Bob Barnes: 1929-2013
Bob Barnes, a ProRodeo Hall of Fame stock contractor who is one of just two men to provide stock for all 55 editions of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, died Nov. 23 at Careage Hills Nursing Home in Cherokee, Iowa, where he had been residing since undergoing surgery last February. He was 84.
Barnes had spent the days prior to his death visiting with family and friends about the upcoming Wrangler NFR. “He just went to sleep,” said his eldest son, Marty. “He had been asking questions just a few hours earlier.”
Barnes, known as the “Colonel,” was a premier rodeo producer in the Midwest who always prided himself on being able to produce what he advertised – a top professional rodeo.
Born April 19, 1929, in Cherokee, Iowa, Barnes started his rodeo career as a teenage amateur bareback rider. In 1950 he and his sister, Marj, decided to try their hand at producing rodeos.
Their first professional show was produced after he completed service in the Marine Corps during the Korean War. By 1953, they hit the road with a full string of stock and the Barnes Rodeo Company was on its way.
In the 1950s, the farthest rodeo away from the family’s Peterson, Iowa, ranch was 350 miles. In the ‘60s, the fleet grew and so did the distance, to about 600 miles. Now the fleet has grown to four tractors, 12 trailers, and numerous pickups. The company travels through 32 states and more than 100,000 miles a year, with the furthest rodeo being more than 1,500 miles away.
Now named Barnes PRCA Rodeo, the company is the longest-running, individually-owned-and-operated stock contracting firm in the country and the major contributor to developing rodeo in the Midwest.
Barnes was the 1984 PRCA Stock Contractor of the Year, was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs, Colo., in 1994, and the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City in 2010.
He served for many years on the PRCA Board of Directors and the National Finals Rodeo Committee; his younger son, John, is currently a member of the PRCA Board and is the livestock superintendent at the Wrangler NFR.
In the late 1970s, Barnes PRCA Rodeo was in great demand to produce high school and college rodeos, so Bob and his wife, Donita, formed a second rodeo company to accommodate this opportunity. It only seemed fitting to name the company after the next generation in the Barnes family. The MJM Rodeo Company brand stands for the first initial of each of the three Barnes children – Mitzi, John and Marty.
After developing a solid foundation in the rodeo business, MJM joined the PRCA in 1980.
Barnes PRCA Rodeo has hauled stock all over the United States and Canada for more than 60 years. The company has produced the PRCA rodeos in Buffalo, Minn., and Spooner, Wis., for more than 50 years each.
Barnes’ Crystal Springs was the 1977 PRCA Saddle Bronc Horse of the Year and his other top stock over the years included bull T Bar, who produced a Reliant Stadium arena record ride of 94 points with Terry Don West onboard, and bareback horse Smokeless Bow Tie, who Wes Stevenson rode for 93 points, one shy of the world record.
Services were held Friday, Nov. 29 at the Sutherland (Iowa) Church of Christ.
The family requests all memorial contributions be made to the Sutherland Church of Christ or to Midwest Christian Services in Peterson.
Barnes is survived by his daughter, Mitzi (Michael) Johnson; sons, Marty (Kendall) and John (Cynthia); 10 grandchildren and one great grandchild. He was preceded in death by his beloved wife of 53 years, Donita.
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Outtagrass Cattle Co. cartoon by Jan Swan Wood for the June 19, 2021, edition of Tri-State Livestock News