with my YOUNGER brother, in December of 2010 with a degree in Animal/Equine Science and a minor in Agribusiness. My brother is extremely smart and it always irritated me because while in Fargo, we owned and lived in a house together and he would never have homework or if he did, he would have it in done in 5 minutes; myself on the other hand would be banging my head against the wall in the basement trying to figure out the first question of the assignment. Like I said above, school was never my strong suit. I always joke and say I may not be book smart but I am dang sure street smart!
I absolutely loved going to school in Fargo. The campus was phenomenal, the instructors were great and I made some of my best friends while studying at NDSU. I actually haven’t been back to Fargo since I graduated in December 2010 and I will be going back there beginning of May for one of my best friends weddings. I am super excited to go back to my college stomping grounds and see old friends.

RACM:  How did you get to Pueblo, Colorado?
HOPE:  This is going to sound SO crazy but before I ever found my way to Pueblo, I actually did an assignment for college and chose Pueblo as where I moved after college. It was for one of my final equine business classes and we had to put together a business plan. I put together my business plan and I picked Pueblo, Colorado to “live”. Who would’ve thought I’d end up in Pueblo 4 years later! But the reason I am in Pueblo now is because of my boyfriend, Brice Ingo, who I have been dating for 3 years. My very best friend in the world introduced us and we have been glued to each other’s hip ever since. I am sure he is sick of me but I refuse to leave. I love Colorado too much!

RACM:  What is it you like about Colorado?
HOPE:  Colorado, like home in North Dakota, has every season, which is certainly NOT why I like it (I seriously loathe winter!) but it does remind me of home. I also like Colorado because although I can ride and train horses, I can be close to a city and go shopping or go out for sushi with my friends. I grew up on a farm/ranch 30 miles from ANYTHING for 20-some years of my life and even though I am a country girl at heart, I am also a city girl at heart. I love everything about big cities from the skyscrapers to the interstates and even the traffic! I love it all, so being in Colorado gives me the opportunity to have a little bit of country and a little bit of city! I also LOVE the people! I have met some very amazing people since living in Colorado and I can never imagine my life without any of them.

RACM:  When and why you got in the barrel horse training business?
HOPE:  If you would have told me 3 years ago I would be training young barrel horses, I would have laughed in your face. I never had the patience for young horses. I grew up riding seasoned and finished horses and loved everything about winning. I still like to win but not near as much as I like to train and start a young barrel horse. My boyfriend, Brice, is a huge reason why I transitioned into a trainer. He himself is a trainer (not a barrel horse trainer though!) and taught me how to be patient and how to “feel” and listen to a horse. Ever since then I have been hooked. I love not knowing what you have until you start and season the horse. It is a gamble and certainly a rollercoaster ride but I love it, every single minute of it. I get tickled when my young horses walk into the arena quietly, or stand outside the gate quietly. It is little things like that that make me love my job so much. I was also given the opportunity to ride and learn from some of the greats in the barrel industry such as Gale Beebe, Kelly Yates, Shelly Mueller, Darla Kennepohl and many, many more! Another person that has been very instrumental in my career in horses is Alan Woodbury. He is an old family friend and has helped me with a lot of horse involved decisions. Lastly I would have to thank my parents. Without them I would never be where I am today. They have given me every opportunity to follow my dreams and I am so extremely fortunate and thankful for them. They will never truly know how much I appreciate all they have done for me.

RACM:  What is your daily life like?
HOPE:  My daily life starts with me hitting the snooze button about 5 times! I am so not a morning person! I eventually roll out of bed about 630, put sweats on and head outside to feed the horses and clean pens. I am extremely anal about pen cleanliness and you will see me outside cleaning pens in a blizzard, tornado, hail storm, whatever!! After chores I go inside and work on the computer until the horses are through with their breakfast. After that I saddle and tie everything up. I typically ride between 8-10 horses a day, sometimes 12, just depends on if Brice is out of town shoeing (he is a farrier). I typically don’t get in the house until 6-8 that night and in the summer we don’t come in until 9 or 10. I really hate being inside, so the little time I have to spend inside the better. If I am inside, I am cleaning every chance I get. Not only am I anal about my pens but I am anal about my house. I vacuum probably 9 times a week, if not more!!
We rope on everything we have. All my futurity horses, finished barrel horses and prospects get roped on. They actually get roped on more during the week than they see the barrel pattern. We also pull and rope a Heel O Matic on all of our horses. I am very fortunate for Brice and all that he does for our horses and our program. He is a great trainer and an exceptional roper and I love that he ropes on all my crazy barrel horses!

RACM:  What is your very best memory with a horse?
HOPE:  Oh goodness, this is a tough one. How can you choose?! Every day makes for new memories with my horses, but my best memory would probably, honestly have to be when Alfie was born a month ago. She is a daughter of my mare Famous French Flair, and by Lana Merrick’s great Heart Of The Cartel. She was born via embryo transfer and she is the start to a very large dream that my family and I are making a reality! I am looking forward to the future with her and the rest of the babies and cannot wait to see what they have in store for us!
Other than that I have a lot of memories that are near and dear to my heart. Every horse that I have had the opportunity to ride has taught me something. I take every horse as a learning experience and an experience that will only better me as a rider and a trainer.

RACM:  You’re young for a popular writer, and yet you are already among the most popular writers in the rodeo and barrel racing world… how did that happen
HOPE:  I honestly think it happened because I know so many rodeo and ranch related people across the country. I have met and talked to some of the most influential people in our world of rodeo and barrel racing and I just think that has made me a better writer and person. I write from the heart and I never ever try to make my writing confusing or something you have to read very slowly to understand what exactly the writer is talking about! I like my writing to be something that a 7 or 8 year old child can read and understand. I don’t need to use big words to show that I am dignified writer. I also think my writing is very relatable.

RACM:  You’ve interviewed and written about a lot of famous people in the rodeo world – who sticks out in your mind, and why?  Inspiration?
HOPE:  Probably Kelly Yates. She has been extremely instrumental in my barrel racing career and putting her on the cover of our magazine was first-rate. She is one of the best barrel racers and barrel horse trainers to ever enter the arena and I think it will be hard to match her in the years to come. Writing that story was important to me because I wanted to share with the world what she has shared with me.

RACM:  Last October you and a couple of partners stared Mile Hi Barrel Horse Magazine – how is that going, what do you enjoy about it, what is the hardest part of it, where do see it going?
HOPE:  I love the magazine! It has certainly been a rollercoaster ride and something that I had no idea what I was up against when I first started, but I am so thankful that I did. I love being the editor and working with the people that I get to work with. I also love writing stories that barrel racers can relate to. The hardest thing about that is juggling everything at once but I am like my dad in that sense. My dad is a farmer, a rancher, a man of all sorts and he always has too many irons in the fire but he never skimps on anything. He always does a great job and does what he says he’s going to do and that is the kind of person I am trying to be (so far, so good!).

RACM:  Where is Hope Sickler in 5 years?
HOPE:  Hope Sickler is hopefully still training barrel horses and going down the road more! I have a couple young horses that I am very excited for and am hoping that they make all my dreams come true! In 5 years I will also have several more baby horses roaming the plains of North Dakota and cannot wait to see where they take me and my family. I have a couple new clients that I am riding and training for and I am excited to make their horses some of the best in the industry! In addition, I hope that my magazine has grown into the largest barrel racing magazine in the nation. I also joke that I will not have kids until I make a couple NFR’s so in 5 years there will probably not be any human babies in my life yet!

RACM:  Anything you want to say?
HOPE:  I just want to say that the sky is the limit. I never ever thought I would be where I am today but I am so happy that stuck my nose to the grindstone and never stopped trying. My family and friends have been very helpful in keeping my spirits high when things wouldn’t go the way that I wanted them to go and would always remind me that perseverance pays off.  No matter where my life takes me, I will always be the same small town, farm girl from North Dakota. I will never let anything change who I am or where I came from! I also want to thank everyone who has ever believed in me. That means the world to me!
You can contact Hope at, you can LIKE her Facebook Page

©Copyright 2014 Real American Cowboy Magazine.  All Rights Reserved.
Cover photo courtesy Sean Halverson Photography.


©Copyright 2014 Real American Cowboy Magazine. All Rights Reserved.
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Barry Corbin Final Cover

BARRY CORBIN – A Real American Cowboy Treasure
Lauren Anthony for Real American Cowboy Magazine

There’s a common denominator among cowboys and fans of the Western lifestyle. It’s called Lonesome Dove.

If you haven’t heard of it, then you’re either stuck in a high rise or under a rock. Even some of the most devout city slickers are long time admirers of this epic Western classic.

If you do know Lonesome Dove, then you know the important role of a trusty sidekick. One such cohort, also known as Roscoe Brown, was brought to life on the big screen by legendary actor, Barry Corbin.

We won’t hold it against you if you’re still scratching your head about Larry McMurtry’s masterpiece because we guarantee you’ve seen Barry before, and loved him. Barry Corbin also starred as our favorite retired astronaut, Maurice Minnifield, in the hit TV show, Northern Exposure.

So who is Barry Corbin off screen? Quite simply, he’s one of the most down to earth cowboys (and Texans) that’s ever graced the motion picture industry. He’s also no stranger to the stage. As a youngster, Barry spent his Saturday afternoons holed up in the local movie theater watching old “B” Westerns. “I wanted to be Walter Brennan and Ben Johnson,” Barry said.

Bit by the acting bug as a boy, Barry enjoyed performing in school plays as well as musicals. Other than theater and joining the Future Farmers of America, Barry wasn’t a big fan of school. He still considers calculators and today’s computers (which he refuses to own) as “instruments of the devil.” Still, this didn’t stop Barry from attending college.

Working hard to make his dreams of being an actor come true, he studied theater at Texas Tech. Without a rigid course of study, Barry followed his own program which he admits is usual way of doing things.

He was often found napping between classes in a dumpster (full of tossed flowers of course). Tall tales drew of Barry living in a trash bin on campus after he was finally found out. “Nobody would’ve known if the truck hadn’t come by and emptied the dumpster while I was in there. So I got dumped by the garbage truck.”

From the dumpster, Barry climbed his way out to random odd jobs during his college years. One such job was on an oil rig. It’s also the place where Barry discovered ballet. An oil man in Lubbock convinced a Lithuanian ballet instructor to move to Texas to tutor his daughter. Fortunately for Barry, they needed strong hands to lift the ballerinas.  Most folks would never guess Barry’s danced the role of the Prince in Swan Lake.

At 21, Barry ventured away from college and joined the Marine Corps where he spent several years at Camp Pendleton in California. He served in the Marine Corps Reserve in Lubbock and after his discharge he returned his focus to acting.

After working Shakespeare festivals, Barry decided to try his luck in New York or Los Angeles. New York won in a coin toss, and he packed his bags for the big apple. The road to New York was littered with detours, one being Chicago. Barry worked as a lead shoveler at a print shop and admits it was one of the hardest jobs he’s ever had.

He continued to send his resume to theatre companies and eventually traveled to Wisconsin for an audition. He was hired to perform summer outdoor drama in North Carolina and soon relocated to Boone, N.C.

Finally in 1966, Barry made it to New York when he landed a job with the American Shakespeare Festival in Connecticut. Random bit parts in theatre and small television appearances eventually led Barry to re-evaluate his career. So he packed up once again and left the big city. His life still similar to that of a wandering cowboy, he slept in the back of his old Ford wagon. Barry admitted, “I thought it was kind of fun, a bohemian existence.”

Over the next few years, Barry continued to perform on stage and eventually found his way back to New York. In 1976, he ventured west to Hollywood and wrote plays for National Public Radio as well as other radio, film, and stage scripts.

While in tinsel town, Barry auditioned for the role of Uncle Bob in the 1979 film, Urban Cowboy. It was his first movie break and he was happy to get back to Texas for filming. Barry favors this as one of his most memorable. He re-wrote one of his last lines in the movie just before his character is killed. “The director, Jim Bridges, came over to me and told me we’re not satisfied with the way your last scene is written. He thought it was too short. He said to me, ‘You’re a writer can you write something’. So I sat down and wrote a paragraph (the one in the movie) and I wrote it on a napkin there in Gilley’s. I asked Jim, ‘How about this?’ He said, ‘Perfect. We’ll shoot that.’ So that’s what we did.”

