BH Roundup: Rodeo legends relive memories
The first ever Champions Reunite Talk Show was held during the 100th Black Hills Roundup. Altogether, there were 109 National Finals Rodeo qualifications amongst the group of past champions. Speakers included Deb Greenough, Mark Garrett, Paul Tierney, Tom Reeves, Red Lemmel, Brad Gjermundson, Clint Johnson, Cleve Schmidt, Jeff Willert, Chad Ferley, Lonnie Hall, T.R. Chytka, and Bud Longbrake. Below, see several stories which include updates on the rodeo stars’ lives, and a couple of wild tales from the rodeo trail.
Deb: My dad was a horse shoer and I’d help him shoe horses and I’d get a little money and go rodeo for the weekend and get sent home broke. Well, sure enough, Dad always had more to shoe. I can remember one hot day, I said, “Dad, how many head do we have today.” He said, “Oh only about sixteen.” And it was hot and miserable and I counted every one of them as they came out of the corral. The last one came out and I was so happy. The boss rode up and said, “Billy, we’ve got a couple more, do you think you could handle them?” Dad said, “Sure!” and I went, “Oh my. Please God let me ride good this weekend so I don’t have to come back and go shoeing.” So, lo and behold, God answered my prayers. I did kind of start winning and stayed on the road for about 15 years, but I should’ve asked to never have to go back to shoeing, because that’s what I’m doing now.
Mark: I just hired onto a gold mine in Deadwood. I’m still a cowboy, always will be. I love the life, always have. My first fight I ever got in was trying to find a spot to watch one of these deals. I absolutely, thoroughly love rodeo. Every aspect of it, every event. Great is great. I was fortunate to do what I loved to do for quite a while and I traveled with most of these guys. I’ve learned so much from all of them. I’ve had so many laughs. Basically, that’s what we did was get in the car and laughed until you got there and laughed to the next one.
Paul: We have a ranch in Oral and we raise cows and calves and ride a lot of horses. I’ve always been able to never have a job. Isn’t that great? I’ve always been able to create my own destiny and be my own boss and do my own thing. It’s kind of what life’s all about–doing what you want to do. Every morning I get up and I’m still doing it.
Tom: About a year ago, I started a program, Wild Horses Youth Program, we promote western lifestyle in native and nonnative areas. Right now I work for Fort Peck in Montana and we leased a ranch east of there. We run cattle and bucking horses and bucking bull cows. We promote more of a western lifestyle and rodeo is a big part of it, of course. We also work for Mark Fox and we’re going into a few other tribes. It’s not really a tribal thing, most of our kids are nonnative, but most of the people that got behind this are native sponsors. I can’t say enough about Fort Peck and Mark Fox.
Clint: I moved to Texas about thirty years ago. It’s a lot like here. It ain’t near as pretty. The people are all pretty good. My wife grew up there and I was rodeoing so it didn’t matter where I lived. I’m kind of stuck there, I’m too broke to lead now. My wife Mindy and I have a few cows and lots of horses. We ride horses and punch cows and we are lucky enough to be there with my daughter barrel racing. Life’s good.
Jeff: I rodeoed and won enough to buy a ranch in Belvidere. It was a good twelve years of rodeo. I didn’t really have to worry about money until now that I’m ranching.
Chad: I’ve just been sitting at home ranching a little bit. I’ve got two little girls and I haul them around to playdays every weekend. Taking care of things at home, wondering how anything ever got done. I was never at home, so I don’t know what I did. Nothing, apparently.
Lonnie: You look at these guys–worlds champion and hall of fame, and it’s not about being there as much as it is about joining the guys that came before you in what they did and what they accomplished and then allow you to be with them. That’s what I appreciate about rodeo… I give all the credit to my wife. She put up with me through a lot of stuff and I got her married before she figured me out. By God if she didn’t stay with me. I owe a lot to her and I love her very much and we’ve been through some times and we’ve got some more to go.
Bud: I started my bronc riding career in 1979 and started my ranching in 1983. I rode broncs for 20 years. I retired in 2003 and become a partner with my dad in the Longbrake Rodeo Company and helped him put on rodeos until he retired three years ago. I’m raising bucking horses and cattle on the ranch where my dad grew up and also where my mom grew up.
Brad, speaking about the late Johnny Morris: Johnny wasn’t just a pilot. It was like he was entered. If you could get entered at two or three of them a day, that was even better. When you got up in the morning to leave, it only took Johnny five minutes and he was ready. It didn’t matter. Whether it was a Cody afternoon to Prescott that night and hot at both places, it wasn’t that comfortable going all that way.
Clint: I had an old damn car all the time, usually wore out. I had a ‘65 Cadillac and it was really a good car but used a lot of oil and a few other issues. We were in Jackson, Mississippi. Rick Smith, Bud Pauley and I were rodeoing together, and he was kind of like me. We were really touchy about this car because the damn thing would break down all the time. We’d been to the mall killing a little time and we come out and get in ol’ Olive Oil, and hit the switch and the smoke just boils out of the hood. And Bud and I are just petrified and we leap out of the car and he says, “She’s on fire, boys!” We get out and we pull the hood up and there’s a dang smoke bomb under the hood and that dang Merlin Bruin is just sitting in the backseat breaking a leg back there.
Lonnie: ‘67 Cadillac. We were in Kansas or somewhere and I was driving… a little too fast. And here comes this highway patrol going the other way. But he had to go up across the deal there, and while he was doing that I ducked down across and headed the other way. And not to bore you with the story, but this went on for a half hour or twenty minutes or so, but I finally got him. He give up. That was right after the speed limit had gone from 70 to 55 and you couldn’t stay on the highway or interstate in the United States.
Bud: One time when I was about this big, we went to the state 4H livestock judging. My mom always took us because Pete was always rodeoing. My mom was a teacher all her life so she was gone to workshops. Everybody in the club got to go to state. Anyway, we were down there and I got separated from the group. I was wandering around trying to find Pete. And I walk into this big, long building and there was this guy standing in the front with a microphone, talking, and there were people all over. So I walked up to that stage and looked up at that guy and I said, “Have you seen Pete?” He said, “Who’s Pete?” I said, “He’s my dad. Pete Longbrake!” He said, “I don’t know him.” I said, “Everybody knows Pete Longbrake.” It was [George] McGovern. He was campaigning.