story by Lori O’Harver GLEN ROSE, Texas – “We’re thrilled to have the bronc riders back in town, but honestly? It’s the TBRA lady ranch […]
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Meet the Member J.J. Alley
story by Lori O’Harver
In many ways, rivers are still as big of a divider on the US mainland as they were back when they were the formidable natural barriers our ancestors had to conquer before we built the great bridges. The separation and mild rivalry of South Dakota’s West River and East River folk is a prime example. Horses, especially the great bucking horses, tend to bring us back together. The man currently winning the CPRA and sitting a close second in the UPRA and TBRA bareback riding, 30-year-old J.J. Alley knows this very well.
“Growing up in the row crop and farm country of East River, even rodeoing in my home state, I was an outsider. I wasn’t supposed to be riding with the cowboys of West River, even when I did it and won,” said Alley.
It wasn’t just West River the salty, driven young rider would set out to excel in aboard some of the finest bareback horses in the country. His vision of mountains to scale has taken him from coast to coast and wins in every association he belongs to. He still holds that world championship dream in his heart and pursues it every day.
“I owe my love of rodeo to my family,” said Alley. “My mom and dad were horsemen who ran cattle outside of the tiny town of Tabor. Our horses worked with us all week then loaded up to hit the non-pro, youth rodeos and playdays on the weekend. My dad had retired from the roughstock events before I was old enough to see him ride. He roped and so did I, but when it was time for me to start entering South Dakota’s 4-H Rodeos, I wanted a shot at the all around and paid attention to the bareback riders. After watching a kid hang in the dees on an easy horse, I’m thinking ‘now, how hard can it be to roll back and spur one every jump?’
And so, his love affair with monster bucking horses took shape. Alley earned his first title in the state 4-H championships. It was a trial by fire. The high school sophomore got two rerides in the first round, a Saturday matinee performance. Later that night, he got on the fourth bareback horse of the day to advance to the finals where he the title. As a junior, he won the South Dakota High School Rodeo Association title and quickly decided that, ready or not, he was moving on the pro’s.
There is no entitlement in rodeo. “That first year, my sophomore year, of getting on bareback horses, I was two-jumped a lot. Money was tight for my family, so I’d work any odd job I could get to earn fees to go donate. When it came together for me, knowing I’d paid my dues was almost as good as the cool buckle.”
Alley remembers the time when he needed to enter and the money just wasn’t there. His parents aren’t gamblers. They aren’t the kind to default on their bills, but they are true believers
“Mom came to me and said she wasn’t going to pay the electric bill. She handed me the money instead and I paid my fees,” Alley said. “When I got back from that weekend run, I handed her back the money in winnings.”
J.J. Alley has a deep love and appreciation for what he does.
“Fort Madison, Iowa, packs the stands with fans and all the good cowboys enter to get on the great Cervi Championship Rodeo Company horses. I’d drawn the NFR gelding Vitalix Hell’s Fire Hostage and was thrilled with my luck to have him. Announcer Boyd Polhamous was driving the crowd to the edge of their seats building up the match up and as I’m running my hand in the riggin’. I had to stop. I looked out into the arena and up into the wall of people in the grandstands and filled with the joy of appreciation for the gift of living the life of dreams. When the dust settled, we were marked 84 points. I threw my hat out of joy. It was a defining moment for me from start to finish.”
“Hardship isn’t just a life lesson, it’s a gift,” said Alley. “It’s humbling and empowering, like watching those great horses rip across a field, full of attitude and their own freedom. Doesn’t matter if you buck right off one of the good ones or match it up to ride high, you tip your hat everytime.” – J.J. Alley