By Frank J. Buchman
Kansas cowboys are “The Best” in the world.
That’s been a tongue-in-cheek, out-in-the-pasture jiving among those tough-as-cowhide professionals on horseback working cattle since trail drives from the south a century and a half ago.
Leave no doubt, no question about it now, a Kansas ranch handily came in first out of 23 teams at the 20th annual World Championship Ranch Rodeo in Amarillo, Texas.
Another handful of sunflower state ranch teams showed their ample capabilities, collecting a fair share and more of the individual event recognitions presented at conclusion of the Working Ranch Cowboys Association (WRCA) sanctioned competition.
It was lucky 13 for the Lonesome Pine Ranch of Cedar Point in the lush Flint Hills of Chase County as the six-member, mostly-family team came home with the world championship title and all of the accompanying loot with it.
“We’ve been second the past two years, and were close in the 12th time there, but finally everything came together with the best group of cowboys we’ve ever had, so we could win the rodeo,” said team captain-ranch manager Bud Higgs.
Winning is good, whenever in that spot of any competition, but making it even more special and personal for Higgs is that his ranch is truly a family dominated team.
“My dad, Frank, and my son and daughter, Troy and Makenzie, were all riding in Amarillo. But, still key to our success was the other two team members: Chris Potter and Travis Duncan. They are outstanding all-around cowboys who sure enough helped cinched the win for us,” Higgs credited.
Potter, a Maple City-based cowboy, rode both of his ranch broncs, tallying top score total of the rodeo, enabling Lonesome Pine Ranch to win that division of the rodeo. “Chris was 77 points on his first bronc, but that second bronc really bucked, and Chris got with him to mark 84 points, and win the event title for us,” Higgs appreciated.
However, what will go down in the record books as the score-to-beat will be the Lonesome Pine Ranch time in the second go-round of the wild cow milking.
“Again, everything worked out right, after Travis milked that old renegade cow, Chris and I got her mugged, and collected enough, so Troy could get her milked and run across the finish line in a time of 18.7 seconds. That’s a record, the fastest time ever in wild cow milking at the world championship ranch rodeo. So, now all those other teams are out to beat us,” Higgs evaluated.
Essential to their championship point totals, Lonesome Pine Ranch also placed seventh in the team branding event.
Lonesome Pine Ranch won theKansas Championship Ranch Rodeo at Medicine Lodge earlier this fall, qualifying the team for the World Championship Ranch Rodeo.
However, Lonesome Pine had previously earned that opportunity, actually twice, by winning two WRCA-sanctioned qualifying-rodeos.
Thus, the second place state team, Keith Cattle and Robbins Ranch, Lyon County, had the privilege of also representing the Kansas Championship Ranch Rodeo in Amarillo.
Three additional Kansas teams: Lazy B Ranch, Ellsworth County; Stock Ranch & Diamond E Ranch, Bourbon County; and Broken H Ranch & H Cross Cattle, Bronson, competed, too, being eligible from their wins at WRCA qualifying-rodeos during the year.
Other Kansas teams’ placings in the event averages at Amarillo included ranch bronc riding, Stock Ranch & Diamond E Ranch, 10th; team penning, Keith Cattle & Robbins Ranch, eighth, and Broken H Ranch & H Cross Cattle, ninth; wild cow milking, Broken H Ranch & H Cross Cattle, fifth, and Stock Ranch & Diamond E Ranch, 10th; and team branding, Lazy B Ranch, ninth.
Hard Luck Cowboy of the competition was Bruce Beeman of the Broken H Ranch & H Cross Cattle team, who made a qualifying ride on his first bronc, but then suffered a hard crash landing, earning the judges’ sympathy honor, so to speak.
However, the Grenola cowboy showed his range-ready-toughness, came back in the final go-round to make another qualifying bronc ride, the 26th successive bronc Beeman has made the whistle on in ranch rodeo competitions.
Members of the Keith Cattle & Robbins Ranch team are Justin Keith, Brian Keith, Clay Wilson, Adrian Vogel, Billy Lauer and Connor Grokett.
Riding for Lazy B Ranch are Eric Bohl, Scott Bohl, Austin Rathbun, Clint Donley, and Wayne Bohl.
In addition to Beeman, the Broken H & H Cross team includes Cliff Hall, Doug Hall, and Lucas Litteral.
The Stock Ranch & Diamond E cowboys are Andy Eck, Troy Felt, Coy Heier and Kolby Stock.
Second place team at Amarillo was Sandhill Cattle Company, Earth, Texas, followed by JO Bar Ranch & Hatchet Ranch, Lordsburg and Hachita, N.M., and fourth, Jolly Ranch & Lord Ranch, Agate and Lamar, Colorado.
Interestingly, Potter had intuition of the national title early in the year, when he texted “2015 World Champs” to his cowboy friend Duncan of Uniontown, convincing Duncan to join the Lonesome Pine Ranch team this year.
“I’ve dreamed about it for 10 years, 15 years, Duncan said of the championship win. “It means a lot.”
But, to be sure, that wasn’t an easy task for anybody, with the qualifying process ensuring competitors at the World Championship are the cream of the crop. The WRCA competitions are only open to working ranch cowboys, ensuring 100 percent authenticity.
“There were 23 teams here, and they were here for a reason, they’re best in the country,” Potter said.
Friendships among ranch families are strong, and cowboys are quick to offer a hand up to those who need help. Potter exemplified this when he and his wife, Amy, made a donation to the Working Ranch Cowboys Foundation, and publicly challenged others to do the same.
The World Championship Ranch Rodeo is more than just a rodeo. It’s actually the primary fundraiser for the Working Ranch Cowboys Foundation, which helps cowboys who have become sick or injured and offers scholarships to ranch youth going to college.