Urban Cowboy led to regular appearances on the silver screen and TV shows. One of my personal favorites is the Louis L’Amour classic, Conagher that Barry starred in with Sam Elliott. Barry recalled his initial reaction to driving a team of six horses when he arrived on set in Colorado. “They hired me to be the stagecoach driver. I got on set there in Colorado and they said ‘Oh by the way you do drive a six team?’ The most I’d ever driven was two. They told me I’d have to drive six in this movie. So I asked them how long do I have, and they told me three days. So I spent the next three days up on the box of that stagecoach driving, turning, and backing up. By the time we started filming, I kind of knew what I was doing,” Barry laughed.

Barry received the Western Heritage award from the National Cowboy Museum and Western Heritage Center and the “Buffalo Bill Cody Award” for quality family entertainment. He’s also won 4 Wrangler Awards. “I’d rather get one of those than an Academy Award.”

During his acceptance of the Buffalo Bill Cody award, Barry got up close and personal with hot blooded barrel horse. “I was supposed to make a lap around the arena before I stopped to get the award. I didn’t realize this was one of those horses that those girls ride and as soon as it hits the gate, it just takes off like Seabiscuit!”

Through countless memorable roles in Westerns and significant dramas, perhaps one of Barry’s most loved characters was that of the unforgettably funny deputy, Roscoe Brown in Lonesome Dove. “I was one of the first ones to film. After my scenes I was off for a few months and then I came back at the end of the shoot. Everybody was real happy at the beginning when I left, but then when I got back everybody was mad. I asked what in the world had happened and Tim Scott said ‘Cattle drive, that’s what happened.’”

One of his most famous roles remains retired NASA astronaut, Maurice Minnifield in the hit show, Northern Exposure. I was excited to finally ask Barry how he liked filming in Alaska. “Oh I’ve never been to Alaska,” Barry laughed.

It was during Northern Exposure that Barry was reunited with his daughter Shannon. Adopted as an infant, she tracked down her biological parents and found out that her mother placed her for adoption without ever telling Barry she was pregnant with his child. Shannon and Barry now enjoy a close relationship and live just across the street from each other. Barry also has three adult sons.

Barry lived on his horse and cattle ranch where he rode everyday to check his herd. As an empty nester, Barry found it hard to juggle caring for his ranch with his constant travel. He now lives outside Ft. Worth and divides his time between home and Hollywood.

He’s now playing the always mad Ed, in the sitcom Anger Management with Charlie and Martin Sheen. “Martin and I are roommates in this deal. It’s really easy because most of what I do is sit on the couch and say ugly things to people.” He admits he’s having a great time with this role, and it keeps him laughing.

It’s easy to take the cowboy out of Texas, but as long as Barry Corbin’s on screen, we’re certain Texas will stay in him.

©Copyright 2014 Real American Cowboy Magazine.  All Rights Reserved.


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Shannon Cole Cover

Shannon Cole for Real American Cowboy Magazine

Coarsegold, California has had its name changed a half-dozen times since 1849 when gold was first discovered there – first declared, “Texas Flat”, over the years giving way to 5 more name changes it eventually became, Coarsegold.   But, there has only been one name for its rodeo… the Coarsegold Rodeo.

One of the most breath-taking rodeo grounds in all of California settled at an elevation around 2,000 feet, a stone’s throw of Yosemite National Park.  Today, Coarsegold, CA is an enchanting community of 1,880 according the 2010 Census – maybe another 500 or so in the immediate surrounding area – it’s a friendly and genuine small town with a very famous small town rodeo.

Coarsegold had its first rodeo in 1927.  Back then, one dollar would pay your way in and it even included barbeque and coffee.  Today it’s not much more to get in, all things considered.

In those early days, folks would travel by wagon or horseback to spend the day cheering on cowboys and cowgirls who competed in unusual events such as mule riding, cow riding, girl bareback horse races and the most entertaining of all, the wild cow event, which was quite the riot.  Today, the Coarsegold Rodeo is still a unique rodeo that entertains huge crowds from near and far.

The night before those old rodeos would have been an adventure – the cowboys gathered, the pale red glow from the campfires lit up the mountain sky and you could see stars for miles.  The cowboys would tell stories about their rodeo adventures and talk about the true sportsmanship of rodeo, how they began and what they have learned.  Lanterns would hang from 100 year old oak trees, music and dancing, knee slapping and beer drinking before the big day.  And then, the cowboys would bed down with the livestock.

Long ago, the Grand Marshall and his adoring wife were chauffeured into the arena for the Grand Entry in an old Model T Ford touring car wearing perfectly pressed western attire and a sharp black cowboy hat. Today, beautifully groomed horses ridden by pretty cowgirls dressed in rhinestone shirts, colorful chaps, and polished buckles lead our National Anthem.

Now cowboys roll in pulling fancy horse trailers behind big trucks with their livestock.  Back then, livestock was driven to the rodeo arena the night before.  Sometimes, as far as 20 miles and pack horses carried equipment.

Some folks live for the sweet smell of country and can’t wait for the small town rodeo.  Indian tacos, shaved ice, funnel cakes, barbeque, baked beans and ice cold beers.  Some enjoy the excitement of bigger rodeos.  Bright lights, big name music, thousands of fans fill the bleachers to watch cowboys and cowgirls compete for buckles, saddles and big prize money.

At Coarsegold there are lots of lawn chairs and umbrellas, lots of vendors and sponsors who support the event, but there’s also a feeling you get – a feeling of what it once was, to be surrounded by chutes and fences built by old weathered wood hauled in by wagons 100 years ago straight out of the old mill.

The history of how small town California rodeo began is still in the air, where world champions once rode and seasoned old rodeo announcers once roared over scratchy microphones and where famous bucking horses and bulls performed.

You think of thick smoke coming off the barbeque, the sweet smell of homemade berry pies baked by local town ladies and the smiles on children’s faces.  Memories of the old rodeos will always be around.

Women spent days baking and preparing food as the men prepared for the deep pit barbeque.  The meat was wrapped in wet burlap sacks and placed over hot rocks then covered with dirt.  The next day it was uncovered and would be a delicious meal for all.  Women would make coleslaw and put into an old claw foot bathtub to be stirred with a big coal shovel then served using long handled ladles.

The spirits of the old cowboys and cowgirls that once rode in the early 1900’s still remain.   Coarsegold, deep in the High Sierras and other small mountain towns, few and far between, are blessed by the old tales from long ago, tales that will be told one generation to another.

The fact is, small town rodeos attract some of the most well-known cowboys and cowgirls, well known announcers, top stock contractors and some of the biggest, most enthusiastic and knowledgeable crowds.  And the Coarsegold Rodeo is among the very best small town rodeos in America.

The 2014 Coarsegold Rodeo is right around the corner, May 3rd and 4th – for more information or tickets visit them at
©Copyright 2014 Real American Cowboy Magazine.  All Rights Reserved.


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Wolf cover

Charlie Nicks of Real American Cowboy Magazine

818. She never really stood out. She was a middle-of-the-road cow – now that I think about it. Half of one ear had been frozen off one winter, as was half her tail. No registration, no blood lines – no papers – born and raised on the ranch; she was just a good four year old cow.

If she had a long-suit it was her manners. She was always a well-mannered cow. You never saw her bullying the other cows for a better place on the hay line. She was quiet in a squeeze chute, always easy to work; she cooperated and just wanted to get quickly back to her business. She did her job, always a sturdy calf, always a good mother, never in the barn, never even in the sick pen.

I spent most of the 1990’s as a working cowboy, living and working on a big cow-calf operation on the Flathead Indian Reservation, in Western Montana, one of the most beautiful places in North America. I lived alone in a bunkhouse with only a wood stove for heat, no bathroom, no television, no radio, no Internet – a bed in a big room, a coffee pot and 5 baby kittens, the offspring of disagreeable barn cats and nobody you want to live with.

We worked 7 days a week. Friday afternoon to Saturday morning off; Friday afternoon would be the only shower I got to take during the week. I earned $250.00 a week, food, a tank of gas and a carton of cigarettes. I once went more than a year without making or receiving a single telephone call. My life then was about horses, cattle, irrigation pipe, doctoring, feeding, counting, sorting, moving, checking, finding and calving… and fencing pliers, saddles, halters, plastic buckets, staples, gloves in a truck that never matched, 4-wheelers, cold barns, grain bins, mud, frozen bibs, guns, binoculars and firewood.

“Wolf-talk” started in Montana the day after the Department of the Interior announced it was reintroducing wolves into Montana, wolves from Canada.

Ranchers all over Montana erupted with a loud voice and a singular message – “we don’t want wolves in Montana!” And within hours, there was considerable push-back from then fledgling pro-wolf organizations, “bring back the wolves!”

Not your everyday animal rights people picking at rodeo stock contractors, the kind of people who actually once threw a bucket of buffalo blood on the Montana Governor during a speech in Bozeman to show their dislike for Montana’s buffalo kill policy with bison wandering out of Yellowstone – in fact, many pro-wolf folks were pretty much headquartered in Bozeman, sort of Montana’s Boulder.

Now that the wolf-thing is out of the bag, I want to say this and I assure you I mean every word of it. I have absolutely NOTHING AGAINST WOLVES – or their natural instincts to hunt.

A wolf is a wolf. Never once throughout the duration of their lives do they make a moral assessment of their conduct. Wolves are, from the moment they are born until the moment they die, operating essentially on auto-pilot responding to the cry of the emptiness of a demanding stomach. They do what they have to do to survive. Who could fault them for that? I can’t. And I don’t.

In 1800, there were many wolves in Montana. By 1940, virtually (as in not all but pretty close to it) all the wolves had been killed off. And they were killed off by a smarter, more superior predator; human beings. Like they were in Russia, Afghanistan, Europe circa 1,000 A.D. and again during the Middle Ages when populations of breeding packs were high.

Unlike the writers of the 16th Century, 17th Century or since, I am not promoting the idea that wolves are bad or evil. Wolves are wolves. They eat a tremendous amount of meat. Pounds of it at a single feeding. And wolves are vicious killers. That is just a fact – and it is fact no matter who you are, what your group is named, whether you’re on the government payroll “managing” wolves. Wolves are vicious, insidious, torturous killers. Fact.

To also be clear, now that the wolf has been re-introduced, I’m not all fired-up to send them back to the brink of extermination. That will eventually happen and it will happen no matter what you or I think. We have a very long world-wide historical script established – man and wolf cannot live together – wolf dies.

So the fight was on. The government made good on its promise and eventually a United States government jet landed at Johnson Bell Field in Missoula, Montana with 6 passengers, each in their own cage

The airplane pulled into a private hanger the door came down and the wolves were made American citizens without so much as taking an oath. The cost, $645,000.00 per wolf. One wolf bit a handler who had put his hand on the face of the cage holding it. That wolf was destroyed, apparently the government was in no mood to tolerate a bad behaving wolf.

The remaining wolves were moved by trucks the next morning, taken west of Missoula to the area known as the Nine Mile, then hauled north a few miles into the mountains, then released. Our ranch was 20 miles due north of the release point.

There were meetings in Senor Citizen’s Centers and restaurants and bars – there were Letters to the Editors and local television news interviews. There was a lot of hot talk, both ways, it was loud and nasty and it really didn’t even matter – because the wolves were already loose.

Over the years we average about one wolf-kill a year – and so do most of our neighbors.

In January 1994, Western Montana was hit with an incredibly cold snap – temperatures during that month fell AND STAYED around 35 below for two weeks, day and night. Our work focus changed from nurturing very pregnant mother cows to saving-cattle, and there was much to do.

One morning after we finished feeding I caught a horse and rode the irrigation ditch above the ranch intending to chop ice along the way. The ditch water was frozen, the ground covered with snow, everything in every direction, white. I rode up on the crest of the ditch, higher ground, and a quarter mile ahead I saw what looked like a murder scene.

It was a wolf kill. The first I had ever seen. The Nine Mile Pack. Our cow. They’d turned her out of the herd, run her down into the irrigation ditch where she couldn’t get any footing and trotted her on the ice for a half mile or so. 8 months pregnant and her legs cut by ice, she finally laid down. At that point a half dozen wolves attacked.

They ate her unborn calf first. She wasn’t dead; the wolves had decided to first eat the calf from inside her – while she was still alive. I believe, and understand, I am not qualified in any way to determine this, but I think she bled to death as a result of the ripping and tearing of her vagina. In fact, they had eaten pretty much all of her with the exception of her nose and the hide on her ears.

