Meet the Member Colby Houlton
story by Lindsay Humphrey In Kiowa, Kansas, just about everything is as deeply rooted in family as it gets. That’s especially true for Colby Houlton […]
story by Lindsay Humphrey
A graduate of a school known for its rodeo team – Oklahoma Panhandle State University – Austin Hawkins didn’t compete until after graduation. He was a college athlete though. “I redshirted my freshman year, so I was there for five years. I was a three-time all-conference offensive lineman and captain of the team for three years,” said the Sharon Springs, Kansas, native. Luckily, Austin met his better half, Jamie, while in Goodwell, Oklahoma, those five years. She came from a rodeo family and had all the right connections when Austin decided he wanted to jump into the new sport.
“I never did rodeo growing up, but I did some small team roping jackpots. After football was over Jamie asked me what was next. Steer wrestling looked like fun and I had even tried ground dogging before.” Austin got a job at an oilfield supply shop in McCook, Nebraska, so he could learn the event from his wife’s cousins: Garrett and Justen Nokes. “They taught me the basics of steer wrestling and helped me get the first few jumps out of the way, which were complete wrecks.”
Austin went to a steer wrestling school in Ogallala, Nebraska, that Paul Cleveland has been putting on for almost 37 years now. “That’s where I caught my first steer and won my first jackpot. At the time we didn’t have the cool technology like the steer saver or the horse saver, we just gave it heck.” Like most steer wrestlers, Austin regularly gets asked why he jumps off a perfectly good horse. His answer, “I can’t ride or rope very well.”
In 2007 Austin set out on the amateur circuit with Garrett and Justen who taught him the business side of rodeo. And just five years later, Austin became the steer wrestling director for the KPRA. He’s continued to hold the role for the last eight years. “Many people think it’s a lot of work to be a director, which it is, but someone has to do it. My role is to better the event and be the voice of the cowboy.” Austin will be the steer wrestling director for yet another year and is now taking on the role of vice president for the KPRA.
“When I first started with the KPRA, it was a pretty small association and it didn’t take much to make the finals. We’ve had presidents that have continued to build the association up every year.” In his role as vice president, Austin is doing his part to help continue propelling the association forward. The goal is to make it the best amateur association available. “If we can continue to build the association up with new memberships, we can have more money available at the finals. We want to make the KPRA affordable for any competitor, no matter their level.”
Although summer is Austin’s busy time at work, he enjoys staying busy with rodeo also. “I’m so grateful for a company that lets me enjoy rodeo in the summertime.” As a salesman for Central Plains Equipment, a CASE-IH dealer, Austin primarily works through his cell phone. “Thanks to technology my customers can call me anytime and I can look at my emails if they need anything. And I also know my customers well enough that we can do things through text.”
The KPRA season generally runs from May through August, with the finals sometime in late September. “A lot of times, as KPRA competitors, we don’t see each other for nine months of the year, but through the summer we see each other every weekend. And sometimes every night. The comradery that we build in the association is what I like the best. If I ever break down across the state of Kansas, I have someone I can call that I met through rodeo who can help or knows somebody else who can.”
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