|By Frank J. Buchman
Truly, he’s the unsung hero of ranch rodeo.
Temperatures were hovering at 32 degrees with bawling cows standing in three inches of recent rain, now with a thin layer of ice on top, as the “real champion” reflected about the biggest “headline story” that hasn’t made the papers until now.
The 900 momma cows Bruce Beeman cares for on the ranch near Grenola in Elk County were begging for winter dinner from the Hard Luck Cowboy award winner at this year’s World Championship Ranch Rodeo in Amarillo, Texas.
“I don’t really think it’s much of anything to be all that proud about. But, I guess they gave the title to me, because I landed so hard when I got off, after making the whistle on my ranch bronc in the first go-around of the rodeo,” explained Beeman, about tokens presented at conclusion of the four-day Working Ranch Cowboys Association yearend finals.
“The wreck must have looked worse than it really was. I was out of shape, landed wrong, lit on my wrist, and knocked some ribs out of place. I was able to pop them back in, and get on my second bronc, and get him ridden,” the tough cowboy humbly detailed.
“If my hard landing getting off that bronc was the worst thing that happened, fortunately nobody else got hurt much at the rodeo this year,” Beeman conjured.
While Beeman modestly, yet gratefully accepted those rodeo accolades and certain fellow cowboys’ sympathetic nods, the real accomplishment for the all-around cowboy-bronc rider went unacknowledged.
Riding with “the Hall boys” for 13 consecutive years at the prestigious ranch rodeo finals, Beeman has made 26 consecutive qualified rides in the ranch bronc riding.
Unofficially, actually it is official, Bruce Beeman of the Broken H Ranch and H Cross Cattle team from Bourbon County, is the Champion Bronc Rider in the 13-year average of the World Championship Ranch Rodeo.
“Oh, I’ve just been lucky,” the humility shows again, as Beeman looked back over his admirable, and most enviable world ranch bronc riding career, unmatched in that championship arena.
“I’ve been fortunate to draw right, the kind that could be ridden, and add points to our team score,” Beeman again downplayed achievement.
The 74-points Beeman marked on his first bronc this year, a high jumping, kicking blue roan, topped that evening’s performance scores. Then, Beeman’s 70-points bronc ride ranked ninth in the second performance of the second go-round.
“I’ve never won the bronc riding event at the ranch rodeo finals, but I’ve placed in the top end several different years,” the cowboy remembered.
And, he admitted, “Just because I’ve made qualified rides on 26 finals broncs doesn’t mean I can’t get bucked off. I don’t like to keep track of that, but there have been some rodeos that I didn’t make the whistle. I try to forget those, and make sure I ride the next one.”
Don’t get the idea Beeman is “just a bronc rider.” He’s an all-around cowboy as verified by his team’s standings in the event averages at the recent World Championship Ranch Rodeo.
With working ranch cowboys Doug Hall, Cliff Hall and Lucas Littrell joining Beeman, the Broken H Ranch & H Cross Cattle team concluded the rodeo averages fifth in the wild cow milking event, and ninth in the team penning event.
“Our team has never won the world finals rodeo, but we’ve been second twice, I really can’t remember all of our placings, usually up there pretty good. We’ll win it next time, or for sure the one after that,” Beeman predicted.
Further proof of Beeman’s true cowboy versatility, he was honored as the Top Hand at the World Championship Ranch Rodeo in 2005. “That was a pretty big deal for me, my family and the team,” Beeman appreciatively conceded.
However, regardless of how good any cowboy is, that old adage: “There never was a horse that couldn’t be rode, nor a cowboy that couldn’t be thrown,” generally comes to haunt one at some point.
“It was just a couple of days after we got back from the finals where they’d named me Top Hand, we were gathering steers out of a pasture. I was on a colt, he’d never been any trouble, never bucked in his life. We’d been completely around the section, and all of a sudden that booger cut loose and threw me sky high,” Beeman relived that bad day now with a sense of humor.
“A cowboy helping us accused me of not telling the colt I was a ‘Top Hand,’ or he wouldn’t have bucked like that. I said, I was showing the colt my trophy buckle as I was flying through the air, but it was upside down, and that darn horse couldn’t read it,” Beeman’s lookback continued.
Little consolation for that escapade, Beeman continued, “I still don’t know what spooked the colt that day, but now he’s a really good horse, has never bucked again, or even shown any indications. My girls ride him all of the time.”
Growing up horseback working cattle near Hamilton in Greenwood County, Beeman has worked for several outfits in his four decades, but “always ended up back in the Flint Hills.”
Putting his profession to sport, Beeman has been an enthusiastic ranch rodeo contestant since beginning of the competitive events in the Midwest.
“I rode lots of colts, always been a ranch cowboy, but never did compete in other rodeos much, except a few jackpots. I really like the ranch rodeos though, it’s what I do for a living put to a test with others who are like me, working ranch cowboys,” Beeman evaluated.
“It’s our vacation going to the ranch rodeos, seeing our friends, the other cowboys and their families become like part of our family,” he added
Regardless of his nonchalant attitude, Beeman has always been hard to get on the ground if his mount tries to pitch. “Dr. (Bryan) Barr, the veterinarian there at Emporia, had a horse bucking off everybody that tried to break him. Doc asked if I wanted to try the bronc, and of course I was a cowboy, young and dumb, and was anxious to ride him.
“That horse never ever bucked with me, didn’t even think about it, and turned out to be a great horse. I tried and tried to buy him from Dr. Barr, before I finally got him,” Beeman enthusiastically recalled one of hundreds of horses he’s trained.
However, the most-capable cowboy insisted, “I don’t take colts anymore, haven’t for several years now. With a thousand cows to look after, in addition to three times that many summer grazing cattle, I keep busy. On top of having a family, going to ranch rodeos, and keeping up with everything else.”
Married to his wife Stefanie, 17 years, the couple has two daughters: Katy, 11, and Avery, five. “My family is a big help with the ranch work, too, and the girls ride in some local saddle club events,” Beeman credited.
Admitting the Hall-Beeman ranch rodeo team (whichever ranch combinations they’re representing) doesn’t go to as many rodeos as in the past, the competition adrenalin is still there. “We pick and choose more now, go to the bigger ones, a dozen or so, those we like the best. But, we’re always out to win, for sure qualify for the ranch rodeo finals in Amarillo,” Beeman confirmed.
What about his bronc riding scoresheet? “My team members’ think I definitely ought to at least go for 30-qualified world rodeo finals ranch bronc rides, so that’s the objective, win one, and have the top team, too,” The Cowboy concluded.