Association MemberJoin Rodeo News
Meet the Member Jeff Johnston
story by Lindsay King
Jeff Johnston’s been under the arena lights at the Thomas & Mack, but it wasn’t for his own run for the gold buckle. The Thedford, Nebraska, cowboy was hazing for Todd Suhn and Casey Martin in 2012. “The very first one I hazed they got a really neat picture. I hazed the steer and I had my foot on his left horn so his head was tipped for Casey.” It’s a testament to Jeff’s skills as both a hazer and a horseman that he helped some of the top fifteen make money at the finals. His own rodeo career as a roper and steer wrestler certainly isn’t too shabby either.
At his last high school finals, Jeff placed second in team roping, fifth in steer wrestling and sixth in the all-around race, right behind Cody Ohl. While at Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne, Wyoming, for three years, Jeff made the CNFR each year. “My sophomore year I won the region in the bull dogging and I think I finished fifth at the finals. The next year we made it in the team roping and we won one of the rounds to make an appearance in the short go.” Jeff got his associate’s degree, but always knew he would be returning to the ranch back home.
Upon graduation Jeff hit the rodeo trail hard, winning quite a bit of money and qualifying for the finals in the NSRA and M-SRA several years in a row. “I headed down a little different path as I was trying to make the circuit finals.” Jeff made seven appearances at the Badland Circuit finals, winning the heading in 2010 and again in 2013. He took second in the steer wrestling and won the all-around in 2013 as well. Astride a solid calf horse, Jeff used to tie-down rope also, but hasn’t done so in the last ten years.
“I had a really nice calf horse, but a friend’s hazing horse had a heart attack so I leased her to him and then he bought her. They hazed on her for 4-5 years.” Jeff and his family have always broke their horses on the ranch instead of in the arena. He said it makes going into the arena easier for them. “She was a great horse; she was really broke. I started her as a colt. She was an awesome head horse too. She did anything you wanted her to do.” Last March Jeff bought part of his parent’s ranch and leased the other part of it. He’s fairly busy running cattle, raising horses and working as a fence contractor on occasion.
“I pre-condition calves all week and then rodeo on the weekends. I have a lot of stuff to do on the ranch when I get back from rodeoing.” This fall Jeff was busy with all those projects he couldn’t get to during the summer. Jeff wishes he could rodeo for a living, but his day job simply won’t allow it. There’s no doubt he has the makings for it. This fall Jeff made both the NSRA and M-SRA finals in addition to the Badland Circuit finals yet again. His goal? See the beaches near Kissimmee next spring. “My goal is always to win the average in every event I make at a finals rodeo. Unfortunately, the RNCFR is right around the time I will be calving.”
Jeff doesn’t have his sights set on the NFR anymore, at least not for his own career. “I have a young kid, Reid Craiger, who’s been hauling with me the last few years.” Jeff’s known Reid’s dad since he started hitting the amateur circuit hard. “Hopefully he is on the path to make the NFR, that is a goal we share. His dad wanted a good hazer for Reid and thought I fit the bill. It has worked out really well.” Naturally, both of Jeff’s kids – Tate, 12, and Grace, 10 – are getting the rodeo itch too. “My son is really getting into rodeo and loves to go with me. That makes me really proud.”