Deb Greenough gets Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame nod
September 13, 2018
It was the fall of 1987 following one of the last big rodeos in Regina Saskatchewan and a long drive back to Montana. Deb Greenough had just gotten dropped off by two of his traveling partners who were on their way to compete in that year's NFR in Las Vegas.
"I remember watching their tail lights headed to Vegas and saying to myself, 'next year I'm not going to be left behind in a cold pickup—I'm going to make it to the NFR too,'" Deb Greenough of Billings, Montana, recounts.
That determination combined with his talent in bareback riding got Greenough to the next year's 1988 NFR and every NFR consecutively until 2000.
Most recently, Greenough's accomplishments and character resulted in him becoming one of this year's Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame inductees.
Getting inducted into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame "came as a total surprise" to Deb Greenough, the 1993 PRCA world champion bareback rider.
"As a kid, you never run around on a stick horse thinking that you'll get to that point [of becoming a part of the hall of fame]," Greenough explained.
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Greenough's resume warrants a hall of fame nod. He qualified for the NFR 13 consecutive years between 1988 and 2000. In nine of those years he finished in the top five—three times in second place (1992, 1997, and 2000)—and in 1993 he won the title of world champion.
To become a part of the hall of fame, any one can nominate a rodeo contestant and then the selection committee narrows it down into an induction class.
Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame Director Kent Sturman explained that there is no set number of inductees each year that are selected by the committee. "Through the discussion and process they [the committee] narrow it down and the cream always seems to rise to the top," he said.
Sturman complimented Greenough's character and said that "He qualified [for the hall of fame] by winning a world title. He is an all around great guy in and out of the area. He was fair and honest and good with the fans and really promoted the PRCA in addition to his many years of NFR qualifications and his world title."
Greenough said that he went to a few rodeos in high school but didn't travel extensively. Most of his riding experience came from his time spent at Northwest College in Powell, Wyoming under coach Ike Sankey.
"He took me under his wing, and I learned a lot from him," Greenough said.
In those days he remembers getting on a horse basically every day to ride and practice.
After getting his PRCA card in 1986, Greenough faced "a true rookie year" until things started falling together.
In 1988, he qualified for his first NFR. In those first years Greenough explained that as "a rookie among veterans" he "didn't realize the caliber of people that he was competing against."
Things picked up for him in 1990 with wins at Calgary, Cheyenne, and Pendleton. His momentum carried on into the 1991 season as well.
In May of 1992 at the Cloverdale rodeo in British Colombia, Greenough's rigging came up over the horse's neck which resulted in him getting drug around a bit. His shoulder was hurt, but he decided to ride again and ended up tearing his biceps at the next rodeo he competed at.
After the injury, Greenough said "I wondered if I was done or if I could keep going."
He took a month and half off and then returned to the chutes in time for the 4th of July season.
Greenough explained that summer was about "taking care of this arm and making enough to keep going. But I really wasn't winning any firsts."
The end of September found him "going broke" which is when Greenough said "I knew that I had to start doing something."
He had been making really controlled "business man rides" to protect his arm, but at the end of the season he began taking more risks.
During the last week of the regular season, he was sitting at 17th in the world standings. His winnings in that week were enough to bump him up to 14th and get him a ticket to the NFR.
Greenough won the average in 1992 and finished 2nd overall—climbing 12 rankings at one competition.
After the season was over, Greenough was able to look back on the summer of 1992 and his injury and see that the summer spent focusing on form and crafting a controlled ride, made him an even more solid rider.
The next year he returned, determined to claim the championship, and took the 1993 world title in bareback.
Cleve Schmidt, one of Greenough's traveling partners, said "he was a pretty amazing guy to be with. He was always in a great mood, always trying to pick you up."
Schmidt also recalls that Greenough "was always an hour late when we met up for a rodeo, so we had to drive pretty fast to make it there."
In being inducted with this year's class, Greenough joins his great aunts and uncle Alice Greenough Orr, Margie Greenough Henson, and Turk Greenough who also have received hall of fame recognition for their world champion titles and part in pioneering the sport of rodeo and the PRCA.
"Rodeo has been in my family for generations," Greenough said.
His grandfather and father both ranched and rodeoed as well.
"When you live in that lifestyle, you want to get on something," he explained.
Greenough remembers getting on a calf for the first time at a branding at the age of four.
"Every little kid is blessed with a Shetland," he said, which added to his experience of holding on tight.
The summer between Greenough's 5th and 6th grade year his parents took him to a Little Britches rodeo in Billings, Montana. Unfortunately, he was unable to ride that year because his dad was judging the competition and some people thought that it wouldn't be fair.
Greenough remembers being "heart broken," but that only "fueled the fire."
The next year found him at the same rodeo ready to make his debut. At the rodeo, he asked his dad if he was going to help him practice. He replied "you don't need practice, all you need is try."
This advice sent a young Greenough off to the back of the chutes where he met a "young skinny kid" named Clint Branger who helped him get on his first steer. Branger, like Greenough, would also later go to make a name for himself in the PRCA.
Years after his first ride at that Little Britches Rodeo, his career came full circle and Greenough found himself at a rodeo in Billings in 2001 taking his last ride.
He had torn a groin muscle in the spring and had been dealing with the injury all summer. When fall and the NILE rodeo in Billings came around, he decided to make it his last.
Since retiring, Greenough has taken up horse shoeing and carpentry.
His oldest son Quinn, who traveled with Greenough as a baby, is working at making it as a bull rider. His younger three kids love their horses and might carry on the family tradition in rodeo as well.
"It was a wonderful life! Tons of great experiences and great people along the way!" Greenough said.
The induction ceremony added 10 new members to the hall of fame including the Black Hills Roundup committee. It was Aug. 3 and 4 in Colorado Springs, Colorado.