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 […]
Association MemberJoin Rodeo News
Meet the Member Lee Aust
story by Lily Weinacht
Lee Aust first entered the rodeo world as a tie-down and team roper, but working as a bullfighter for 20 years and now as a pickup man has proven to be the most rewarding part of his rodeo career. The 38-year-old from De Kalb, Mississippi, picks up for Billy Hudson’s Double Creek Rodeo Company and Jim Buckner’s Circle J & K Cattle, and worked the SPRA finals this past year. “I worked the finals with Fireball Hester and Stacey Benton, and it was a huge honor to pick up with those two – they are the pickup men icons of the SPRA,” says Lee. He also works PRCA rodeos and has picked up the Tri-State Rodeo finals, working as many as 40 weekends out of the year.
“My dad got me started roping calves, and then we went into roping steers – I always headed and he always heeled, and we went all over God’s creation roping. I fell into the bullfighting, and once that happened, I backed out of the roping,” Lee explains. He worked the NLBRA finals 9 times and the Mississippi High School Rodeo state finals 14 times, working them another two years as a pickup man. But when he had more injuries than he had fingers to count them on, Lee turned to picking up rodeos as the next best thing. “I would be fighting bulls today if my body would hold up, but if a bareback or bronc rider is in trouble, there’s no better feeling than slowing up that horse and getting the rider loose. I fought bulls for Mr. Jerry Griffin for years, and his son Jeff taught me how to pickup. I credit a lot to him, because I wouldn’t be picking up without him. I feel like it has come full circle with Jeff’s son Justin. Most weekends he picks up the other side and we haul together to most of the rodeos. I still rope at a few rodeos we work, mostly with Justin and my step-son, Dylan. My motivation is all the friends I’ve made over the years, and getting to spend most weekends with my family. This year they haven’t gotten to travel with me as much due to my daughter seasoning a young horse, so they are staying closer to home.”
While Lee makes his living picking up rodeos, he also runs the family ranch where he was raised outside De Kalb. He and his wife, Heather, step-son, Dylan Loftin, 18, and step-daughter, Rylei Loftin, 12, ranch and farm together. Lee also raises several of his pickup horses. “I do everything on all my horses. I use them to pick up, head, heel, run barrels, and move cows. If they can’t do it all, they can’t stay.” He hauls at least four horses to every rodeo, including his wife and daughter’s barrel horses, though any of them can also pick up. Lee even rode one of Heather’s barrel horses while picking up the SPRA finals this winter. He also has a stud showing promise, and plans to start breeding and raising some of his own horses.
“When I’m not on the road, I put up a lot of hay, and day labor for a ranch near us. My little girl helps me move horses and cows, and my dad is still active in the ranch. I have nieces and nephews and family that helps too. Dylan graduated high school in May, and he’s started leaning toward picking up. He’s worked a rodeo or two with me, and it’s a goal of mine to pass that torch down to him when he decides that’s what he wants to do.” Another goal is working the SPRA finals as many times as possible, along with picking up the Tri-State finals again, and hopefully, the Southeastern Circuit finals. “I strive every day to do my best at what I’m doing and always reach for the next little goal. So far that’s gotten me a long way in life.”