Pickup Man Jim Wilson to make 10th consecutive NRCA Championship Finals Rodeo appearance
November 17, 2009
The Northwest Ranch Cowboys Association, a regional professional rodeo organization with rodeos sanctioned in Montana, Wyoming, North and South Dakota and Nebraska, is pleased to announce that Jim Wilson of Ridge, MT – native son and Professional Rodeo Pickup Man – has been selected by the top 12 bareback and saddle bronc riders to return for his 10th consecutive appearance at the 2009 NRCA Championship Finals Rodeo, Trade Show and Convention. The event will be held at the CamPlex in Gillette, WY on Nov. 27-29, 2009.
Wilson and his wife Louise hang their hats at the home ranch near Ridge when they are not on the rodeo trail.
“I ranch for a living and raise both cattle and sheep,” said Wilson. “We run a commercial herd of Angus cows and a band of Columbia sheep.”
Wilson has been supplementing the ranch income for a long time with his rodeo avocation, but is reluctant to say how long.
“I started picking up broncs when I was 18 years old,” he says. “That’s a long time!”
From a rodeo career dating back to the 1960’s one can only imagine the harrowing wrecks Wilson has been involved in, in the arena, as a pick up man. Wilson, one of rodeos most well liked and soft spoken ambassadors of the sport, is reluctant to brag about himself and his accomplishments, so we asked his wife Louise.
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“Oh, gosh, there have been so many,” says Louise. “He has scars from bulls hooking him, horses biting him, cinches breaking, you name it.”
And the worst wreck?
“We were at Buffalo, WY, the other pickup man had a bronc dallied to his saddle horn when his horse reared over backwards, dragging the bucking horse on top if Jim and his pick up horse,” she says. “It got pretty nerve wracking waiting for Jim to crawl out of the tangle of horses and dust.”
And did he escape unscathed?
“He said he was fine. But you know Jim, he could have a leg cut off and say he was fine. His main concern was for the horses involved.”
Do you worry about Jim when he is in the arena, picking up broncs or hazing bulls back to the catch pen during the bull riding?
“I can’t. If I did, I would have had a heart attack a long time ago!”
Any one who has spent much time with Jim Wilson in the arena knows where his priorities lie.
“My number one concern is for the cowboy I am picking up, get him safely away from the bronc and on the ground,” he says. “Then I concentrate on getting the animal, whether it be a bronc or a bull, safely out of the arena and to the catch pen.”
That is why Wilson, who has spent a life time learning to “read” livestock and has handled thousands of livestock, has a regular clientele he works with every year at rodeos across the upper Midwest.
“I work primarily with Burch Rodeos of Rozet, WY,” says Jim. “I pick up at all their regional professional and PRCA rodeos. I am also hired by the committees at the Mandan (ND) PRCA rodeo, the Philip (SD) Match Bronc Ride, the Broncs and Bulls Rodeo (Broadus, MT) and the Sentinel Butte (ND) Match of Champions. I try to stay pretty close to home, but it still involves traveling to MT, WY, SD, ND and NE.”
Add to that Wilson’s finals selections and it makes for a pretty impressive resume – NRCA finals consecutively since 2000, three or four SDRA finals, several NPRA finals and the PRCA Dodge Badlands Circuit finals since 2004.
When pressed for his greatest accomplishment in rodeo, Wilson finally replied.
“Surviving all these years without ever really hurting anyone. (If you don’t count running down a rodeo official or two.) Actually, it has been an honor to be chosen to pick up the Badlands Circuit Finals for the last six years,” he says.
Unlike most aspects of rodeo, there are no schools you can attend to learn the art of picking up broncs. Wilson learned the tools of his trade by simply getting in the arena and learning from his experiences. When asked for his advice for aspiring young pick up men he responded, “Put together a string of broke horses that will ‘go there and do that’ when asked. Handle a lot of livestock, learn to read livestock and then be patient. Your day will come.”
Any plans for down the road when he decides to retire as a pick up man?
“When I quit picking up broncs, those Senior Men’s Breakaway ropers had better get ready for some competition!”