story by Lindsay Humphrey “I’m not much of a planner,” said Ryan Bestol of his storied rodeo career so far. “When I get something in […]
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Meet the Member: Jerry Buckles
story by Lily Weinacht
Since joining the NSRA 39 years ago as a junior in high school, Jerry Buckles of Burwell, Neb., has only missed the NSRA finals rodeo once. The year was 1985, and Jerry had won PRCA Rookie of the Year in the bareback riding, competing in Las Vegas, Nev., during the WNFR’s inaugural year in the city. He had been riding bareback horses since high school, but an injury to his riding hand forced him to hang up his bareback rigging after about nine years. But Jerry was soon back in the arena, this time astride a roping horse, returning to team roping – primarily heeling – an event he had competed in since childhood. “I really loved to ride bareback horses, and I used to win quite a bit in college, so I was disappointed when I had to quit, but roping was my first deal,” says Jerry.
Now 57, Jerry grew up roping alongside his dad and grandpa. The skill came naturally to him after years of helping his dad run the family’s stock contracting business. “My dad was hauling me to jackpots when I was 11 – at that time there weren’t many high school or Little Britches rodeos in our area,” says Jerry. “If it hadn’t been for my dad, I wouldn’t have been going to all those ropings, and he kept me mounted, even in college. Two people who also really inspired me are good friends of mine – Craig Haythorn and Norm Cotton. They’re older than me, but as kids and even after high school we roped together a lot.”
As the manager of East Taylor Ranch, owned by Barter Cattle Company, Jerry enjoys the solitude of ranching equally as much as the camaraderie in and around the arena at rodeos. “I stay here on the ranch nine months out of the year, so rodeoing, especially in the summertime, is great!” says Jerry. “Nebraska is a great place to rodeo – we have 70 – 80 rodeos in the summertime between the NSRA, MSRA, and co-sanctioning with Kansas and South Dakota.” Many of the Nebraska rodeos have long barriers, and among them, Jerry’s favorite is Ogallala. “It’s a huge arena, and that rodeo comes down to who’s mounted good and who’s not,” he explains. Jerry also used to compete in the North American Rodeo Commission, which he won twice.
Jerry’s wife, Carmen, travels with him to many of his rodeos and helps him with the ranching. A former breakaway roper, she has worked 22 years for Burwell Family Practice Clinic, making the 30 mile drive into town four days a week. Jerry also has two step-daughters, Rachelle and Felicia. Rachelle high school rodeoed and now works in the hospital in Omaha doing ultrasounds, while Felicia is a dental hygienist.
When he’s not working cattle, Jerry spends the remainder of his time riding his horses. Several retired rodeo horses, a broodmare, colts, and his roping horse, Stewie, make up his herd. “I bought Stewie two years ago as a ranch horse, and I just started hauling him the first of June this year. The more I hauled him, the better he got!” Jerry ropes as often as he can with his partner of ten years, Mark Swanson. “We’re best buds,” says Jerry. “He’s like me – he runs a ranch up in Arthur, and we travel together whenever we get the chance.”
Having won the NSRA finals eight times, and the MSRA finals seven times, Jerry’s goal is to win one of the finals of those associations at least one more time. “But the main deal is to have fun and be competitive,” he says. “As long as I’m healthy, I’ll rope for as long as I can!”