It was a horrific sight, it doesn’t need to be sensationalized, it’s something most every Montana rancher has seen a time or two. It made me sad. I had fed that cow since she was born, helped pull her first calf, knew her little quirks, I respected her.

After filling out more paperwork than the IRS requires each year, we were compensated from a special “Wolf Kill” fund the government had set-up apparently to keep ranchers happy – or at least quiet.

They paid us less than $600.00 for that cow, sale barn price. She was only 4 years old, prime time for a mother cow – she would have produced another 7 or 8 good calves, which we would have raised and eventually sold to keep the ranch going. But they don’t pay for that. Just the going weight-price. And that’s still pretty much the program.

So, the U.S. government released 6 wolves in Montana, and they reproduced. And they reproduced. And they reproduced. And as the years went by it got out of control until there were, by some estimates, more than 1,600 wolves running around Montana. And many, if not all of them eventually can be found lurking outside a pasture fence in the darkness, eyeing cattle – too often killing cattle

You don’t see wolves very often, the few times I have they were near a tree line, running together in a pack into the tress and disappearing. But, on the other hand, there are so many wolves in Montana now it’s not unusual to hear of one being killed on a highway or spotted walking near small towns. They’re a problem for human beings and eventually, as happened time and again throughout man’s long relationship with the wolf, the wolves will eventually be killed off.

And maybe that’s too bad, they just do what they have to do – and maybe ranchers shouldn’t be demonized for being against wolves – maybe it’s natural and normal for a rancher to protect his property.

And maybe this is just another prime example of a government mistake that should have been more thought-out at the on-set, the reproductive cycles and litter sizes of wolves are no secret – it’s hard to imagine that wasn’t all taken into consideration by a government releasing known killers in the wild.

I still have her ear tag. I still think of how traumatized she must have been being eaten alive by a frenzied pack of wolves in the freezing cold, exhausted and unable to even fight back. I hope she died quickly but I know that wasn’t the case, I’ve seen my share of death and hers was a terrible one.

I don’t have a big conclusion or earth-shattering resolution – I don’t have a grudge – wolves are killing a fair share of cattle and the ranching community is suffering because of it. On the other hand, the ranchers in states and areas where wolves now live will continue to endure their killing, they’ll work around it, they’ll factor it in.

Decisions have consequences. Governments who dabble into the business of Mother Nature always end up with egg on their face – always – and the wolf problems are a perfect example of that being true. Bringing wolves back into Montana was a bad decision in my opinion, for the wolves. And now, it will be managed not by a government who doesn’t know what to do about the problem it created, but quietly, one rancher, one gun, one bullet at a time. And it didn’t have to be that way.

818. She was just a cow, but she was a good cow.

©Copyright 2014 Real American Cowboy Magazine. All Rights Reserved.


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wiley cover 2


Terry Lidral for Real American Cowboy Magazine

On May 11, 2012, Wiley Petersen retired from professional bull riding.

He’d spent the last 12 years riding the world’s rankest bulls on the Professional Bull Riders Built Ford Tough Series.  At 30 years old, he’d become one of the world’s best – and most loved – bull riders.  729 rides – 274 BFTS events with 13 wins – and a PBR World Finals title.  Pretty impressive stuff.

Retirement wasn’t an easy decision.  Coming from a family of cowboys, Wiley decided he wanted to ride bulls at the age of 10.  After that first ride, he was hooked.  And he was winning pretty much from the start.  Buckles from Idaho Junior Rodeo Association events, 2- time National High School Rodeo Finals qualifier, 2 trips to the College National Finals Rodeo, it didn’t take long for Wiley to start riding in PRCA events.  Then, in 1999, he was riding in the PBR on his way to making the World Finals in 2000.

But the injuries were taking their toll.  Forced to take some time off to heal up, Wiley had a chance to think about his future in the sport.

“I decided to retire from riding bulls because the risks began to outweigh the rewards.  I was having to talk myself into it every time I was at an event.  When you make a living as a professional bull rider, you have to have that competitive edge that drives you to excel.  I lost my edge and as a result, I started to get injured more.  It was a difficult decision because I didn’t know what I was going to do to provide for my family without bull riding, but I had to retire before I got hurt really bad,” Wiley explains.

With a renewed positive attitude, Wiley describes this as another opportunity for success.  “Retirement is a new beginning because I now have the opportunity to start a new chapter in my life.  I am going back to school and will eventually get my physical therapist’s license.”

Physical therapy is a natural fit.  As a bull rider, Wiley has had to keep in top notch physical shape.  Retirement from professional bull riding isn’t going to change that.   “I have always been into fitness and I believe that is what kept me competitive for so many years.  Now that I’m not riding bulls, I want to stay healthy.  I work out at least 3 days per week by alternating cardio and weights.  Sometimes it is hard to make the time to work out, but I feel so much better physically and mentally when I do.  It’s very therapeutic.”

There are things that Wiley misses about being on the BFTS tour.  “I miss the friends, travel, and interacting with the fans.  I miss the thrill of competition and the gratification of riding a tough bull.  I miss winning and I also miss the money!”

And there are things he doesn’t miss about the grueling schedule on the professional circuit.  “I don’t miss the days away from my family and the apprehension of getting injured.  You can’t focus on the possibility of getting hurt, but it is always in the back of your mind when you do something as dangerous as bull riding.  I also don’t miss the late nights and early mornings flying to or from an event.”  Wiley goes on to say that “the best part about being retired from bull riding is that I am home all the time now with my family.  I have missed having a ‘regular’ schedule, so it is nice to experience life as a ‘normal’ person.”

For Wiley, the high visibility of his successful career has been an opportunity and a responsibility to live by example.  “I am most proud of the fact that I was able to be successful in the sport of bull riding while maintaining my Christian integrity through a lot of challenges and temptations.  I am proud of the fact that I was most well known for being the ‘Christian Bull Rider.’  I never want people to question whether or not I love them or God.  I want it to be obvious, and I feel like I did that throughout my bull riding career.”

Along with fellow bull rider Dustin Elliott, Wiley has entered in to a business venture that allows him to share his knowledge and world class bull riding skills.   “Dustin and I are partners in a company called Cowboy Innovations with our primary website at  We provide bull rider/athlete training resources and programs online and at bull riding clinics around the U.S.  Dustin and I met on the PBR tour a few years ago.  We have a lot in common and became good friends.  Shortly after I retired, Dustin called me and we got to talking about plans after riding bulls.  We agreed that there is a lack of good bull rider coaching/training, and we both had a similar idea to change that.  That conversation lead to us forming a partnership to help young men learn the skills to be successful in and out of the arena.  We don’t just want to help people ride bulls well, we want them to be true champions in life. Our motto is ‘”Be A Champion!”

Wiley’s commitment to being a role model is as strong as ever.  “I love to see people inspired to go beyond the limits that they set on themselves.  I want to inspire young people to make the most out of their lives and learn early on that nothing is impossible to them that believe.  Even with all that I accomplished, there are things that I wish people would have told me or showed me to help me avoid some unnecessary mistakes.  I want to be someone that people both young and old can look at and be inspired to live life to the fullest and be inspired to reach their fullest potential.”

Faith has sustained Wiley during the transition away from professional bull riding.  “My faith helps me get the most out of every day because I know that God has a purpose for me.  My life is not about what I can do for myself, but what I can do for others.  That is what keeps me going every day. There are some days that I get to feeling like I’m going nowhere, but then I start thinking of all the people out there who need to hear how much God loves them and I think about how they need to be encouraged.  It motivates me to keep working and praying.”

Where does Wiley see himself in 10 years?  “In ten years, I see myself as a physical therapist working in Pocatello, Idaho, where I live. I expect to be doing some work with young bull riders to help them prevent injuries, recover from injuries, and improve their bull riding skills through videos online and by putting on some bull riding clinics around the U.S.  I’ll be involved with Riding High Ministries to some degree, whether it be through the clinics that I produce or going to some of the PBR events. I plan to be involved in community events and maybe I’ll volunteer to help a local high school sports team or some other youth sports group with my P.T. training.”

Whatever Wiley is doing, he’s sure to be a success.

©Copyright 2014 Real American Cowboy Magazine & Terry Lidral.  All Rights Reserved.


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Darla Cover Final

DARLA KENNEPOHL A cowgirl lovin’ life!

Meg Stanley for Real American Cowboy Magazine

If you could use a little inspiration, spend 5 minutes talking to Darla Kennepohl. It barely took that long for me to be enthralled in her story asking for more. Kennepohl is a Colorado based barrel racer and trainer. She came from modest beginnings, working hard for countless years in pursuit of her goals. It is a pursuit that she is not giving up any time soon.

Born in the small town of Deer Trail in eastern Colorado, she was born with the love of fast horses that so many young girls can relate to. However, coming from a family that didn’t exactly have the means to get their daughter a top of the line barrel horse, she was still determined to get a horse and be in the saddle. For those of you that don’t know, finished and proven barrels horses can cost more than the price of a brand new pick-up. Knowing that wasn’t an option for her, Kennepohl went with a started 3-year-old appaloosa that she took right to the barrels.

For most people this would be a difficult task to achieve, but Darla would not take no for an answer. She joined a local gymkhana association and competed on her mare as much as she could; all the while not realizing this horse of hers was in foal.

While her mare was being started she was unknowingly exposed to the stallion at the trainer’s place and as a result a foal was in the works. “I was completely ignorant. I just thought she was getting fat!” This little hiccup didn’t stop her, she kept pursuing her dreams and when the mare foaled she brought the baby with. She had a passion and a drive that just wouldn’t quit.

Over the years, she kept learning more and gaining more success through her hard work. Most barrel racers have constant access to places to ride out of the elements. This was not the case for Kennepohl. She had a plowed patch of dirt and when it got dark she turned on a 1000 Watt spot light to see by. She just had this passion and desire to be in the saddle and compete, and that is exactly what she did.

She graduated to the COBRA and NBHA associations with 2 horses that she trained and ultimately won year-end saddles on both. After that, there was no looking back for Kennepohl, “I had reached a goal and was so proud and excited, but it meant for me it was time to move onto the next goal…I just had to keep going!”

Kennepohl spent 13 years at the prominent Victory Farms. It was there that she was able to fine-tune her training ability and learned what hard work was. The farm entailed everything that raising, training, and selling top of the line competition horses takes. Kennepohl had a large part in all of it. “I would be working all day doing what needed to be done, and when 5’o clock came I was in the saddle,” explained Kennepohl, “I had this burning desire to ride.” This burning desire meant very late nights and early mornings, again showing her determination that is ever present.

It is no secret that she has a God given talent for training horses. The record of her horses she trained is extremely impressive, including but not limited to AQHA World Championship and BFA Year-end Futurity Horse of the Year. Not only can this woman train and jockey her horses to championships she is able to train horses so that jump riders can hop on and ride her horses to championships themselves.

Her record proves that she can train and ride, but as with most riders there is a once in a lifetime horse that you just have that connection with. For Kennepohl that horse was Modan Cindy. ‘Cindy’ was her superstar and she knew it from the start. “We purchased her as a 2-year-old and she was handed to me to train, from the very beginning we had a connection and I was so excited for her future,” explained an emotional Kennepohl. This future proved to be an exceptional one for them both, winning AQHA Reserve World Championship, the BFA year-end Futurity Horse of the Year, and was named AQHA’s Best of America’s Horse, with earnings exceeding $50,000 just in the mare’s 4-year-old year.

Kennepohl’s life has since lead her back to her roots in Colorado where she has recently married her high school sweetheart and still has that passion and determination to be great. They have settled in Kiowa where she continues to train for the public while working towards her personal aspirations.

When I asked her what was next she boldly said, “I want to win a slot race!” After my conversation with her, I have no doubt this inspiring, hard working lady will be jockeying her way to $100,000 from that slot race win in her pocket very soon.

©Copyright 2013 Real American Cowboy Magazine. All Rights Reserved.


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Leslie 6


Lauren Anthony for Real American Cowboy Magazine

Mint juleps, pearls, and cotillions are the first things that come to mind when most folks hear the term Southern Belle. However, you won’t find Carolina cowgirl, Leslie Willis, sipping sweet tea on the front porch. She redefines this traditional image with grit, guts and determination.

