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Meet the Member Jim Easley
story by Sharon Adams
In April of 1949, eight young men from Texas piled into a station wagon in Lubbock and headed for California. The Texas Tech Rodeo Team were going to the Cow Palace in San Francisco.
The team members included: Bud Halsell, John Wilson, Jim Easley, Dale Winders, B.F. Yeates, Tommie Bell and Bob Morris. Accompanying them was faculty advisor, Fred Widmeyer. He was not much older than the team members. They filled every inch of the station wagon and strapped all their belongings and rodeo gear on top.
“We did not bring some of our best cowboys,” says Jim Easley of Montana. “We had no way to haul horses so the ropers and bull doggers got left behind. We were rough stock riders and we came up against stock contractor Harry Rowell’s first string of horses. I did not fare too well. I tried some of his stock a year or two later with the same result! Those horses were big and strong and tough to get by.”
Fourteen colleges from nine states sent teams to the Cow Palace and it was a first class professional production. Sul Ross State University ended up winning the men’s championship team. There were not any women’s events. Eighty-four contestants competed and they all made rodeo history by their presence. Some names all rodeo fans will know who competed included: Harley May, Cotton Rosser, Tuffy Cooper and Tom Hadley.
Easley was born and raised in Hereford, Texas, and a student at Texas Tech in 1949 when he was chosen to take part in what he describes as “just a fun trip all around” to the first college finals with no thought that he was taking part in rodeo history.
After struggling at the finals, the team took a side trip on the way back to Lubbock, They went to Denver to the first national NIRA Convention. This meeting created much of the structure and principles that have governed the NIRA through its 71 year history. Two Texas Tech team members, Tommie Bell and John Wilson, were voting delegates of the convention:
Jim Easley was in Casper, Wyoming at the 28th annual NIRA Alumni, Inc. Reunion and attended the 2019 college finals rodeo to celebrate a milestone anniversary.
It was seventy years ago that Easley competed at the first finals rodeo of the newly organized National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association. As he was introduced at the 2019 Friday night performance of the CNFR, the mild mannered Easley stepped out into the spotlight, removed his hat, and waved to the crowd.
Jim Easley majored in Animal Science at Texas Tech and did not compete in rodeo much after leaving college. He has spent all of his life in the livestock industry. He and his dad, Oscar Easley, built the first feed lot in Hereford and Jim has managed ranches in California in the Red Bluff and Susanville area spent many years as a cattle buyer.
Roping has always been in his job description and a few years back he competed in the team roping with one of his sons at the Feedlot Championship in Reno. He raised four sons all of whom team roped in high school rodeo.
Easley is retired and lives in Wise River, Montana, with his wife Gloria. He has always kept his hand in some activity that involves a horse and a rope. It might include helping a neighbor work cattle or leading a pack string for an outfitter, hauling campers in and elk out during hunting season. He also has made and sold bits and spurs. However, now days he only makes a few mostly for friends and neighbors.