Benny Reynolds: 1936 – 2014
February 20, 2014
Benny Reynolds: 1936 – 2014
ProRodeo Hall of Fame cowboy Benny Reynolds, the all-around world champion in 1961 and the winner of the inaugural Linderman Award in 1966, died Feb. 14 of an apparent heart attack while loading hay on his ranch in Twin Bridges, Mont. He was 77.
Considered one of the most versatile athletes in the history of the cowboy sport, Reynolds competed mainly in bareback riding, bull riding and steer wrestling, but also dabbled in saddle bronc riding and team roping. It's estimated he accumulated more than 360 buckles in his 40-plus year career.
He was the PRCA's Rookie of the Year in 1958 and qualified for the National Finals Rodeo 11 times over a seven-year span, earning berths in multiple events in each of the NFR's first four years (1959-62).
"Benny was good, real good," former traveling partner Dan Stringari told the ProRodeo Sports News last October. "He'd enter everything he could and he would always seem to win at least one event everywhere. If you beat him in the bareback riding, he'd get you in the steer wrestling or team roping. They could never beat him in all the events; he was going to place in most events and win one."
"He was one of my heroes," said three-time World Champion Saddle Bronc Rider Shawn Davis. "I traveled with him for a while when I was starting out and we've been friends forever. He was one of the great ones."
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Reynolds finally stopped competing in riding events in 1993 after he suffered a broken neck at the age of 57. He would go on to steer wrestle for another two or three years and continued to team rope until he was 71.
Reynolds still roped regularly and worked his 270-acre ranch, breaking away in December, every year from 1987 through last December, to work the arena gates at the Wrangler NFR in Las Vegas.
His love affair with the sport started when he was 6 in the tiny community of Melrose, Mont., and it never went away.
"I made more money at the Finals in the bareback riding, but I think I was best at steer wrestling," Reynolds told the PSN. When he won the 1961 all-around world title, Reynolds finished fifth in the world in both bareback riding and bulldogging.
"I also rode bulls and saddle broncs, but I was too long-legged for the saddle bronc riding and I would hit them in the leg instead of the shoulder and it didn't look good."
In a 1961 Newsweek story, Lex Connolly, then managing director of the Rodeo Cowboys Association, said, "Benny is like Paul Hornung of the Green Bay Packers; he isn't No. 1 in any of his events, but he's so good at all of them that he's the best overall."
Reynolds was listed among Montana's 50 Greatest Sports Figures of the 20th Century by Sports Illustrated.
He is survived by his three children, son, Rooster; daughter, Jenny; and son, Louis John, all of whom live near the family ranch, as well as by his stepson, Skip Jordan. He is also survived by six grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Oldest son, Rooster – the 1995 NFR steer wrestling average champion – was working with his father when he died.