A native of Chester, S.C., Leslie grew up showing pleasure and halter horses with her family. Never a fan of playing dress up, Leslie always preferred barrel racing to showing horses. “I was a little rebel child who didn’t want to dress up, I always rode a barrel horse,” she said. With her parents Les and Debbie Shugart’s help, Leslie soon entered the Junior Southern Rodeo Association along with her younger brother Jason and sister, Shannon.

Leslie was a natural at barrel racing and pole bending. She added, “My parents didn’t buy finished horses, so I grew up riding and learning to train on my own. I think that helped me a lot.” It certainly didn’t hurt, and soon Leslie added more events when she joined the South Carolina High School Rodeo Association.

Leslie excellent in every event of competition, qualifying for the National High School Finals as well as competing in the International Youth Finals Rodeo in Shawnee, Okla. Not only could she swing a rope, tie a goat, and burn up a barrel pattern, but she could also look lovely while doing it. “I was the ’94-’95 SCHSRA Queen too!” Leslie continued.

It didn’t take long for Leslie to spark the attention of several rodeo colleges during her senior year. Leslie was offered a rodeo scholarship to Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia, Ark., but she got cold feet at the last minute. “I wanted to be closer to home,” she said. Leslie finished her Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C. and decided to purchase her Southern Rodeo Association card.

She was pretty serious with her boyfriend, Jason Willis, at the time as well. The first year she purchased her card she qualified for the SRA Finals. Leslie laughed when she remembered those early days of rodeo and dating Jason. “I was pretty hard headed back then. If he didn’t want to go to my horse shows and rodeos with me, then we didn’t date,” she laughed. Plain and simple, barrel racing came first. Lucky for Jason, he was already prepped in that department and he remains Leslie’s biggest supporter. The pair knew each other growing up in 4-H and horse shows. Jason was an accomplished barrel horse trainer in his own right, and the pair fit together perfectly. After graduating college, Leslie and Jason got married and began barrel racing as a team. “Jason has always been there for me. I couldn’t do it without him,” Leslie added.

“We did whatever it took in those days to make money and survive in the horse business, even trading horses for a riding lawnmower,” she laughed. As newlyweds, Leslie and Jason relied on each other to get through those first years of marriage and barrel racing competitions. Fortunately, it didn’t take long for things to start clicking. In 2000, the couple purchased a small farm to begin their horse business.

Among the remuda was Leslie’s tried and true gelding, “A Special Time to Fly”, also known as Mister. Leslie dubbed the farm, Flying W Ranch, after Mister. “He was really my first horse that could go anywhere and was very capable of winning any show. He was kind of an outlaw, but I could always handle him,” she said. Mister, who is now retired along with his brother “A Time to Coup”, were both Leslie’s favorites. “They were fun to ride when they were working,” she said. 2000 was a year of new promise and beginnings for the Willis clan until September.

Around Labor day, Leslie’s younger brother Jason, also a former high school rodeo champion, was tragically killed in a car accident at just 20 years old. Leslie and her family pulled together and she said, “The only thing that got us through was our faith. It’s still hard, even today.”

Through the blows and pitfalls of that first year, Leslie remained positive and determined to push through. In 2002, Leslie and Mister won both rounds and the average of the Southeast Regional Finals as well as the year end for the Southeast Region of the IPRA. She also qualified for her first IFR in Oklahoma City. Things continued to get better and in 2003 she rode “Snoop Baby Snoop” at the Mega Race in Jackson, Miss. for a $25,000 win. Leslie returned to the IFR in 2004 and won money in all four rounds. Then in 2005 she captured the BFA (Barrel Futurities of America) year end championship on “Playing with Effort.” Until her BFA win, Leslie admitted she felt like an underdog in the industry. Swift horses and an incredible track record helped change her mind. 2007 proved to be Leslie’s most phenomenal year in barrel racing.

Leslie entered the Champion of Champions race in Memphis, Tenn. on December 1, 2007 riding “Hesa Dashing Boone” and won $100,000. “I remember walking out of the arena crying, I was so excited. I couldn’t believe it had really happened,” she said. Little did she know, just days later in Oklahoma City, she would make history riding another superstar horse. On December 4, 2007 Leslie rode “Bet Or Check” to the pay window at the Super Stakes race for $100,000. Two horses, four days, and one jockey worth $200,000. A feat that no other barrel racer in history has accomplished.

“That second race I had to sit there and hold my breath until it was over. Those four days were a blur,” she added. Sadly, the win was bittersweet. Leslie’s champion horse Bet or Check passed away a few months later on her farm. “I wanted him to buried right away. I wanted things to be done,” she said. For Leslie, the entire experience seemed unreal. “It was fun, even now we compare all of our colts to those two. They were great horses.”

Since her record setting win in 2007, Leslie and Jason have continued to train, ride and win on champion horses. Leslie is also the 2011 SC NBHA State Champion and this year she won again. Many of her friends and barrel racing family constantly encourage Leslie to host clinics and training sessions but she claims private lessons are more her style. “I feel more confident helping people here on the farm in a private setting. It’s more comfortable,” she said. Leslie had the chance to become close friends with her own barrel racing idol, Martha Josey at this year’s IFR. “R.E. and I sat together, and he is just a hoot. They are so much fun!” Leslie said.

Leslie and Jason are already planning for 2014 and making decisions based on their three year old colts. “There are some that I like. They are pretty green, and I’m not a competitor that just enters shows just to go. I go to win,” she said. “Every year we want to have that next great colt. That’s what keeps us going and out riding.” If their colts seem promising then they will enter futurities and if not, then they’ll load up the open horses and enter rodeos. “One day you can be on top of the world and the next day, the horses aren’t doing that well. It’s important to hold your head high when things go bad. You can’t win them all,” Leslie continued.

If one thing’s for sure, Leslie Willis will continue to blaze a trail in the barrel racing industry. She said, “There’s definitely more to come!”

©Copyright 2013 Real American Cowboy Magazine. All Rights Reserved.



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Wade Final

Superman Wade Sumpter

Hope Sickler for Real American Cowboy Magazine

What do strength, endurance, and extremely manly all have in common? I’ll give ya a hint… his main two mounts in the steer wrestling are Wick and Two Guns.

Now if you can’t guess who I am referring to, you better pay attention to the rest of this story because ladies and gentlemen, Wade Sumpter is a man that everyone loves, respects and may even be a little scared of; joking, but seriously!

The fact that this man can barrel off an animal running mach-90 after another animal that is also running at dead speed, and wrestle that beast to the ground, all without breaking a sweat, would probably make even Iron Man quiver in his britches.

If you are from Colorado and have any ties to the rodeo or agricultural world, the name Wade Sumpter is a household name and if you live along the Arkansas River, you grew up hearing Wade Sumpter stories. Rich and Cindy Sumpter are the love birds that fell in love and gave Wade his first breath of that Colorado Rocky Mountain air.

Born in southern Colorado in Alamosa, Wade and his family moved east to Fowler when he was in middle school. Being the macho nacho that he was, Wade was recruited immediately by his high school football team where he played all through high school and then went onto college at the University of Northern Colorado on a football scholarship where he played all 4-years. Although football was dang sure a sport that he excelled at, he wanted to rodeo more than anything else.

In 2005, Wade hit that dusted up ole rodeo trail and started entering some of the circuit rodeos and other bigger rodeos around Colorado. Then in 2006 he broke out of his shell and hit the road hard like a real road warrior. 2006 was not only the year he started rodeoing hard or the first year he qualified for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (NFR) in Las Vegas; it was the year that he was destined to meet his future bride, a cowgirl to the core, Linsay Rosser. Linsay was born and raised in California, in a small town called Wheatland. She was born and raised in the rodeo business and her grandfather, Cotton Rosser, is a name that is synonymous with rodeo bucking stock. While Wade was out in California on the rodeo trail, he just so happened to catch glimpse of this pretty blonde chic and she hasn’t been able to get rid of him since!

From then on, Wade has been on a roll. I think it could be that pretty wife of his that just so happened to be his lucky charm. Or it could just be that he is just that damn good at what he does. Bull doggin’ to Wade is like brushing our teeth; something that comes so natural, that we could do it with our eyes closed (Real American Cowboy Magazine is not responsible for any accidents involving toothpaste in the eyes, down the hatch or on the bathroom mirror!).

While Wade is pounding pavement out on the rodeo road, Linsay holds down the Sumpter fort and works as the women’s rodeo coach at Otero Junior College in La Junta, Colorado. Linsay enjoys every aspect of coaching but she really enjoys helping out students as they make that transition from high school to college, even though some days she feels like she is herding turtles in a bathtub of molasses on a winter day! While Wade is away, Linsay is a model of many different hats, from bill payer to irrigator, to wild steed tamer, there ain’t nothing that this woman can’t do.

However, Linsay admits that she can get a little lonely being on the farm alone but their two dogs, Clyde the coon hound and Jazzy the wheaton terrier, keep her from going crazy. And Wade, being the soft hearted man that he is, even got himself a puppy to keep him company while on the road and dubbed him the name ‘Tea Pot’. Despite the fact that being a rodeo wife is most certainly not for the faint of heart, Linsay wouldn’t change it for a thing.

Including this year, Wade has qualified for 6 WNFR’s; 2006-2008, 2010, 2012, 2013. And up to this year, the Sumpters have only had to pack for themselves but that is all about to change real quickly as Wade and Linsay will be welcoming their first baby, a little linebacker and bull dogger to be exact! Both are excited, anxious and maybe a little overwhelmed but they have never been more ready to be parents and they have slowly learned that babies require A LOT, a lot of stuff!

In addition to expecting their first born, 2013 has been quite the banner year for the Sumpters. Each year the top 15 that qualify for the WNFR vote on the horse of the year and in Wade’s case, Steer Wrestling Horse of the Year and this year his horse Two Guns, who may be more popular then the rider, earned the award of AQHA/PRCA Steer Wrestling Horse of the Year.

Wade is partnered on Two Guns with his vet Dr. Chris Marrow of Mobile Vet Clinic in Amarillo, Texas and he feels extremely lucky to have not only one, but two great bull doggin’ horses in his rig. In addition to Two Guns, Wade also rides Wick who was also named AQHA/PRCA Steer Wrestling Horse of the Year in 2010 and 2011. Wick is co-owned between Wade and good friend Billy Bugenig.

With the WNFR fast approaching, Wade has been working his tail off, getting not only himself ready but also his horses for yet another 10 grueling days in the Thomas & Mack, vying for that world championship. His goal is to make the best possible runs on the cattle that he draws and have 10 clean runs, stay focused and keep himself and his horses healthy. Wade’s close friend Billy Bugenig will be hazing for him and he knows that Billy will do his job and hold up his side of the deal, so Wade plans to do the same.

Unfortunately he will not have his number 1 fan in attendance this year. Linsay will be staying close to home as baby Sumpter is scheduled to make his debut around the time that his daddy is winning the world in Las Vegas. It was a decision that had to be made but Linsay is a little heartbroken that on the night that Wade will bull dogg’ his first steer in Vegas, it will also be the first time that Linsay has ever missed Wade running a steer at the NFR.

But when Wade brings that world championship title to Colorado, he may just have an even greater gift then a world championship waiting for him. He may have a certain little future bull dogger waiting for him; waiting to meet his daddy, the one and only Wade Sumpter.

©Copyright 2013 Real American Cowboy Magazine. All Rights Reserved.


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Jamie McPeake Hall – A Southern Rodeo Legend

Lauren Anthony for Real American Cowboy Magazine

Just off I-40 in western Tennessee, there’s a little town with two big secrets. Lexington, TN, proudly claims to be the barbeque capitol of the country as well as home to one of Tennessee’s most accomplished cowgirls, Jamie McPeake Hall.

Born and raised on her family’s cattle ranch, Jamie and her husband Zach Hall still live there today with their 2 year old son, Braxton. Tim and Diane McPeake knew they had a true rodeo cowgirl on their hands the day they left Jamie with her grandparents to go to a rodeo. “I would always go with them to rodeos. That was the last time they left me because I cried all weekend. My parents knew they were in trouble after that,” Jamie recalled.

Tim, a competitor in the PRCA, IPRA and ACA, never left little Jamie behind again. Jamie and her pony, Fran, enjoyed exhibitions at all of her dad’s rodeos. As she grew, the McPeake’s knew their daughter needed to belong to her own rodeo association. Together with Marvin and Lee Youngerman, the McPeake’s formed the Tennessee Junior Rodeo Association when Jamie was just 5 years old.

