Korkow Rodeos of Pierre, SD, once again return as the stock contractor for the 2012 Burke Stampede Rodeo.
Jim and T.J. Korkow carry on the tradition of Jim's father, Erv Korkow - a tradition of outstanding bucking stock and rodeo production since 1947. Korkow Rodeos has a 60-year strong breeding program raising 90 percent of their own bucking stock. We thought you might enjoy the following excerpts from a recent story written about the Korkows for Western Horseman by Kate Bradley.
Great novels often begin with two central characters - a man and a woman. Jim Korkow, patriarch of South Dakota's historic Korkow Rodeo Company, can top even the most celebrated novels: His tale begins with five women. "My father, Erv, had five sisters. On Sunday afternoons, cowboys would come a -courtin'," Jim Days. "Dad was always trading horses. He broke saddle horses and teams to drive. I can just hear the conversations start, 'Well, I traded for this mare that sure can buck.' Pretty soon, one of the callers would claim to be the best rider, and from there the cowboys got to showing off."
In the early 1940s, in the middle of the South Dakota prairie, finding five eligible women on one ranch was akin to hitting the gold mine. The cowboys were not the only ones to strike a kind of gold, however. Erv Korkow's start as a stock contractor may have begun with flirtation, but today his son and grandson represent the family business with solid, dependable bucking stock in an every-changing industry.
Early on, horses and rodeo have driven the Korkow family, and that is only fitting as South Dakota is known for talented bronc riders who top the professional rodeo ranks each year.
"My father trailed livestock to town for the first rodeo done where there were actual bucking chutes," said 70-year-old Jim. "That was 1947, and we've been doing this ever since."
Since 1959, the Korkow family's Anchor K branded livestock have bucked for the top professional cowboys at every National Finals Rodeo. Horses like Slippery, Confused Velvet, Bad News Skoal and Haywire have vied for the title every stock contractor aspires to - top bronc. And the company isn't near done yet. Today, the herds of bucking horses and bulls run on a 20,000-acre ranch based in Pierre, SD.
However, as in every industry, economics plays a key role in continuing a business, and it is no different in rodeo. The sport of rodeo practically defines the West. It was created west of the Mississippi, and most of the top competitors - both cowboys and horses - hail from a Western state. However, rodeos are held around the country, from Florida to California, and Louisiana to Montana. That adds up to a lot of fuel, a lot of miles put on tires or racked up in airline tickets.
"This is a lifestyle. Your animals have a personality of their own, your friends are your fellow competitors, and your family was raised on rodeo," he explained. "I have grandsons coming, and I see this going on for another 60 or 70 years."
The Korkow family also conducts a yearly rodeo school that helps produce champion rodeo competitors. "My Dad started the school, and this year marked our 26th," said T.J. "A pretty good onslaught of good cowboys have come through the school. And, we need cowboys to keep this going." "We try to teach them right so that we have cowboys coming up in the future," says Jim. "If they have no instruction on equipment, how to get off on a pick-up man and how to roll when they come off, well, after one or two times out and hitting the ground, that kid is going to give up and go buy golf clubs or something. I'm training future competitors - cowboys and livestock."
Located in the heart of bronc riding country, the Korkow Rodeo Company has a better chance than most of continuing its legacy. It sent nine animals to the 2011 National Finals Rodeo, including 610 Queenie a nine-time qualifier to Las Vegas. Queenie received Saddle Bronc of the Year honors for the Badlands Circuit in 2004, 2007 and 2008. When he left the ranch to head to Oklahoma City, OK, in March for the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo, Jim drove past the superstar mare in her corral. "She looked at me with the horse trailer like, 'Where are you going without me?' This is the first year in 12 that she hasn't been to the circuit finals rodeo," he says. "You hate to see any of them get old, but then again, she is going to have another colt. She would be coming if she wasn't going to have a colt."
The cycle continues for the contractor who supplies not only stock, but also helps build top competitors at the rodeo school.
"I'm just trying to do the best we can with what we've got," Jim said. "Rodeo is our only business and we depend on our bucking horses and bulls for our living. We are surviving and getting better."
Hats off to Korkow Rodeo, Jim, and T.J. Korkow and families - you won't want to miss the 2012 Stampede with rodeo performances at 7:00 p.m. on July 20-22, at the Stampede Rodeo Grounds in Burke, SD.
- Burke Stampede Rodeo