The Whole Boot: Bootheel 7/Hageman Ranch Team wins big at NILE Ranch Rodeo
Going to the NILE ranch rodeo is like going home for the Bootheel 7/Hageman Ranch. Of the four times they have attended the event in the Rimrock Arena in Billings, Montana, they have taken the boot back to Wyoming twice, the boot trophy that is.
Their first time qualifying for the NILE wasn’t exemplary, but since then, the team of Wyoming cowboys has upped their performaces, placing first in 2014, second in 2015, and first again in 2017.
“The environment is pretty cool. That place has always treated us pretty good,” Andrew Wasserburger said. “The first year we made it we didn’t do very good, but I think that luck has a lot to do with it. I told the guys we always seem to get lucky at that place.”
Two sets of brothers, Andrew and Eric Wasserburger of Bootheel 7 Ranch north of Lusk, Wyoming, and Brett and Lane Hageman of Hageman Ranch of Fort Laramie, Wyoming, along with Lance Hladky of Casper, Wyoming, make up the team.
“The atmosphere at the NILE has a lot to do with us winning,” Brett said. “It’s a big time rodeo; there’s a lot of fans; it is not just a little county fair ranch rodeo. It’s the last one of the season too.”
Hladky started out the team’s 2017 NILE performance strong with his 76 point bronc ride aboard a grey Powder River Rodeo bronc, capturing third.
“Lance’s ride definitely was what helped us win,” Brett said. “Lance always knows what it takes and we wouldn’t have won the state fair without his bronc ride. He always comes in and really gets after it. He makes sure he wins that event or tries to, each horse he gets on.”
Per NILE ranch rodeo rules, as the bronc rider on a team of five, Hladky could only participate in bronc riding, so the Hagemans and Wasserburgers completed the ranch rodeo events, placing third in team trailering, second in branding, first in doctoring, and fifth in wild cow milking.
“One more hole down in milking would have dropped us to a tie with Maxwell Buttes, and we would have had to go to a tie breaker,” Andrew said. The tie breaker would have been the higher bronc ride, which would have resulted in the championship being handed to Maxwell Butte, due to their second place bronc ride.
Instead, Bootheel 7/Hageman Ranch did just well enough in wild cow milking to edge out Maxwell Butte by one point, resulting in the NILE Ranch Rodeo boot trophy returning to Wyoming. The 2014 trophy rests on Andrew and Eric’s parents’ mantle, and the 2017 trophy went home with Hugh and Lee Hageman.
“Andrew said he let dad have it this year,” Brett said. “Hopefully next one we get can go to Troy Hladky.”
Winning the Wyoming State Fair Ranch Rodeo qualified the team for the NILE, and they qualified for the state fair by winning Laramie County Fair in Cheyenne. Two other Lusk area teams earned a place at the NILE. Hanson Livestock/ Broken Arrow Ranch qualified for the NILE at Wyoming State Fair with their third place finish, and Four Three/FX Bar qualified by winning Eastern Wyoming Ranch Rodeo in Lusk.
Much of their success can be attributed to working long hours together for a lifetime. Lane has only been rodeoing with the team for two seasons and already melds like an old pro.
“I think having a team that sticks together all the time, you just start doing better than other teams,” Andrew said. “We have been with Brett long enough, he understands Eric and I, and when Lane came in, he can read off of what Brett is doing, so he fit right in. We’ve all spent a lot of time with Lance cowboying growing up; Lance is like family to us.”
Brett’s younger brother Lane is a senior at the University of Wyoming and participated on the college rodeo team for his first three years.
“Rodeoing and growing up together on the ranch, it was mostly just dad and Lane and me, and we had to sort everything, so Lane and I work well together,” Brett said. “We know what the other guys are going to do, so there is no second guessing. It all just kind of flows.”
Bootheel 7/Hageman Ranch has the option to go to the Western States Ranch Rodeo Finals in Winnemucca, Nevada, this month. Though they have competed there before and are opting out.
“Brett just had that baby, Lane didn’t know he would be able to get out of school,” Andrew said. “Plus it’s long ways through the salt flats of Utah.”
The NILE is a fine way to wrap up the rodeo season for the Hagemans, Wasserburgers, and Hladky. It is filled with sweet memories of their friend Tom Cardwell who passed away after a fight with cancer several years ago.
“Some of the best memories are about Billings. We got to go up there with Tom, and it was kind of his last run,” Brett said. “There’s an atmosphere when we go up there and a lot of things to think about. That’s a lot of the reason I like going to Billings.”