Saying goodbye to pickup man Rex Bugbee
Rex Bugbee, a veteran pickup man who worked some of the PRCA’s biggest rodeos, passed away Aug. 25. He was 65.
Bugbee, who worked as a pickup man for Frontier Rodeo Company since 2005, was serving as a pickup man with two-time National Finals Rodeo pickup man Shawn “Too Tall” Calhoun during a non-PRCA sanctioned bronc match in Guymon, Okla., Aug. 20.
During the event, Bugbee and Calhoun were involved in an accident in the arena. While Calhoun walked away with injuries, Bugbee was seriously injured. Bugbee was transported to the trauma unit for treatment in Lubbock, Texas, where he passed away Tuesday.
“Rex was a heck of a hand and a great friend,” Calhoun told ProRodeo Sports News Wednesday. “If you ever met Rex, he was a friend for life. He didn’t meet a stranger and never had something bad to say about anybody. You knew where you stood with him because if he said it, he meant what he said.”
Bugbee was selected to pick up at some of ProRodeo’s major events such as Cheyenne (Wyo.) Frontier Days twice and RFD-TV’s The American in Arlington, Texas. He also worked the Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo multiple times.
He served as the arena usher at the 2019 Clem McSpadden National Finals Steer Roping in Mulvane, Kan.
When he was selected to work the NFSR, he told the PRCA Media Department that the friendships he’s made through work and getting to attend a lot of great rodeos are what he loves most about his job.
“The best thing about the NFSR is that I don’t have to travel far, it’s not far from my house,” Bugbee said. “I’m going to try and stay on top of my game and do the best job that I can at the event.”
At Frontier Rodeo Company, Bugbee also helped on the company’s ranch in Freedom, Okla. Rex and his wife, Teri, made their home in Medicine Lodge, Kan. They have two sons, Josh and Jay. Josh and his wife, Kim, have a daughter, Ila, and a son, Tripp, making Rex and Teri grandparents.
Jerry Nelson, the owner of Frontier Rodeo Company, talked about Bugbee.
“Rex started rodeoing when he was 12,” Nelson told PSN. “He rode bulls and (tie-down) roped growing up. Rex was just a cowboy. He liked riding horses. He used to tell me that he had the best job in the rodeo business because he could sit out in the rodeo arena and watch the horses buck. It’s a tragic deal. I’ve never thought of a pickup man like that; I’ve always worried about the bull riders or bronc riders getting thrown off, but you never think about the pickup man. It’s a dangerous job. They don’t get enough credit for what they do.
“If I could say anything about Rex Bugbee, I would say he was probably the best all-around cowboy I ever knew, and Rex Bugbee died doing what he wanted to do.”
Nelson’s Frontier Rodeo Company made the following post Aug. 26 on its Facebook page:
“Rex ‘Bugs’ Bugbee was cowboy to the core, he was respected by all who met him. He was one of the toughest men God ever gave breath, with a heart of gold. Rex worked for Frontier Rodeo Company for 15 years as a pickup-man and any other task that needed a set of hands.
“He wasn’t just an employee, he was FAMILY! To his many friends that he had all over the world, please find peace & comfort in knowing that he left this earth doing what he loved and lived for….being a cowboy. The tack trailer gatherings will never be the same, but every time it hits Hwy 50 rolling out of Freedom we know you’ll be riding shotgun.
“We ask that you keep his devoted wife, Teri, their sons Josh (wife Kim), Jay (Ashley) and grandchildren Ila and Tripp in your prayers in the coming days ahead. There will be a Memorial service, once it’s finalized we’ll post details.”
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Outtagrass Cattle Co. cartoon by Jan Swan Wood for the June 19, 2021, edition of Tri-State Livestock News