story by Michele Toberer Anna Jae Griffin goes by AJae, and the Mississippi native has been a cowgirl for a lifetime, and a Southeastern Professional […]
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Meet the Member Jim Buckner
story by Lily Weinacht
Circle J&K Cattle Co. produced its first event six years ago, but the owner, Jim Buckner, foresaw a career as a rodeo producer years earlier while he was still competing in rodeo. “I’m first generation rodeo,” says Jim, who rode bulls for 18 years. “We had cattle when I was growing up, but no one in my family ever had the idea of being a rodeo cowboy. I grew up on the south side of Houston, and one of my best memories as a kid was the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. I got the bug then and never really lost sight of it.” Jim’s parents weren’t keen on him being a rodeo athlete, but he started rodeoing when he was 17. He made the Southeastern Pro Bull Rider Finals in the mid ‘90s and competed in the PRCA for five years, but after some serious injuries and then the birth of his first child, Jim competed locally for several more years but retired from pro rodeo. “I really had no complaints. I got to walk away from my career on my own two feet,” he says. “I could see the writing on the wall long before the end was there, and I knew I wanted to be in the business end of it. With the contacts I had with producers and stock contractors, I had lots of insight from them on what to do and what not to do.”
Jim and his wife, Kelli, and their four children, Daylee (15), Camryn (11), Dallas (9), and Marley (3), live in Ardmore, Tennessee, and produce full rodeos and bull ridings. They have a full arena set-up and bulls that they lease out all over the Southeast, while Kelli is opening a women’s boutique in Ardmore. Jim also has a crew that works for him part time. “If it weren’t for the guys that work for me, we couldn’t make it happen,” he says. He’s strictly a bull man, and Jim has taken several of his bulls to the SPRA finals and SEBRA finals. Since he is a fireman, on duty 24 hours, followed by two days off, he set up the pens and gates so his kids can feed and water stock when he’s not home. “They know which bulls they can be around or stay away from, and they take care of their own horses. In between my oldest running cross country, my middle girl playing softball and basketball, and my son playing football, rodeo practice is early in the morning or the middle of the day. There’s no such thing around our house as a free minute. My oldest two have paid their own rodeo entry fees for two years now, and they’ve learned work ethic and business. As far as my wife and children are concerned, I have been blessed far beyond what I deserve.
“The main thing with starting our rodeo business is that we spent a lot of time doing things the right way and positioning ourselves with the right people. I met with the Hall family nine years ago, getting a few bulls from them. They provided me with really good stock, and I give them credit for really turning the business around. We’re only producing three events this year, but they are three quality events. I dedicate a lot of time to them and they draw good crowds and a good number of contestants that will support us. I had the opportunity to bid on my hometown rodeo and we got the contract. It’s neat for me because I was a contestant at the first rodeo in our hometown and now I’m producing the twenty-fifth anniversary event.” The Ardmore rodeo is SPRA sanctioned, along with the Bulls and Broncs event the Buckners are putting on this fall. They’ve also done several SEBRA bull ridings and PCA rodeos, and recently landed three rodeos with Dan Phillips of Phillips Championship Rodeo.
“We’ve got some bulls that I feel like are good enough to go to some PBR’s. I recently did some videos and we’ll see if we can get our foot in the door,” says Jim. “I’d like to have six or seven solid events a year, whether they are rodeos or bull ridings. I’ve seen 32 of the 50 states and I have friends from the Atlantic to the Pacific, so from that aspect, rodeo has been very profitable for me. Like any business owner, I want to see my business grow. The best part of it is that my family is right there with me.”