Jamie participated in every event, and finally at 9 years old, she persuaded her dad to let her rope off a horse. As a THSRA champion, Jamie qualified for the NHSFR all four years. She is still the only girl to qualify in every girl’s event as well as the Queen’s contest. Jamie dominated her competition and took home the Reserve Pole Bending Championship and First Attendant to the National Queen. She also won Horse of the Year and participated as a National Student Officer.

She pursued her college career at University of Tennessee at Martin on a rodeo scholarship under coach John Luthi. She qualified for the CNFR, helping her women’s team win Reserve Champions for the Ozark region. Jamie herself was the Reserve All-Around Cowgirl for the Ozark region. After a successful year of competing in the IPRA, Jamie finished as the 1999 Reserve Rookie of the Year in Barrel Racing.

Since Jamie loved breakaway roping, she bought her PCA card in 2002. “I’ve only missed the finals three times since then,” she said. Today Jamie is sitting fourth in the PCA standings. “The finals are really good, and I’m thankful I’ve made both the SPRA and PCA finals this year,” she said.

Jamie loves being able to enjoy her rodeo lifestyle with her own family these days. Most weekends, the Hall’s are found on the Tennessee highways chasing their rodeo dream. “In our family everything has always been scheduled around rodeos: birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, you name it,” she laughed. Rodeo is more than just a sport for Jamie; it’s a lifestyle. “Rodeo is important to me because it’s a way of life.

It’s how you live and it’s something you wake up and go to bed thinking about. Rodeo and horses in general teach a lot about responsibilities. I’m so excited to share the rodeo world with my little boy. I hope he grows up to have the same passion about it as I do,” she said. Jamie, who works as a pharmaceutical sales rep during the week, is also proud of rodeoing in her southern homeland. “I think there’s a misconception about living out West that makes you a good cowgirl or cowboy. Some of the toughest cowboys in my opinion come from the southeast. Our competition is just as tough as out there,” she added.

Jamie couldn’t be happier with her life right now, “I feel like I’ve reached everything I’ve wanted to do so now I just enjoy going to rodeos and sharing experiences with my husband and son. I don’t sweat the small stuff anymore. I’m so blessed just to be able to rodeo and enjoy it!”

©Copyright 2013 Real American Cowboy Magazine. All Rights Reserved.

Photo Credits: Karissa White of KSW Photography & Dennis Burns of Five O’Clock Images


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don gay cover 4

Don Gay – America’s Favorite Cowboy

Hope Sickler for Real American Cowboy Magazine

When you hear the name Don Gay, you immediately visualize the man that has suave like Brad Pitt, the skills of a champion and the voice that is all bull riding. His name is synonymous with everything that has to do with bull riding and if you grew up watching the sport, you probably know the sound of his voice better than most bedtime lullabies. Heck, the sound of his voice has probably cooed and eased baby future bull riders for decades. He is just that good and he knows it.

Gay has devoted his entire life to the sport of rodeo and bull riding. His father, Neil Gay, was part of the committee that founded the Mesquite Pro Rodeo Series in Mesquite, Texas. Don and his two brothers, Pete and Jim grew up with a father that loved every aspect of the sport of rodeo and the same love and passion was passed down to each of the boys. But this is no fairy tale story here. Donnie and his brothers grew up learning what hard work was all about. They weren’t given any special treatment and often times if you were to ask Donnie about his childhood he would laugh and joke that he and his brothers were an example of child labor at its best.

The day Donnie graduated high school, he left home on a quest to carve his name in professional bull riding with only $400 to his name and it didn’t take a minute for Donnie to become a rodeo household name. The resume of Donnie’s would probably stretch around the world several times. He has rode the rankest bulls and entertained the roughest of crowds. However, if you were to ask Donnie today what he felt his greatest life accomplishment was, he wouldn’t venture to say his 8x World Champions, being inducted into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame with both his brother and dad, or even launching his own bull riding company. Instead he would admit that his greatest accomplishment in life would be never having to ask his daddy for penny after the day he left home.

Don has seen his name atop of the leader board many times during his days of riding bulls and now he is able to help younger bull riders achieve the same, and partnering with Jerry Nelson from Winnie, Texas, a rodeo company was where he found his new calling. He was named the general manager of Frontier Rodeo Company and was also made the company pilot. To Donnie, that was a dream come true. His whole life he has loved nothing more than to ride bulls and fly planes and do be able to do both was a slam dunk.

Frontier Rodeo Company started out with events such as the Champion Challenge Tour event which was Halloween night at Nelson’s Nutty Jerry Complex, which is a huge entertainment complex where extravagant concerts with the likes of Willie Nelson himself would play and strum his guitar for hours and hours on end. Mr. Jerry Nelson is what you would call an entertainment junky and only likes big-time entertainment and luckily for him, bull riding may be the most entertaining sport on the planet.

Among his resume of numerous championships, Donnie has also announced at some of the most prestigious events in bull riding and rodeo, the National Finals Rodeo and the Indian National Finals Rodeo are just a couple to name. Being on both ends of the spectrum and having seen it all in bull riding, Donnie decided to create his own bull riding tour called the Don Gay Bull Riding Tour. The Don Gay Bull Riding Tour first started out as entertainment every weekend at Nelson’s Nutty Jerry’s but eventually flew the coop and quickly grew into one of the most sought out bull riding tours for up and coming superstars of bull riding.

The Don Gay Bull Riding Tour was different then your typical bull riding for many reasons but one of the main reasons was being the different scoring system that Don developed for his new tour. The scoring system was introduced to help bull riders build their confidence and help them to achieve their ultimate goals. It was also developed to give the underdogs a good shot at winning money at more events.

Donnie’s scoring system was designed to score a rider on riding their designated bull for a minimal of 3-seconds. The bull itself is scored on its own and all are every bit as good as 95% of the bulls that you see on T.V. So for example, let’s say we have a bull rider that rides his bull for a total of 4-seconds. The bull bucks enough to where the judges can see the bull’s athleticism and natural ability but after 4-seconds Johnny boy gets dropped on his head. The judges then score the bull and the bulls score is a roaring 85. Once the bulls score is revealed, the total seconds that the contestant stayed on, in this case 4-seconds is added to the bulls score of 85, then making the total ride score 89. This is how Donnie’s scoring system works.

When you count in the added money, which is usually $2500 added to each performance and absolutely no fees, 100% of the added money is paid back to the riders. They then pay back 75% for each rank bull score and 25% for 8 second rides. Donnie explained that in the last 2 years of Don Gay Bull Riding Tour they have had over 2500 rides and have only had around 240 qualified riders where the rider rode for the full 8 seconds. Although many look at this as a great idea and a great way for young riders to get their start, you will always have your certain haters and the ones who love to cast scrutiny. Donnie’s response to that is “they didn’t ask them, they asked me and no one knows more about bull riding and more about winning that I do.” And we would have to agree with Donnie. To us, he is the man to go to if you want to learn anything about the sport of bull riding and winning.

Since we had Donnie already on the hot spot, we wanted to take the opportunity to hear what he thought about the upcoming event, The American, which is being labeled as the richest one-day rodeo. Donnie explained that The American could be the greatest thing to happen to the sport of rodeo and he believes that a world of thanks is owed to RFD-TV and the PBR on the conception of The American. The American could be the new face of the next generation of rodeo, the next decade if you will, and it could also change the rodeo bracket as we know it.

Although the rodeo world may be slowly changing, Donnie doesn’t want the fans of rodeo to be forgotten. “No matter what happens down in that dirt, the reason it is happening is because of those seats in the stands being sold-out.” And he is 100% right about that. No matter if you are a competitor, a stock contractor or the rodeo clown, the next rodeo you go to and compete in, take a minute to gaze at those grandstands. Witness the children and the adults taking in and enjoying each and every minute of the life that you have come to love and feel so passionate about. Because let’s be honest, if it wasn’t for the fans, there would simply be no rodeo.

So if you are a true rodeo fan, if you enjoy the guts and glory, the bulls and the blood, go and purchase a ticket to The American in March. Donnie says if you’re a real rodeo fan, prove it. Buy a ticket for a seat in the AT&T Center on March 2nd. We promise you won’t be disappointed. And that’s a fact, Jack.

Copyright 2013 Real American Cowboy Magazine.  All Rights Reserved.


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Rome Wager 2

ROME WAGER – The Land of Enchantment’s most beloved Cowboy
Lauren Anthony for Real American Cowboy Magazine

If there was ever a cowboy I wanted to write about, it’s definitely Dr. Rome Wager. Something about his picture captured my attention and I knew he had a great story behind that smile. I was right. Rome has quite an impressive rodeo resume. His roughstock roots start with his great grandfather who rode broncs when rodeo was in its infancy. His grandfather rode bareback horses and his father, Gary Wager, rode bulls and bareback horses. As a baby, Rome traveled the rodeo circuit with his family in the RCA. “As far back as my memory goes, I’ve wanted to ride broncs and bulls,” Rome said.

According to Rome, his father gave him the grit and balance of family and profession. Along with his father, the list of mentors and influences for this young cowboy is long and noteworthy. For a kid growing up on the Cheyenne River Sioux reservation in Eagle Butte, S.D., horses and rodeo were a way of life from the beginning. Rome started breaking colts at 12 years old. “Dad didn’t believe in horse trailers or four wheel drive. He always said it takes miles and wet saddle blankets to build a horse and a cowboy.” The infamous bronc rider, Casey Tibbs even lent Rome instruction on the sport and introduced him to work in films. “All these guys saw a backward kid off the Reservation who was too shy to ask for help, but they took me aside and impacted my life.” Rome became a contestant in a multitude of rodeo associations beginning with 4-H, NHSRA and the NLBRA. He competed in bareback, saddle bronc, bull riding and team roping. He said, “Saddle bronc was my favorite. It’s where I came from and what I did.”

It didn’t take long for Rome to find that the money was in the mane, so to speak. He qualified for close to 100 year end finals in numerous rodeo associations. Rome traveled thousands of miles during the late 1960’s through 2006 with many different partners. In his last year on the road, Rome’s traveling partner commented, “That I still rodeoed like it was the 1950’s. I figured it worked then, it’ll work today,” Rome said. Over all those miles Rome made his mark in rodeo history all across America by winning countless championship titles. He set a record in 1982 in Pasadena, Tex. where he was 93 points. “I tied for the high score in the nation with Kent Cooper for many years on the IPRA Saddle Bronc of the year “Strawberry Hill” of Wing Rodeo Company,” Rome said. It seems Rome was born to ride broncs and colts for that matter. “I’ve started a large number of colts over 45 years. Race horses were a big part of that with two in the Hubbard Museum of the American West,” he said.

Rome’s family background is just as colorful as his rodeo career. His mother’s side of the family were at the Battle of Little Big Horn and Wounded Knee. “My grandmother worked on a ranch as a young girl. Her first morning after the cowboys ate their breakfast, she looked out the window as she was washing the dishes and saw a tall young man riding a bronc. That was fixing to be my granddad.” Rome’s family has always been the focus of his efforts. He married his wife, Nadell, who is a full blood Jicarilla Apache and they have eight children. Sidney, Gary, Rome, Casey, Cheyenne, Charmayne, Jesse, and Justin. All of which were involved in rodeo or ranching like their dad. Rome also has nine grandkids who are following in the family’s rodeo and ranching footsteps.

Perhaps the most important part of this cowboy’s life is his dedication to his ministry. In August of 1980, Rome’s life changed forever when he opened up an old King James Bible to the first chapter of John 1. Rome admitted he had allowed alcohol to “mess a lot of things up” in his life and he knew he didn’t want his children to follow the same path. “I’d come to a place in my life that all religion I’d been in had no answers,” he said. Rome made the decision to turn his life over to Christ and share his testimony with other rodeo cowboys. “In the beginning there weren’t many being vocal about their faith. I started kneeling to pray in the arenas but I’d never seen anyone do that in the arena before. Most people don’t know it, but to the best of my knowledge, it started in Tulsa, Okla. at the 1982 IFR.”

