Pretty Prairie Rodeo Features Top Livestock
PRETTY PRAIRIE, Kan. — It’s common for Kansas Largest Night Rodeo to attract world champion contestants and Wrangler National Finals Rodeo-caliber cowboys. But not all of the sport’s top athletes compete in boots and hats.
The Beutler and Son Rodeo Company, based out of Elk City, Okla., returns its string of animal athletes for the 75th edition of the local rodeo, set for July 18-21.
The Beutler name has been a part of Pretty Prairie’s rodeo for generations, as the original Beutler Brothers Rodeo Company provided livestock here during the early years. Brothers Jake, Lynn and Elra formed the company, while Elra and his son Jiggs, would later form the original Beutler and Son string. Jiggs Beutler and son Bennie continued the tradition before Jiggs’ death in the 1980s.
Pretty Prairie worked with other livestock contractors over time, but went back to the Beutler string in the 1990s. Bennie would go on to partner with E.K. Gaylord II to form Beutler & Gaylord Rodeo Co., until 2001, when Bennie Beutler and son Rhett joined forces to bring back the Beutler and Son name.
The family is so well-respected in the rodeo business that two Beutlers have been inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs. Lynn Beutler was inducted in 1979, while Bennie was enshrined in 2010. Bennie’s accomplishments include serving as the assistant general manager of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo every year since 1982, the WNFR chute boss in 1979-80, a member of the PRCA board of directors from 1989 to 1991, and being the stock contractor of the year in 1997.
The Beutlers have a busy rodeo schedule, providing livestock for regular season rodeos in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Nebraska, Colorado and Arizona, as well as taking animals to the WNFR and the Professional Bull Riders World Finals, both in Las Vegas.
Rhett says it feels good to be continuing such a successful family tradition, although he admits he didn’t always realize how much his earlier generations accomplished.
“I grew up going to rodeos throughout the summer, but as a kid, you don’t really pay that much attention to the tradition. As you get a little older, you learn more about the history and appreciate it more,” he said.
Since Beutler and Son contracts with the rodeos in both Pretty Prairie and Woodward, Okla., during the same week, Rhett usually works Pretty Prairie, while Bennie tends to business in Woodward.
Rhett said he may have the better deal, as Pretty Prairie has grown to become one of his favorite rodeos to work.
“It’s just the setup and the atmosphere,” he said. “You’ve got this little bitty town, with only a couple of restaurants where people eat lunch and one gas station where cowboys come to fill up with diesel, and then on Wednesday and Thursday, all these people show up from nowhere. You just don’t see that very often. It’s amazing that a town that small can put on the caliber of rodeo that you have.”
Rhett realizes that one of his biggest roles as a livestock contractor is to assure that the rodeos they produce maintain that high quality.
“The main role of a stock contractor is to provide entertainment that will help the rodeo be attractive to the ticket buyers,” he said. “You want the animals that will give the cowboys an equal opportunity to win. It needs to be good watching, and there will need to be some buck offs. It’s like a NASCAR race. People want to see a wreck, but you hope nobody gets hurt.”
Beutler also said it’s important to put on a rodeo that flows well and doesn’t drag or have downtime.
“We want to provide a good scene and a good event that will keep you on the edge of your seat so you will want to come back,” Rhett said.
The Beutlers have not only had livestock appear at nearly every WNFR, but also had some animals earn high praise.
Black Cat finished third in the bareback horse of the year competition in 2011, while Wonderland was the second-place bareback horse during the previous year. Voodoo Child, while now retired, was the bull of the year in 2007 and 2008.
Like many people in the rodeo livestock business, the Beutlers focus on a breeding program, where the genetics of their successful bulls and broncs are passed down to the next generation to assure the success of their livestock string continues.
We have to raise these horses and bulls and get the next team coming,” Rhett said. “It’s just like if you have a football team with no freshmen or sophomores, you’re not going to have much of a team coming up.”