A Pinch of Rodeo
By Joe R. Nichols
Hanging around the Best
The summer before I started college, I worked on a ranch in Nebraska. There’s an amateur rodeo association up there that is very respectable. This made the non-sanctioned rodeos easy pickin’s, and I won money at most all of them I went to. It gave me a false sense of my skill level. I figured when I got to the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association, I’d make’em bow down. I was so confused.
The Central Plains Region of the NIRA was one of the best in the nation. Young men from all over the United States were recruited on scholarships, and many of them were already competing at the pro rodeos. I was out of my league.
I still believed I could ride at that level and be successful; it just took longer than I thought. My freshman year; blanked. Zip, zero, notta.
At the rodeo in Weatherford, OK (Southwestern Oklahoma State University) my sophomore year, there was one saddle bronc horse that stood out. He was way better than all the rest. Rod Breech had him in the first performance, I had him in the last. Rod’s score had him winning the rodeo.
Rod was one of the reasons why these rodeos were so tough. A top bronc rider and bull rider, he also could beat you in the team roping and steer wrestling. I looked up to him and he was helping me learn to ride. We were becoming friends.
I can’t recall for sure how many points we each had, just that Rod scored much higher than me, but I still won second. What a boost! What a relief!
Years later, Rod and I traveled together in the PRCA. In our rookie year, I remember him saying; “I used to be a hot dog, now I’m just a weenie.” He went on to win the overall Rookie of the Year in the Prairie Circuit, and proved himself as a great professional bronc rider for several years. The point being, he dominated college and amateur associations, but he had to step up his game when he arrived on the pro scene.
It doesn’t matter if you’re writing a book or riding a bronc, hang around the best in the business and they’ll make you better.