It seems there’s nothing this cowboy can’t do and that includes conquering Hollywood. Rome is a former stunt man who’s worked on “The Young Rounders” in 1970 with Slim Pickens, and Casey Tibbs. Eight years ago he was persuaded to work on the mini-series, “Into the West.” He’s been involved in several westerns including “Comanche Moon”, “Cowboys and Aliens”, and “The Lone Ranger”. Rome says he still gets calls to do movie work but claims he’s happiest being busy with his children and grandchildren. He and his family still do things the “old way” on their ranch in Dulce, New Mexico and he preaches revivals nationwide. “I’ve been preaching for 27 years. I help plant Independent Baptist Churches and help those that are struggling on reservations and in rural areas,” Rome said. His biggest involvement in rodeo today is his cowboy ministry, God’s Cowboys. Rome is in high demand to lead rodeo Bible clinics across the country.

When I asked Rome if he ever missed the competition, he smiled and said, “Everyday, I miss riding the buckers. I got on my first calf when I was 3 and entered and won on my last bronc riding when I was sneaking up on 52. I asked my dad how old are you when you quit craving them? He said, ‘I don’t know’ and he’s 80. I know I sure still think about it.”

Copyright 2013 Real American Cowboy Magazine.  All Rights Reserved.



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 ***2013 STORY OF THE YEAR*** 

Hope Sickler’s story on the killer South Dakota blizzard Atlas drew more than 70,000 readers for three consecutive days to our magazine, still a record readership.


South Dakota Article

Hope Sickler for Real American Cowboy Magazine

On October 4th 2013, the lives of farmers and ranchers across the plains and the badlands of western South Dakota were soon about to be changed forever. Some say that the front that moved into western South Dakota and claimed the lives of thousands, and thousands of cattle and hundreds of horses was what sailors who sail the world’s seas would call the “perfect storm”.

A perfect storm is defined as a particularly violent storm arising from a rare combination of adverse meteorological factors. However nothing ‘perfect’ came from the weekend from hell that many people had to endure in their houses without any power and any idea about what was happening outside their front door.

Let me first get this straight to the people who assume they know something about farmers and ranchers from the Dakota’s. Unless you have stepped foot in western South Dakota, breathed in the smell of the Spruce Pines in the Spearfish Canyon, and taken in the sight of one of the most beautiful places on earth, you don’t understand how quickly the weather can change from beautiful to terrifying.

You don’t quite understand what the difference between 2 acres and 2,000 acres is unless you step foot on the plains of South Dakota. And you obviously do not understand that the livestock and wildlife that were lost weren’t just ‘animals’, they were family. They were hours and hours of hard work, sweat, blood and tears that old and young ranchers put in, trying to raise their own herd of cattle to help their families put food on the table and go to school.

Livestock is the livelihood of South Dakota’s ranchers. Livestock are a part of the family and most ranchers spend more time out with their cattle then they do in the house with their family. That is who they are. That is what they do.

Since the biggest blizzard in recorded history that hit South Dakota last weekend occurred, ranchers have been getting speculated on and frowned upon due to people assuming they had enough time to save their livestock.

First and foremost, we as human beings and especially American’s should stand together and help our neighbors during this time of sorrow and tragedy, instead of generate the idea that these ranchers just did not want to save their livestock. What ever happened to compassion and sympathy? Thankfully the farm and ranch world is a very large one and thousands and thousands of people across the U.S. are sending their thoughts and prayers, offering whatever they can do to help those affected by the storm.

You have to envision this storm, the perfect storm with the worse devastation imaginable. That is what happened last weekend in South Dakota. Several inches of rain came falling down late Thursday evening, early Friday morning and continued to rain all day on Friday until the rain soon turned to snow. The snow that fell was not the kind that blows away but instead the wet, sticky kind that does just that, sticks.

The kind of snow that even if a couple snowflakes fell and brushed your bare skin, would send volts of shivers up and down your spine. After 2 days of total containment, people were finally able to shovel their way to their doorstep. After that, it was the snowmobiles and tractors that helped get them to their pastures of beloved livestock. Even still, some people were unable to get to their pastures and one rancher even hired an airplane to take him and fly him over his pastures because he couldn’t take the pain that was eating away at his heart worrying about his livestock, his four-legged family.

What people experienced next was something that will be branded into their memory for years and years. It will likely be one of the worse sights that they will ever lay eyes on and a sight that will make them downright sick to their stomach, gripping at their side as they fall to their knees as they see mama cows and their baby calves, their trusted horses, their prized and beautiful bulls lying dead in the pasture.

I will continue to tell this story but right now I want to introduce you to a few families that suffered great loss from this devastating blizzard. I was able to speak with them and through what ended up being a very tough conversation where many tears were shed, we were able to get their stories and here is what they had to say.

A young rancher from Box Elder, South Dakota was raised in one of the most prestigious ranch families in South Dakota. He was taught the cardinal ways to be that successful rancher but one thing he wasn’t prepared for was the devastation of the storm that could easily change the rest of his life.

“Fortunately I have a snowmobile and I was able to get out Saturday afternoon. The snow had quit falling and the wind had finally started to slowly die. Since all of our cattle were still out on summer grass, (we don’t pull them off summer pasture until middle of October) I went to the closest pasture of cattle to the house. You could tell that with the 70+ wind gusts and the severe snowfall that a lot of cattle had drifted during the storm. It was the worst thing I have ever seen. Some were still alive but they were very weak and suffering,” explained Michael McPherson.

“My buddy and I took our shovels and started shoveling through the giant drifts to get some sun on them so they could warm up. Everything that was alive, we were trying to save. There was no other way to get to them and it was unbelievably deep in that snow. The ones that died either froze to death or suffocated from the snow. We even lost some of our horses. That was incredibly hard. All of this has been incredibly hard but I am the kind of man that tries and looks at a situation as it could always be worse. I am just so thankful that I have such great friends, across the U.S. that have been offering help and I am so grateful that my family is alive and made it through this. We lost power Friday morning and we are not expected to get it back this weekend or next week.”

This young rancher not only suffered a costly devastation but he suffered more of an emotional devastation. He will remember this blizzard for the rest of his life and I know that this storm will make him a better man and rancher. He will continue to love what he does and give thanks to the man upstairs.

Just east of Box Elder, two more families suffered incredible losses, The West family and the Simpson family. The West family who live 20 miles south of Union Center, sat in their house as the storm raged on, praying to God that he comforts the livestock in their pastures. When they were finally able to get out on Sunday, they went out to see what the storm had left behind
“What we first saw didn’t look too bad, but when we went and looked off over a bank unto the river bottom, our hearts sank. There were our cows, all dead in piles. They were trumped in mud and over in our hay field, baby calves and cows tried to get protection from some round bales we just put up, but not many were very lucky,” explained Amber Bruce West. “As we were riding through the pastures, looking at all these dead mama’s and babies that we raised and cared for, I came across 5 baby calves that were born during the blizzard we had back in April. We brought them in and kept them in our bathtub and those little suckers fought for their lives, we fought together and they made it through that storm and to see them lying dead after this storm was absolutely heartbreaking. It broke my heart into a million pieces. Those were our babies. Those were ours and there was nothing we could do to bring them back.”

Amber started counting how many they had lost but stopped counting when she got to 80 cows and 70-some calves that had been lost.

“We heard of a family close by that lost 350 out of their 400 head of cattle. That large number of cattle helped feed and support not only one, but two families! We were only 11 days from taking ours to the sale. We were hoping to pay off a good chunk of our cattle loan and get me a newer truck since mine was on its last leg. Now we don’t know what to do.”

“The worst part about it is we were not prepared for this storm. The weather channel told us we would be getting only a couple inches of snow but what came instead was a blizzard of epic proportion. The wind gusts were over 70mph and with that and the snow and the rain, even if your cattle had shelter and wind protection, the snow and rain likely suffocated many of them,” said Amber.

If someone states that ranchers don’t care for and love their livestock, read again what you just read. Amber is a prime example of a good-hearted American rancher who loves and cares for ALL of her livestock. Losing them was like losing a part of her family. A part she will never get back.

One thing that people need to put into perspective when losing that amount of livestock is also the cost. Every cow equals roughly $5,000. If you lose the calf you were going to sell this fall, you lost the cow and the calf inside her that would have been sold next spring. Plus, after losing them, the rancher has to go buy another bred cow to replace her. All this adds up to nearly $5,000 for every lost cow. It is not about the one cow that was lost. Instead it’s what that one cow represented and what she would have produced. Keep that in mind.

Lainee and TK Sampson from Interior, South Dakota run a reputable breeding business in western South Dakota and the blizzard took the one thing that was making their mark huge in the barrel racing industry; their stallion Brays Moon Bug.

“I still can’t believe it. I went to pick my boys up from daycare and driving home I knew I had to catch Moon who was out with his two ‘girlfriends’ (mares). When I got home and got the boys in the house, it had already rained so much that there was absolutely no way of getting out to him. My heart sank as I had to sit in the house and wait for the storm to pass. I had a terrible feeling the entire time it was snowing and blowing. I couldn’t hardly think straight and when we were finally able to get out to him, a couple days later, we uncovered what I feared the worst,” explained Lainee. “Moon was a gentlemen. He loved my boys and he loved his life. He was the greatest stallion that I have ever been around and we were so fortunate to be able to have him, even for the short period that we did. He will truly be missed and when he passed, he took a chunk of our hearts with him. This blizzard will be something that I will never forget. It claimed the life of a heart and soul that I absolutely loved with all of my heart. To suffer that great of a loss is hard and something that I’m not sure I will ever fully get over.”

Lainee and her family lost a part of their hearts last weekend. A part that will be remembered and cherished forever. Brays Moon Bug was a great stallion who didn’t go out the way he deserved to go out but his legacy will live on in his babies for years to come.

This storm, as they dubbed the name “Storm Atlas” is being compared to the storm that swept through the Dakota’s, Montana and Wyoming in 1886-1887. During that storm, the giant British-owned Swan Land & Cattle Company, LLC, headquartered in Chugwater and Cheyenne, Wyoming lost 50% of their calves and up to 15-20% of their entire stock. Even Theodore Roosevelt, before he was president suffered a loss due to this storm. Laura Ingalls Wilder even noted in her work that in March of 1887, the slow thaw began and it was found that 90% of all cattle from the Canadian border down to Colorado were dead. Ranchers were left penniless and dispirited.

I was also lucky enough to touch base with Executive Director of South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association, Jodie Anderson, and she was able to spread some light on what is going to happen now and what we can do to help those affected.

“The mental and emotional toll that we are seeing is huge. This is something that you cannot prepare for. If this would have happened 2 or 3 weeks later, those cattle would have been out of their summer pastures and closer to home. They would have had more of a winter coat on them. But even cattle that were in good pastures with good cover and knew where to go, still ended up dying by suffocations and freezing to death. Unfortunately death was inevitable for most in this blizzard,” explained Anderson. “We at South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association have partnered up with South Dakota Stockgrowers Association and South Dakota Sheepgrowers Association to establish the South Dakota Rancher Relief Fund with the Black Hills Area Community Foundation to provide support relief assistance to those in the agriculture industry impacted by the blizzard.”

Atlas has impacted the lives of many. Young ranchers, old ranchers and even those who are not ranchers. Several, several buildings were destroyed and most of western South Dakota is without power for another week or in some areas, another month or so.

This has been a devastation of huge proportion and the fact that most have had to find out about this over Facebook is what really angers me. The lack of media over a tragic event such as this is unreal. These people deserve to be heard and they deserve to voice what happened to them. We as human beings need to pull together and do what we can to help. Even if that means liking one of the relief pages on Facebook, anything you do will help. Think about it, guys. All for one, one for all, right?

For information on the South Dakota Rancher Relief Fund and what you can do to help, please visit their website at There are also several other relief funds on Facebook such as South Dakota Cattle Locator, Heifers for South Dakota, Atlas Blizzard Ranch Relief and Aid and many more.

The Rancher’s Prayer
By-Bobette Schofield
The rancher looked toward heaven
And said, “God where have you been?
Do you know we had a blizzard,
With rain and snow and wind?

You know I built this herd of mine
With blood and sweat and tears.
You know the work and worry,
As I struggled through the years.

Now as I stand and look around,
I see that it is gone.
I don’t know if I have the strength
To rebuild or go on.”

God looked down from heaven
Saw the pain there in his eyes.
He heard the sadness in his voice.
He knew the sacrifice.

