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Meet the Member: The Brunson Family
story by Lily Weinacht
Rodeo is a lifestyle that sees as many seasons as life itself, and in the last year, the Brunson family pulled up roots from Guymon, Oklahoma, and relocated to Hutchinson, Kansas, to be closer to KHSRA rodeos. Dixie started the Brunson rodeo tradition and Troy followed suit after they met, and today, their two children, Hagan (19) and Hunter (17), are avid competitors. Hagan, a former high school competitor, now rodeos for Garden City Community College (GCCC) in breakaway roping, and Hunter is a junior, competing in tie-down roping, team roping, and steer wrestling.
Both Dixie and Troy have rodeoed at the college and amateur levels, and Troy has served as the KHSRA president the last three years, starting out with three years on the KJHSRA board of directors. “They keep talking me into staying,” he says with a laugh. “I’ve had some great people come before me, and I want to put in the time too.” Troy married into rodeo when he met Dixie. “I hung out with her brother, Chad Dew, who’s a very good friend. He’s a tie-down roper and bull dogger, and he was shot in 1991, the year Dixie won the high school state championship in breakaway roping. He recovered and is with us today, and I started dating his little sister soon after that. I bought my first bull dogging horse from Rick Minzer when I was 20, and I could bull dog halfway decent. I was on the judging team for meats at Garden City Community College, and then Doc Gardner at Oklahoma Panhandle State University offered me a rodeo scholarship. What he really wanted was my girlfriend to be on the rodeo team,” he jokes. “Dixie and I got married in 1995 while we were still in college at Oklahoma Panhandle State, and Hagan was born two years later. We’ve passed the rodeo opportunity down to our two kids, and they’re the athletes they are today because of their horses.”
Hagan was astride her first pony, Socks, when she was three, and her career took off with the International Feedlot Cowboys Association (IFCA) and the NLBRA. She qualified for the NHSFR in breakaway roping and reined cow horse, and is currently one of the students coached at GCCC by Jim Boy Hash, whom Troy and Dixie both rodeoed with in college.
Hunter is equal parts football and rodeo athlete, and comes straight from football practice to the arena, where Troy and Dixie have his horses saddled. His dream is to play pro football and continue rodeoing on the side. Before moving back to Kansas, the Brunsons were driving often seven hours to get from football games to rodeos. “Dixie is my heart and soul, and she hazes for Hunter at the high school rodeos. It would mean the world for her to haze for Hunter at the National level,” says Troy. “She’s back in the saddle again roping, but she’s been a very gracious mother setting that aside for her kids.”
Troy is back to roping with Dixie, recently recovering from shoulder surgery. He’s a service manager for Chr. Hansen, a global bioscience company. “I’ve been in the Ag. business all my life, and my kids will tell you that if we’re not rodeoing, we’re working. We do have fun, but our vacations are done with the horses in the trailer. We also enjoy hunting, and both the kids have spent time making their own horses. We’re a pretty tight knit family.
“We have a great group of people rodeoing in Kansas, and I really want to see the association grow,” Troy finishes. “I’d like to see ways we can get our sponsors promoted better, and bring on new sponsorships to invest in these young Ag. kids and the western way of life, because they are the way of the future. I’d like to help our kids promote their great sponsors, and that will be a win-win for everybody.”