Stallion Showcase 2023: Rodeo runs deep in the Tierney family
Paul Tierney was already consumed by rodeo in his youth.
As a kid, growing up on the family farm and ranch near Broken Bow, Neb., he was always getting in trouble for roping the bucket calves, running around the pen to catch one, and once he got one roped, needing help to get the rope off. Usually his older brother Pat, helped him. He didn’t ask his mom for help, “and I sure didn’t ask dad,” he said.
Paul and wife Robin Tierney are 2022 honorees in the rodeo legacy category for the South Dakota Quarter Horse Association.
The couple lives near Oral, S.D., with a proud legacy of rodeo and horses.
Tierney emulated his brother, Pat, who passed away in a tractor accident in his teens, and was always roping the sawhorse.
“I imitated that,” he said. “I always had a rope in my hand when I was a little kid.”
At Broken Bow High School, he competed in football, wrestling, track, and high school rodeo, winning the Nebraska High School calf roping, saddle bronc riding and all-around in 1970, the year he graduated.
On a full rodeo scholarship to National College of Business (now National American University), Paul excelled in collegiate rodeo, competing in all the events, like he had in high school.
He graduated with an ag business degree in 1975, then focused on rodeoing, purchasing his permit and filling much of it with money won in the saddle bronc riding.
Paul might have ridden roughstock longer than he did but a stolen bronc saddle ended his bronc riding career.
At the last college rodeo of the ’75 season, hosted by his school, he was cleaning up under the bleachers on the hill when a car drove in and parked by the stripping chutes. That person stole his saddle, and partly because of that, Paul didn’t ride many broncs after that.
In 1977, his first year of PRCA competition, he qualified for the National Finals Rodeo in the calf roping, continuing his Finals run eight more times in the roping (1977-82, 84-86) and five times in the steer wrestling (1977, 79-81, 84).
He was a two-time PRCA world champion: in 1979 in the calf roping, and the next year, for the all-around.
He finished second in the world in the calf roping and fourth in the steer wrestling in 1980, to win the all-around. He was reserve all-around champ in 1977 and 79 and reserve calf roping champ in 1977-78 and 1980.
After rupturing a disk in 1985, he had surgery two years later and never competed fulltime again.
He had also given himself a timeline.
“I always declared I’d give it ten years of my life, then move on,” he said.
But Tierney continued to compete at Badlands Circuit rodeos, winning four all-around titles (1980, 83, 91 and 92), five calf roping titles (1977, 80, 83-84 and 91) and a steer wrestling title in 1993.
During his decade of fulltime rodeo, he estimates he competed at 150 rodeos a year.
He married Robin Bail in 1988; she was a rodeo contestant as well.
A youngster growing up in Harding County, S.D., rodeo “was just what you did,” she said. As a teenager, she rode behind Connie Stinson Price, observing and soaking it all up as Connie trained barrel horses. “I was a silent student,” Robin said.
In college at South Dakota State, she competed in the barrels, breakaway and goat tying and qualified for the College National Finals all three years she was on the team, in the mid-80s.
In 1985, she won the title of Miss Rodeo South Dakota and that fall, after she gave up the crown, won the WPRA Badlands Circuit barrel racing and rookie titles, competing at the National Circuit Finals in Pocatello, Idaho.
The Tierney kids: Jess, Paul David, Amy, and Jordan, were told by their dad, “you will rodeo (in youth rodeos) and in college, because it will pay your education, and after that, you can choose,” Robin remembers. “They did well in rodeo, and loved it.” All four kids earned college rodeo scholarships.
After his fulltime competition ended, Paul and Robin trained performance horses, using a gray mare, with Happy Hancock and Leo Tag bloodlines, purchased from Clark Brown near North Platte, Neb. as a foundation mare.
Three horses are among the studs in their program: Frosted Cash, a son of Leo’s Question, a Frosty Feature son purchased from Bob Jordan, and a son of Frenchman’s Guy, out of a mare from Sherrick Granthum of Arizona, a daughter of Driftwood Ike and Sak Em San.
After having raised, trained and sold horses to the public, the Tierneys make sure their kids (and upcoming grandkids) have the horses they need.
“We make horses for our kids,” Robin said. “They’re all involved in rodeo in some way. It all starts here. We love that, and it keeps us involved (in rodeo). We not only love to see our kids succeed, but our horses, too.”
A new stud has joined the Tierney herd. Driftin French Cash, an enrolled Riata Buckle stallion that bears all the bloodlines of the best of their program: Driftin from the Granthum line, French from Frenchmans Guy, and Cash from the Bob Jordan horse Frosted Cash. They raised the six-year-old and his first colt is showing as a four-year-old.
Among the many people who helped Paul along during his pro rodeo days, Clark Brown stands out in his mind.
Because he owed Brown, a roper and rancher from North Plate, money on a horse and couldn’t pay it, Paul offered to work for him. For three months in the winter of 1971, “we roped and roped and roped,” Paul remembers. “There’s no telling how many calves we roped at his place, probably in the thousands.” Each night, each of them would rope at least 25 calves, five days a week, with Paul on one of Brown’s horses. Brown was an excellent roper, missing maybe one calf every two weeks, Paul estimates.
“Clark gave me a huge foundation,” he said. “It was a very, very important relationship in my career, because there’s no way I’d have roped that many calves at my house.”
The Tierneys spend a few months each winter in Arizona, but it’s not for vacation, laughed Robin.
“Most people go (to Arizona) to relax and rope a little bit,” she said. “Paul thinks we’re back on the rodeo trail and he goes to at least two ropings a day, seven days a week. He’s a rope-aholic.”
“A guy like me,” Paul said, “we never retire, we just make a new horse or buy a new rope. Rodeo never gets out of your blood. It’s in your DNA.”
Paul is an inductee in the Broken Bow (Neb.) High School Athletic Hall of Fame, the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame, the South Dakota Sports Hall of Fame, the National Cowboy Museum Hall of Fame, and the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame.
His children have rodeo credentials of their own: Jess is a ten-time National Finals Steer Roping qualifier and is rodeo coach at Western Oklahoma State College in Altus. Paul David is a five-time Badlands Circuit champion and a two-time Timed Event Champion. Amy Tierney Johnson is a college goat tying and a Northwest Ranch Cowboy Association mixed team roping champ, and Jordan is the 2019 Miss Rodeo South Dakota and the 2020-2021 Miss Rodeo America.