He said, “My son, you’re not alone.
I’m walking there with you
I’ll give you all the strength you need
For what you have to do.

I’ll give you courage to go on,
Through all this loss and pain.
I’ll give you hope to start once more,
And build your herd again.

I know that this is who you are
And not just what you do.
And as you’re making your fresh start,
I’ll be right there with you.

Do not think this is a failure,
Or that you’ve done something wrong.
You’re an example of the spirit
That makes South Dakota strong.

It is a rare thing to find a writer who see a story that needs to be told, who is willing to stop what they’re doing and spend hours on the phone and Internet gathering information, who is willing to sit down and write 3,000 words on a one day deadline – and do it so well. All of our respect to this wonderful young writer, Hope Sickler. Somehow or another she’s managed to transfer the work ethic she learned growing up on 10,000 acres to a keyboard. – Charlie Nicks, Editor, Real American Cowboy Magazine.

Thank you to all the people in South Dakota who took time to help us tell this story, we’re very grateful particularly that you did so in the midst of likely the most trying time of your lives. South Dakota is an amazing state full of exceptional ag people. This too shall pass.

Copyright 2013 Real American Cowboy Magazine.  All Rights Reserved.


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Tom Bodett Cover


Terry Lidral for Real American Cowboy Magazine

For 27 years, Tom Bodett has been the Motel 6 guy – the guy who promises to ‘leave the light on for you.’ You know his voice – he’s a classic.

“From the beginning, my job has been to stand on the same side of the counter as our customers and tell them why Motel 6 is a good bet. Shortly after we got started with this, I asked one of the marketing honchos, ‘Why me?’ He said, “Because you sound like the kind of guy who stays there.” I did. I do. I am.”

Even though he is a household name, Tom doesn’t let being a public figure run away with him. “Although I’ve shared a lot of thoughts and commentary over the years in my books and radio work, I’m mostly known as the Motel 6 guy. If I’m a star, then I’m in that dim constellation out there with Mr. Whipple and the Where’s-the-Beef lady. Not exactly Bruce Springsteen country, if you know what I mean. My main responsibility to my audience is to give them my best work when called upon to do so. Whether I’m going into the studio to record a commercial, going on stage to tell a story, or fooling around with my radio pals on National Public Radio’s popular show, “Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me. I show up prepared and ready to play. That’s how I’ve treated every job I’ve ever had.”

Growing up in a small town in southern Michigan had a big influence on Tom. “We all knew each other and you couldn’t get away with a thing in that town. It taught me to be accountable for the things I do and say. Small towns make you a better person. Not better than people who don’t live in them, but better than you would be if you didn’t. I can’t single out a person or two or ten who changed my direction in life. Everybody I meet does in some small way.” Tom has always been drawn to adventurers like the Mercury and Apollo astronauts, who were everybody’s heroes when he was growing up. “I liked to read about the mountain men and frontier people of our West, too. They were just as brave and out-of-their element as the astronauts. They just didn’t have to know as much math.”

Tom considers himself to be kind of the Generic American. “I am about as normal and average a human being as you’re likely to meet and I’ve figured out over the years that if I’m thinking about something, or feeling a certain way about this or that, or have an embarrassing confession to make, most people will relate to it.” That’s why Tom is his own favorite subject. “Like most writers – most people, I suppose – I am my own favorite subject. Even if the story I’m trying to get across isn’t about me, I’ll make sure I’m in it. There was a time in my life when I was exactly the National Average in age, weight and height. So, what I am is the spokesperson for ordinary. Not bad work if you can get it.”

When asked about something people probably don’t know about him, Tom focused on small town living. “I served on our local Selectboard in Dummerston, Vermont for 8 years. I’m the president of our local youth hockey association and I serve on a board for the state park system. I believe in serving our communities, our states and our country because we have been so well served by them. We complain too much about the people we have in positions of responsibility and not enough time being those people. The Bill of Rights should come with a Bill of Responsibilities. I have never been happier than I am these days and I have to say that a lot of that good feeling comes from being involved. I think it works the way the psychology of tithing does. You can be down to your last dollar, but it you give someone else a nickel, it’s a way of saying to yourself that you have enough. Giving your time works the same way. Life feels fuller, and longer, when you give some of what you got. In fact, you have no idea how long life can feel until you’ve sat through a few municipal budget meetings.”

With that being said, Tom discusses his thoughts on defining the American Spirit. “I think if we ‘define’ the American Spirit, we’re missing the point of it. America, for the last 300 years – even before we were a nation of our own – has represented the hopes and dreams of the world. I have three children who have in their communal heritage Belgian, Cherokee, French, German, Irish, Mayan, Mexican, Spanish, and Swiss ancestors. My mother’s father emigrated from Europe when he was 12. My father’s line has been traced to a ship that landed in Quebec in 1687. They came here 200 years apart and for the same reason – to give a better life to their children and their children. And they sure did. When the USA was founded on the principal of government by the people, the rest of the world was certain it would never work. It still might not. But it will be on us if it doesn’t.”

Tom is most proud of those three children. “I’m most proud of my three sons, of course, and the marriage to their amazing mother I have managed somehow not to screw up.”

Asked about his bucket list, it’s pretty much checked off. “I hitchhiked to Alaska with $50 in my pocket and stayed there for 23 years. I’ve logged, fished commercially, worked heavy construction and built 42 houses before my big mouth finally started making me a living from the radio. I have always had a wood shop next to my house where I dub around on household projects and build furniture. I once had a piece featured in Fine Woodworking Magazine, which is the woodworker equivalent of playing in Carnegie Hall.”

As far as rodeo – “I used to be a pretty accomplished bull rider with a girl in every town from Red Lodge to Elko, but then I woke up and realized it was only in my dreams.”

Tom Bodett’s books and CD’s are available at all major booksellers or you can visit

Tom Bodett is arguably America’s Best Storyteller, and while there are those in the literary community who would prefer a title like that goes to some sophisticated academic – you can’t listen to a Tom Bodett story without him “taking you there” – and isn’t THAT what story telling is all about? Tom Bodett had a profound influence on my own career and I owe him a great deal of gratitude.  -Charlie Nicks, Editor/Publisher, REAL AMERICAN COWBOY MAGAZINE.

Copyright 2013 Real American Cowboy Magazine.  All Rights Reserved.


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Ain’t No Fear in the Last Frontier
Hope Sickler – for Real American Cowboy Magazine

When we think of rodeo, we think the longhorn state, Wyoming and the Dakota’s. But Alaska? When I think of Alaska, I think of snow and lots of it! I think of days without sunlight and months without seeing a shard of grass. I think of moose, caribou and lots of bears. I think of Santa Clause and being relatively close to the North Pole. And I definitely don’t think of rodeo when I am thinking of the last frontier. But boy was I wrong!

If you were to ask me to write down a list of traditional Alaskan pastimes, rodeo would definitely not be at the top of that list, no sir. But in fact rodeo is one of the most traditional Alaskan pastimes and Alaska has one of the richest rodeo histories in well, history! Prior to 1962, Alaska hosted a few rodeos a year, mostly “play-day” type atmospheres where a few farmers and ranchers would bring a few head of roping stock, an ornery horse or three and a bucking cow and bull. These rodeos were held over America’s Birthday at Happy Valley, Alaska, which is near Homer, and at Palmer during Colonel Days and at the State Fair which was up on old Bailey Hill north of Palmer. Rodeo Associations such as the Northern Lights Cowboys Association and the Alaska Rodeo Association were two of the most prestigious and top rodeo associations in the country. However, over time there was a small void that occurred and epidemics such as mad cow disease played tough on having rodeos north of the border. In addition, the Canadian and U.S. borders were laying down huge regulations on hauling horses and cattle over the border which, as we all know, you cannot have a rodeo without livestock.

Then came a man, that with the help from the native people and a few close friends, they were going to bring rodeo back to Anchorage. His name was Frank Koloski and his life was rodeo. He made a long, very long, haul in 1995 from St. Cloud, Florida where he was living before he decided he needed a complete change of climate, and moved to as far north as the polar bears would allow him, Anchorage. His move at that time was to get a good chunk of the money to be made up in Alaska but little did he know that the big man upstairs had other reasons for him to be making the cross country move.

In 2011, after spending nearly 10 years in Alaska, Frank was approached by longtime friend and rodeo contestant, Stephen Primera. Stephen wanted Frank to increase the rodeos across the board in Alaska and Stephen had a feeling that Frank was the man to get the job done. Both Stephen and Frank wanted the world to see the beauty of Alaska and they wanted it to be seen thru the eyes of rodeo. While Frank was working to earn his keep in Alaska, he quickly grew to love and respect everything about Alaska and of course the people. He realized that the rodeo world in Alaska was unique compared to anywhere else in the world, due to several different factors. He also grew to love the extreme weather seasons and conditions, where that in itself made rodeoing in Alaska a little tricky.

Frank and Stephen were eager and ready to make rodeo big in Anchorage again, especially since rodeo’s were absent for over 10 years in Anchorage. From that point on, Steven and Frank took the rodeo world by storm, making it possible to think Alaska and good, quality rodeo as a whole. Frank was approached time and time again by local folks who were anxious and excited that this Floridian was trying his heart out to bring rodeo back to the homeland! Frank admits, he was a little blindsided and nervous because he had no prior experience of promoting or even running a production the size of a rodeo. However it was to be done and Frank and his helpful crew were the chosen ones to get it done.

Frank was given numerous avenues of resources to help him get things rolling. He took a short road trip to Happy Valley, 2oo miles from Anchorage, where he picked up a set of bucking chutes. By the time he was out of the driveway, he had his name plastered all over the radio, saying rodeo was coming back to Anchorage! After that he was able to wrangler in one of the largest indoor venues in Alaska, the Sullivan Arena in Anchorage. Solidifying the Sullivan Arena was a hole in one for Frank because while planning rodeos in Alaska, one needs to take into consideration the weather at all times! Since the Sullivan Arena was an indoor arena, they were able to keep good ole mother nature at bay and this made life a whole lot easier for those planning the event.

Now finding the appropriate stock for bringing rodeo back to Anchorage was as difficult as it sounds but nothing Frank couldn’t get done. Having some of the great stock contractors from the NLCA and ARA era to help point him in the right direction, Frank was able to find the perfect stock. Frank owned a few bucking horses, so he used them along with bucking horses from Rocking H Performance Horses, which is owned by Shawn Hall. The bulls come from Canada, Shirley Cox at Bad Girls Rodeo Company and the great Harry Vold Rodeo Company and the cattle that are used for the breakaway and the other timed events are my personal fave, highlander crosses! They come from Anchorage and Palmer, which is 35 miles from Anchorage.

Once the stock was lined out, Frank was ready to take on all the contestants his little heart could desire. On average, his rodeo’s bring in anywhere from 100-130 contestants, numbers varying in each event but the most popular event being the adrenaline soaring, jaw clenching bull riding. And we just cannot forget the wool flying mutton bustin’ or the original event of the double muggin’. If you are sitting there, wondering what in the world is double muggin’, don’t worry, I took the fall and asked! Double muggin’ is an event that originated in Hawaii and is very popular along the west coast. It consists of a 2-man team with the roper, who is on horseback, and the ground runner, who is on the ground ready to do some serious running. They use wild steers for double muggin’, which are generally bigger than your team roping cattle and the roper ropes the steer and the ground runner runs and takes the steer down with the single motion of his large bicep, while the roper is dismounting his horse and running to tie the steer down. The steer has to stay tied for a total of 5-seconds and obviously, the fastest time wins.

In addition to bull riding, mutton bustin’ and double muggin’, they also have girls and guys breakaway, saddle bronc, bareback, ribbon roping and barrel racing. Frank and his team put on four events a year, the first one being over Memorial Weekend and the last one over Labor Day Weekend.

Frank has also dedicated his events to survivors and those who have been lost. From breast cancer to military personal, Frank knew that if he was to bring rodeo back to Alaska, he was going to do it while honoring those who have fallen and those who have survived some of life’s toughest battles. Two of the main organizations that Rodeo Alaska supports is Tough Enough to Wear Pink and Alaska’s Healing Hearts. Alaska’s Healing Hearts is an outdoor recreational rehabilitation program that is designed around the desires of our nation’s brave wounded warriors, their families, and their loved ones. During Rodeo Alaska’s first Tough Enough to Wear Pink event, they successfully raised over $10,000 and at their last event for this year over Labor Day Weekend, they raised over $12,000! That in itself is absolutely amazing and f that doesn’t pull at your heartstrings, well I don’t know what will.

