Meet the Member Karlene Gonzales
story by Julie Carter Karlene Gonzales left the 2022 NMRA Finals with an armload of buckles and awards that were the fruits of a rodeo […]
story by Hannah Crandall
“I’ve always loved rodeo, always,” said Kyle Tom, Navajo professional rodeo announcer from Gallup, New Mexico. “As a kid, when the older age groups were practicing, I’d pretend to be an announcer. I’ve always wanted to be one.”
Kyle grew up in a rodeo family in Iyanbito, New Mexico. However, he quickly learned that competing was not where he belonged when things would fall apart at the rodeo, despite how good they went during practice. “My dad’s calf horse that I’d ride would just always take off with me. Eventually, it took the wind out of my balloon, and I didn’t want to do it anymore.”
In college, Kyle bounced around deciding what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. Some of his earlier plans included being a history teacher, a Native American studies teacher and an engineer. Kyle was working as a DJ through college and got a call to set up his sound system for a MegaBucks rodeo series. In doing a sound check, he went down into the arena to test the wireless microphone. “When I said ‘Check, 1, 2,’ everyone turned their heads at me really quick. I thought I did something wrong; but the promoter came up, said I sounded so different from anyone around here and asked if I had ever thought about announcing.”
Kyle really looks up to professional rodeo announcer Wayne Brooks, who Kyle grew up listening to at the Navajo Nation Fair for 19 years. “The past few years, I’ve gotten to hang out with him and get tips from him here and there. You wouldn’t expect one of the best announcers in the business to be that cool and welcoming to anybody.”
Janie Shorty, Kyle’s wife, is who he considers to be his biggest supporter. When Kyle and Janie met, she was working as the receptionist in the same dialysis unit as his mother. Kyle would take his mom drinks at work, and the couple would get to talking. “We were supposed to just be this quick, little burnout thing, but here we are! We’ve been together eight years.”
Kyle is most proud of all the things he and his wife have been able to accomplish. Janie is now a registered nurse and working towards her BSN degree. Kyle considers his biggest accomplishment to have been able to do so many things that no other Navajo rodeo announcer has done. He has announced many open rodeos that are nowhere near the Navajo nation, and he regularly announces for the New Mexico Rodeo Association and a few others.
Although, his favorite rodeo he’s ever announced was the Navajo Nation Fair in 2019. “That was something that kind of made me nervous. I was working with this crew that had been to some of the biggest rodeos in the world; but based on the feedback they gave me, I think I did pretty good.”
While COVID has put a damper on Kyle’s announcing career and he is ready to get back to work, he has found other ways to stay busy. Kyle now does voice-over work for local radio stations, gets to visit the ranch more, has had more time to work with the Gallup Intertribal Indian Ceremonial organization and has spent more time with his family. “Last year when COVID hit, we had so much family time that my joke became, ‘Wow! My family, they’re really nice people.’”
On New Year’s Day in 2021, Kyle began a sobriety/weight loss journey, which contributed to him losing over 50 pounds. “One thing that always stuck with me was to just keep moving forward. You may struggle or fall into hard times; but if you just keep moving forward, you’re going to get past it and onto better things.”
Some of Kyle’s other goals and plans include traveling more, having a big house, starting a family and announcing a PRCA rodeo. “People always told me it would be easier to get your card than to get a rodeo, and that has been true. But, I know it’s coming! I just keep moving forward.”
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