courtesy of Don Reichert Additional honorees at the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association Alumni, Inc. (NIRAA) Reunion held in June were Brad Gjermundson, Dean Wang, Jesse […]
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Meet the Member Butch Bratsky -2020 NIRAA Alumnus of the Year
story by Merrill Ellis
From mutton bustin’ to banking, Butch Bratsky has pulled his rope, positioned himself, and gotten the job done!
The National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association, Inc. was lucky enough to have Butch at the helm of the organization for eight years. After stepping down in 2019, he has remained a productive board member and contributor to the NIRAA Scholarship Fund. So, it was a natural that the NIRAA Board of Directors would nominate and select him as their 2020 Alumnus of the Year recipient.
“I have always felt that contributing to the NIRA Alumni Scholarship Fund is my way of giving back to college rodeo athletes. Hopefully it may help some deserving student get their education just as it did for me many years back,” explained Butch.
Since the 2020 College National Finals and 29th Annual NIRA Alumni, Inc. Reunion did not take place this year in Casper, Wyoming due to Covid-19, Butch will receive via United Postal Service a special engraved belt buckle made by Legend Tack and Silver.
So, how did Bratsky get his start in rodeos? Like the lead paragraph in this article states-with mutton bustin’. He also tried his hand at junior roping and goat tying events. However these just were not that exciting enough for him. So, in 1965 and ’66, he competed in the National Little Britches Finals Rodeo in Littleton, Colorado. His chosen events were: junior steer riding, bareback riding and breakaway roping. Consequently, he was hooked on the rough stock events and continued competing in high school qualifying for the National High School Rodeo Finals his junior and senior years.
Upon graduation from high school, he was awarded a small rodeo scholarship to Montana State University. He competed for the MSU Bobcats in bareback riding, bull riding, and steer wrestling. Unfortunately he was sidelined with an injury at his very first college rodeo.
“So, I pretty much had to sit out and be a cheerleader for the team my first year in college,” he stated.
However, he was not a Bobcat cheerleader for the rest of his collegiate rodeo days. In 1974 he was crowned the NIRA Bull Riding Champion in his college’s hometown of Bozeman Montana. He also was instrumental in advancing he MSU Men’s team to the national championship title for two years, along with a runner-up title.
These days Butch continues to be a cheerleader for the Bobcats and is an avid supporter of their rodeo scholarship program as well. At the CNFR, one can see he and his wife Shannon cheering on the competitors wearing the blue and gold vest from MSU.
After graduation from MSU, he purchased a Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association Permit. It was filled quickly. However he felt that he had to make a decision to either travel throughout the Unite States competing in pro rodeos or stay in the local area.
“I made the decision to get a job and stay close to home to rodeo,” explained Bratsky.
He worked at several different lending agencies in various capacities for 11 years and then went into Property Management and Real Estate Sales for another seven years running his own brokerage firm..
Stockman Bank hired him in 1993 and he retired from the banking institution on January 1, 2018.
“I was hired as president to open a new bank in Billings, Montana with a new charter. This would be the first Stockman Bank in Montana. In 1993, we were part of a larger holding company with five locations, “ he explained.
There are now currently 35 Stockman Bank locations across Montana. After about 15 years as President, Bratsky went to work at the holding company and remained there until he retired.
Butch is currently spending his time as a Project Specialist for RFD-TV’s Cowboy Moments and the Cowboy Channel’s Wild Rides.
“I help line up the folks to interview and give a hand with the programming and interviewing process whenever needed, I really enjoy working with Kevin Holten, the executive producer of the shows,” he stated.
He continued, “It is nice to have television channels that promote our western lifestyle and history of the cowboy way of life.
The following paragraph about Butch was borrowed with permission from Sylvia Mahoney’s book titled College Rodeo: From Show to Sport. The book can be purchased from amazon.com.
“Bull riding and bankers typically are not synonymous, but in 1974 they fit, showing the career expansion of college rodeo cowboys. Butch Bratsky of Montana State University proved his brawn with the bull riding championship and his brains by becoming a banker in Billings, Montana. A rodeo friend said this about Bratsky, “ We went on to ride bulls, and now we have to borrow money from Bratsky’s bank? Who was the smartest?””
“Rodeo has been a huge part of my life and I’m proud to call my friends and acquaintances from those years my second family,” staled the NIRA Alumni, Inc. Alumnus of the Year, Butch Bratsky.