Meet the Member AJae Griffin
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 […]
story by Lily Weinacht
The arena has been a second home for Tony McKay of LaGrange, Georgia, the last 40 years, whether he’s backing into the box or judging rodeos. He began his rodeo career alongside his friend Bubba Oubre in the 1960s, and while Bubba was starting Oubre Rodeo Company in the 1990s, Tony, a team roper and steer wrestler, added rodeo judging to his skills. “As I started getting a little older, I could see the need for judges, and several people asked me if I’d like to do it,” says Tony, now 66. He stepped into the role much like a pair of well-worn boots, and 30 years later, he’s a gold-cardholder and senior pro judge with the IPRA, as well as a judge with the SPRA.
“I’ll do up to twenty-five rodeos a year, and I enjoy it. We judge all the events, measure the arena, put up barriers, put down barrel stakes, and draw and inspect stock,” Tony explains. He was one of three judges working the 2015 SPFR, and with years of experience in the inner workings of rodeo – including serving as vice-president of the ACA – he knows what a thriving association looks like. “I think the SPRA is going to have a lot of growth in the next few years. It fits a lot of people that aren’t able to take off and drive thousands of miles to rodeos, and here in the Southeast, it’s a family thing. We don’t have to travel so hard, and we have some really good cowboys. We have good stock, and everything is positive about this association. I think more people will be looking to get on board with them, whether it’s stock contractors or contestants.”
Tony doesn’t compete as he’s gotten older, but in previous years enjoyed team roping at jackpots and rodeos as a header with friends and his wife, Patsy, a heeler. They have two children, Kim, a CPA in Atlanta, and Holly, a captioner for Georgia Tech in Atlanta. Holly started running barrels recently, and both she and Kim have daughters interested in horses. “Holly’s daughter, Willow, is five, and she competes on a little pony in West Georgia Junior Rodeos, and Kim’s daughter, Aubrey, is three. I’m the only guy in the whole family. I don’t know what I’d do with boys!” Tony jokes.
Prior to his retirement in 2015, Tony was a truck dealer, while he also owned a golf course for a number of years. Patsy retired from working at LaGrange College last summer, and the husband and wife set several months aside to travel, visiting 19 states with their RV in tow. “We wanted to do some fishing in Montana and travel without an agenda,” says Tony. He also made a trip to Texas this winter and purchased a new heel horse for Patsy, and he enjoys working cattle as well.
One of Tony’s goals for the year is helping Holly expand her barrel racing career, and he plans to continue judging rodeos as long as possible. “It keeps you on your toes, and being around good, positive young people keeps me feeling young,” he finishes. “That’s my favorite thing about judging. In rodeo, most people are positive thinkers, and if they buck off or miss their calf, they might be mad for five minutes, and then they’re off to the next rodeo. They don’t quit, they want to win, and they work hard, and our country needs more people like that.”
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