story by Lindsay Humphrey “My message would be for people to not quit riding because it will keep you young. Don’t stop until you absolutely […]
Association MemberJoin Rodeo News
Meet the Member Bruce Contway
story by Lindsay King
Following in his dad’s footsteps in more than just rodeo, Bruce Contway found a passion for bronze sculpting and truly ran with it. “I grew up in Del Bonita, Montana, right on the Canadian border. My dad got me a Shetland pony like everyone else and that’s how I started roping,” said the NSPRA cowboy. Bruce counts himself lucky that his dad got him started down the right path to be a competitive bull dogger and eventually tie-down roper. “I got started in art by working on my dad’s sculptures in the foundry.” Very few artists own the equipment necessary to finish their sculptures in bronze – that business is called a foundry – but both Bruce and his dad did so in their lifetime.
“I finished off his sculptures in the foundry until I got out of high school. Then I started sculpting for myself.” At the same time, Bruce was also a district high school rodeo champion in the bull dogging. He continued his rodeo career at Montana State University while pursuing a degree in history so he could become a teacher. “I never actually used that degree because my artwork took off.” It was in 1984 that Bruce started his own foundry and at the same time filled his PRCA permit. “I was lucky that I got in with the right people because of rodeo and my artwork found its way to some really cool places.”
Bruce sculpted the trophy bronzes for the Calgary Stampede from 1988 to 2001, as well as for the Alberta Pro Rodeo Association and the Canadian National Finals steer wrestling. In 1998 Bruce was the Indian Artist of the Year for the Indian Arts and Crafts Association. Somehow Bruce managed to marry a fellow artist, Kathy. Tragedy struck when Kathy was hit by a car while in a cross walk at an art show. The subsequent traumatic brain injury (TBI) has left Kathy living in a hospital with Bruce by her side in Salt Lake City. Bruce truly wouldn’t live any different as he cares for the love of his life.
Although Bruce is no longer sculpting, he’s returned to his first love: calf roping. “My brother (Ross) had some horses he was training to calf rope. I thought I would never go to another rodeo again when he told me they were ready to go.” Originally Bruce took up calf roping again as a form of exercise and simply because he enjoyed it. Climbing the ladder of rodeo success never even crossed his mind. “We went to a senior pro rodeo in Panguitch, Utah, in 2018 and I won the first round. I was hooked again.” Bruce and Ross found their way to Florence, Colorado, where they once again took home buckles and checks. It’s easily Bruce’s favorite rodeo, he’s looking forward to competing in it again this year at the end of June.
“The NSPRA is one of the best associations out there for seniors. I really like them, so I will continue to go to as many as I can.” Bruce makes it to about seven rodeos a year on average. He makes the most of those couple rodeos because he’s qualified for the finals the past two years. “Last year I finished second in the region. I was entered up and ready to go, but at the last minute I just couldn’t make it.” God willing, Bruce will get another shot at the finals in 2020. Despite his widespread success as an artist and a rodeo competitor, Bruce considers the ability to give back to his community and industry one of his greatest accomplishments. “Going to MSU and getting to college rodeo was an exciting time in my life and what formed me. Four years ago I started a scholarship in my wife’s name for the MSU rodeo team for the student who gets the most points as a freshman.”