Alaska has given Frank its breathtaking beauty and many opportunities, so Frank is repaying Alaska by bringing one of its most traditional pastime’s back, to stay. Rodeo Alaska has been going strong for 3-years and there is no sign of it slowing down anytime soon!

For more information on Rodeo Alaska, please visit their website, and look for them on Facebook.

Copyright 2013 Real American Cowboy Magazine. All Rights Reserved.


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Kody Lostroh Cover

Hope Sickler for Real American Cowboy Magazine

Kody Lostroh, 2009 PBR World Champion, didn’t wake-up one morning and think – “I think I’m going to grow up and be a bull rider”. Mom was the one that turned on that light bulb.

“When I was a kid, oh probably 5 or 6-years-old, my mom bought me a tape of Cheyenne Frontier Days and I wore it out – watched it every day,” said Lostroh. Mom didn’t stop there. When Kody was 7, she took him to the Boulder County Fair in Boulder, Colorado where he got on his first steer. “I think she figured I would get thrown off and that would be the end of my bull riding days. Instead, I loved every second of it and I just kept on doing it.”

At 18, Kody packed his bags and set out to find his own way in life. He spent some time at the University of Wyoming in Laramie Wyoming, but college left him empty. He had a feeling he was meant for bigger and better things. Things like say…. the PBR. Kody’s bull riding career spiraled upward from there.

His first two years riding he struggled a bit but he soon figured out that it was his riding hand. So, he made the switch when he was 9-years-old to riding with his left hand. Ambidextrous. “If I remember correctly, I don’t think I stayed on anything my first two years of riding steers. I was pretty bad at it but when I was 9-years-old I figured out that it was my right hand that I had been riding with that was making it difficult for me to stay in the middle. After that it just started clicking and I started winning.”

He was part of the National Little Britches Association (and we bet he participated in a few water fights back in his day!) as well as Colorado State High School Rodeo Association. He won state high school championships a total of three times, in 2002, 2003 and again in 2004. “I had a really great year in 2003. That was the year that I won the Little Britches National Championship as well as winning reserve at the National High School Finals Rodeo,” Lostroh said. “I graduated high school in 2004, in 2005 I was PBR Rookie of the Year. That was a big moment in my life. Rookie of the Year is an honor to win.”

But being the extremely motivated and ambitious guy he is, that just wasn’t enough for Kody. He could taste that PBR world championship title and in 2009 he made that title his. “It was a goal of mine to win the world and it was very self-fulfilling to accomplish that goal. Especially when I started out falling off everything I climbed on, I feel blessed to have won the world title, even if it’s just the once.”

But Kody soon realized that a world championship title didn’t change his life all that much. Certainly he was very happy after winning the world but just as everything else does, the glitter wore off. The curtain was drawn and a few years passed by. “When I won the world, I wasn’t any happier than I was before I won it. Winning my first buckle means just as much to me as winning that world title. For about a week I was living high on the hog, feeling like the king of the world but it didn’t take me long to figure out that there is more to life than winning. There is more to life than riding bulls. I figured that out and man, I am so thankful to God that I did.”

Kody’s world championship title is nothing compared to the love of his life and his year-old baby girl. Kody and his queen, Candace started writing their love song at a young age and Kody had eyes for Candace before she even knew he existed.

“It’s a funny story how we met. When I first started competing in Little Britches Rodeos, there was a magazine that came out to all the members and at that time Candace was the Little Britches Rodeo Association Princess. She always had a picture in the magazines and I was lovestruck. To make a long story short, I was too chicken to ask her out but when we were 16 I finally got up the nerve to ask her out and soon after we started dating.”

One thing led to another and in 2006 Kody and Candace got married. “She is just like me. We had a lot of the same goals growing up and we still have a lot of the same goals. I think that’s important if you are going to have a solid relationship.” “My wife and my baby girl, Sheridan, are the most important things in my life. People ask me if I’d ever want to win another world championship again and of course the thought has crossed my mind but honestly, truthfully as long as I have those two girls in my life, I will be the happiest man on this planet,” explained Lostroh.

In order to have the serenity and the attitude that this bull rider has, he has got to have a relationship with God.

“I have always known since day one that God gave me the talent to ride bulls. I am not exactly sure why he chose bull riding, maybe he wanted to scare my mom a little,” laughed Lostroh, “and it has been cool to watch his plan unfold before my eyes.”

Kody has other goals and dreams besides that of adrenaline-rushing, eyeball popping, white knuckling bull riding. He wants to share Gods word. He wants to encourage others to be the very best they can be. “God has a plan for each and every soul out there. It is sad because you see a lot of people living without a cause. Whether I like it or not, I have a fan base and a lot of people watching me now. I want to be a great ambassador for whatever God has in mind for me.”

Kody is paying it forward by doing a number of things.

He and his good bull riding buddy, Josh Koschel have been putting on bull riding schools for the last few years. “I love it. I love helping out the next generation and teaching them what I have learned. There is this one kid that we have been helping now for a couple of years and he ended up winning the junior bull riding world championship in Little Britches last year. That was awesome being able to be part of that and make that kid’s dreams come true,” Lostroh said.

And if putting on schools wasn’t generous enough, Kody has also been on several mission trips.

“I have gone to Guatemala and while there I helped an organization called Manna Worldwide.” Manna Worldwide is a global organization that have stations set up in countries that are less fortunate where parents are unable to feed their children. Manna Worldwide provides meals for these children and helps to take care of them.

Although he hasn’t been able to make the trip, Kody’s close knit group of friends have also done some work down at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, where they spend time preaching God’s word to some of the most dangerous inmates in the U.S.

But wait a minute you die-hard PBR and Kody Lostroh fans. He’s not quitting bull riding any time soon. I am going to keep riding and I am going to stay on the same track. There are a lot of ups and downs but that’s what makes bull riding so fun. I will keep riding until I don’t want to do it anymore. I don’t know when that will be but I will know when the time is right.”

The last question that I asked Kody during our interview made me realize how precious life is and how everyone needs to cherish it.

I asked him if there was one bull that would always have a place in his heart. His answer…. Troubadour.

“Troubadour is retired now but the year I won the world title, I climbed on his back 3-times. He has got a heart of steel and he bucks hard every time.”

But that is not the only reason why Kody has a soft spot for the talent bucking bull.

“Julio Moreno who owns him has been a good friend of mine and his son, Mikel Moreno, named Troubadour as a calf. That was his favorite bull.”

Mikel fought an incredible battle with leukemia but lost that battle in 2006 at only 18-years-old.

“I visited Mikel in the hospital and when we would talk about that bull his whole face would light up. I won first place every time I swung a leg over him. When Mikel passed away, his legacy lived on through Troubadour. He was an amazing kid. Julio knew how much Mikel meant to me and when he decided to retire Troubadour he gave me a heifer by him. Receiving that heifer as a gift was an honor and something that I will never forget. Every time I look at the heifer, I think of Mikel.”

Copyright 2013 Real American Cowboy Magazine.  All Rights Reserved.


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Forrest Lucas Cover

Forrest Lucas / Oil Tycoon / Motor Sports Legend / American Rancher

Charlie Nicks – of Real American Cowboy Magazine

If you’ve ever watched a NASCAR or an NHRA race – if you’ve ever watched the Indianapolis Colts play at home – if you’ve ever had a leak in your power steering and bought a product in a white bottle at Wal-Mart to fix it – if you’ve ever seen a monster truck race – an airplane race – a boat race – you already know the name LUCAS OIL – this is about the man who owns it, and trust me… he’s a cowboy.

It’s just a simple fact that Forrest Lucas is a perfect example of what can happen in America. He grew up poor with an alcoholic father and some bitter remembrances, but he used that to fuel his own success. As a kid he showed cattle and worked hard on a ranch. By 19 he owned his first big rig and launched a 20 year career as a long haul trucker – he built an enviable reputation for developing oils and fluids to make his own trucks run better, smoother and longer and soon his truck driving buddies were buying Lucas’s first products.

The rest, as they say, is history. Lucas Oil Products is the world’s leading producer of high performance motor oils and problem solving additives but Forrest Lucas, though considerably wealthier, hasn’t changed much.

When you interview someone like Mr. Lucas, you are provided tons of background information and photography in advance of your interview by their public relations people, and Forrest Lucas’ PR guy is one of the world’s best. Forrest and I were scheduled to talk for 30-minutes on the phone. We talked for almost two hours. We talked about the typical things, we talked about some personal things and then we talked about his latest project, Protect the Harvest. And it’s worth talking about.

Forrest Lucas is a big deal. His cell phone is filled with the numbers of some of the most important people in government, agriculture and sports. But, among many other hats he wears is a cowboy hat, he is a rancher. He runs 2,000 head of Semintal mama cows in the Missouri Ozarks on 16,000 acres and recently added a herd of Longhorns on the property as well. Forrest Lucas is still from the country and believes old school cowboy values still count.

Now, with many of his goals in life achieved and with the resources, contacts and know-how he’s gained from a lifetime of success, Forrest Lucas is taking on animal rights groups on behalf of and in partnership with every Farmer and Rancher in America. He’s shaking up the agricultural world with a bold new proposition. Offense, rather than Defense.

Not a word-mincer, Forrest Lucas puts it on the table, “animal rights activist groups have been bilking the American people out of more than 150 million dollars a year for decades – all of it lining their own pockets – they’re making a mockery of the American Farmer’s and Rancher’s know-how when it comes to caring for their crops and livestock – they’re driving family owned agricultural businesses into bankruptcy – they’re threatening the cornerstone companies that are the background of food production – they’re buying congressional support – and these groups are run by people who have never saddled a horse, bottle-fed a sick calf or doctored a cow.”

In 2010, Forrest Lucas formed Protect the Harvest, inviting others to help him battle the dishonesty, deceptive propaganda, and sensationalization of every day agricultural work as well as previously unchallenged legal maneuvers.

Protect the Harvest needs the support of the big shots and politicians and it needs the support of companies and organizations who have everything to lose if the animal rights community continues to successfully gain legislative ground.

But, and maybe most of all, according to Forrest Lucas, it needs the support of, “everyday people who buy a rodeo ticket, drive a truck, wear a ball cap, listen to George Strait, pray with their kids and believe in the Cowboy way”.

And while Forrest Lucas and Protect the Harvest don’t need money from you and I – the success or failure of Protect the Harvest in many ways will depend on whether or not he can get you and me, the everyday cowboys and cowgirls, to do one simple thing that will take less than 5 minutes and cost you nothing. Nothing.

At the most basic level, Forrest Lucas believes it’s time to stop being afraid of animal rights groups.

Forrest Lucas believes it’s time to fight back.

And so do we.

We support him and Protect the Harvest and while he is spending his time, effort and money working with the complexities at the top – the legislation, the politicians, the funding, he has asked us to help him gain the support of the everyday cowboy and cowgirl. And here’s exactly what he has asked us to communicate to our readers:

1.) STOP SENDING MONEY to ANY ANIMAL RIGHTS ORGANZATION. De-funding these frauds is the quickest and surest way to win the battle. (This would not include your LOCAL Humane Society).

2.) EMAIL YOUR SENATORS AND CONGRESSMAN and tell them where you stand! A big stack of emails on a congressman’s desk gets even more attention than a juicy campaign contribution. Throughout the month of September we will be posting a link once a week with a reminder to email your congressman, all you’ll have to do is click and write.

3.) LIKE the Protect the Harvest Facebook Page, those numbers count. As a grassroots organization today that means Facebook clout matters – please like this page:

Your email should state that you support agriculture and are opposed to animal rights special interest groups.

It should remind them that you vote and that you will watch their record on this issue. Be polite but be direct and be brief.

Serious… we need you to help this organization by sending emails to your Senators and Congressman – and beginning in September, we’ll make it easy for you to do. Our goal: Nationwide between September 1st and December 1st we intend, with our readers support, to send 1 million emails to Washington. Major impact.

We kind of feel like this; if Forrest Lucas, who sure doesn’t have to be involved in this fight, is willing to take the time provide much of the money, energy, leadership and vision, the least we can do is send an email to a congressman.

Look for our reminder posts on Facebook in September. Click, write and be heard. It matters. Big time.

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