Top of the class: Wyoming born team roper part of 2022 Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame class
When Bobby Harris was a little kid, at rodeos with his dad as he roped steers, he could be found behind the bucking chutes, getting autographs from the rodeo stars.
And now he’s one of those stars.
The 1991 PRCA World Champion team roper was recently inducted into the 2022 Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame.
The son of Nick and Jayne Harris, Bobby grew up on the family ranch near Recluse, Wyo., north of Gillette. As his dad rodeoed, he and his brother and sister rodeoed as well. “It was a way of life for us,” he said.
He qualified for the National Finals Rodeo eighteen times, making his first NFR in 1981 at the age of eighteen.
He went again in 1982, 1984-95, 1997, 1999, 2002, and 2010, winning the average three times (1987, 1990, 2002) and winning the world in 1991 with Tee Woolman.
Throughout his career, he roped with Woolman, Doyle Gellerman, JD Yates, Guy Howell, Britt Williams, Colby Lovell, and more. He won nine Mountain States Circuit titles: two all-arounds, four team ropings, and three steer ropings, and in 1978, was the Wyoming High School all-around champ and the PRCA Rookie of the Year steer roper. He won the average at the NFR three times (1987, 1990, 2002) and qualified for the National Finals Steer Roping eight times (1986-91, 1993, 2006).
Part of Harris’ strength was his mental toughness. He never doubted that he could compete there. “It never crossed my mind that I couldn’t make the Finals,” he said. “I guess you could say it was expected. I didn’t hope to make the Finals, I expected to make the Finals.”
His parents helped instill that mental game in him and his siblings. His mom, Jayne Harris Voiles (who has since passed), was “a strong force,” he said. “She was a strong lady. There was no sugar coating with my mother. There was no getting patted on the back for not doing good. There was accountability in everything and that’s just how we were raised.”
Winning the world’s championship in 1991 was a lifetime dream, Harris said. “When I was a little boy, I could tell you the qualifiers in every event at the Finals. It was what I wanted to be. When my dad roped at a rodeo, we’d go behind the bucking chutes and talk to them and get their autographs.”
He and his wife Colleen run pasture cattle and yearlings on the ranch near Gillette in the summers and spend the winters at their home in Highmore, S.D. Harris still rides, trains and sells horses, and puts on the Badlands Bits and Spurs, a four-year-old team roping futurity, with JD Gerard and his wife.
His rodeo traveling days are over.
“When I was eighteen, I couldn’t wait to leave the ranch to rodeo. When I was 40, I couldn’t wait to get back to the ranch,” he said. “It’s full circle. I am completely content being here on the ranch and in Highmore in the winter time, with my family.”
He used to teach twenty schools a year across the U.S. and Canada. Now he does five clinics a year and does an annual clinic at the ranch. The five big schools, held in March and April, are in Sheridan and Wright, Wyoming, Wall and Gettysburg, S.D. and Baker, Mont. The clinic at the ranch admits five headers and five heelers in a more personal setting.
“I like to pass on lessons to help these kids,” he said.
He credits his parents for having high standards for him and his brother and sister. “When I was a young person roping and playing sports, my dad always said, if you’re going to get better, you’re going to compete against people better than you. I never backed down from that challenge my whole life. It made me that much hungrier. If somebody was beating me, it made me want to beat them.
“My parents set the tone of who I am and how I competed, and I try to pass that on to my family and the people at my schools, too.”
Bobby’s dad Nick, who is 81, attended the induction ceremonies. “He is thrilled,” Bobby said.
Harris understands that it took a village to get him to where he is today, and he’s grateful. “Going into the Hall of Fame is an honor I’m very proud of, and there are a lot of people who hopefully feel a part of (his induction). Because if not for others, nobody gets the goals done that they set out to do. I might have been competing, but there were a lot of people behind the scenes that help you accomplish your goals.”
Rodeo is very special to him. “The one thing you learn about rodeo,” he said, “is the people you meet. I’ve met people from Washington to Florida, from Vermont to California, and to this day, that’s probably one of the greatest things about rodeo, besides my world’s champion. It’s been fabulous to have so many friends and acquaintances that I still talk to, to this day.”
He’s also loved seeing the country. “You travel and see a lot of things. I’ve driven everywhere west of the Mississippi (River), numerous times, and you appreciate where you’ve gone and what the country is.”
He loves being with his family: daughter Kendall King and her husband Chip and their sons Charles and Henry; son Ryan Harris and his wife Shelby and their newborn son Riley; stepsons Bailey Leisinger and Brody Leisinger, and stepdaughter Natalie Leisinger.
Rodeo is a huge part of who Bobby Harris is, but it’s not the entire man.
“Roping is still what I do, but it’s not who I am,” he said. “When you win a world’s champion, it’s something you’ve dreamed of and it’s a goal. I reached that goal and had a successful career, but when it’s all done, you can’t live on the fact that I’m a world’s champion. Yes, I’m a team roper and a world’s champion but I’m a steer roper, I’m a rancher, I’m a grandpa, I’m a husband, I’m an uncle, I’m a dad, I’m a friend.
“I have the accolades, but when you’re done, you’re done, and you can’t live on what you did in the past. You have to keep going forward.
“I’m just Bobby Harris from Wyoming.”
The Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame ceremony was July 16 in Colorado Springs. Other inductees into the 2022 class include Cindy Rosser (WPRA notable), Trevor Brazile (all-around); Bobby Mote (bareback riding); the late Ardith Bruce (barrel racing); the late Jake Beutler (stock contractor); Rick Young (contract personnel -rodeo clown); Mel Potter (notable); Medicine Woman (livestock -saddle bronc); and Nebraska’s Big Rodeo in Burwell (rodeo committee.)
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