story by Lindsay Humphrey Barb Larsen met her husband, Pat, 52 years ago. They’ve been married for 50 of those years and rodeo’s been a […]
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Meet the Member Mike Atwell
story by Lindsay King
That rodeo is part of me,” Mike Atwell said in reference to the National Western Stock Show & Rodeo in Denver, Colorado. Now 47, Mike can remember going to the National Western as early as four years old. Now a Phoenix, Arizona, resident, he’s been back just about every year since. “My family is from a farming town in Alamosa, Colorado, so I grew up around farming and the cowboy lifestyle. We would start our year off at the National Western and attend every rodeo in between there.” The avid rodeo fans found their way to Cheyenne Frontier Days as their big summer rodeo. “We just liked to go and watch.” This adrenaline junky could only watch from the sidelines for so long before joining the cowboys himself.
At 19 years old, Mike and his high school friends tried their hand at bull riding. No longer the spectator, Mike found a passion for rodeo on the other side of the stands. “We went to a big honky tonk bar and rode bulls on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights. I did that until I was 26. Then I got married and moved back to Colorado.” Mike started his career in the medical field in EMS and then ended in vascular surgery. While raising a family, Mike continued in this field for the next 26 years. “Most people think it’s freaky that I worked in the medical field and ride bulls on the weekend. I laugh because I know the dangers of it and I tell them they should come watch.” Inviting spectators and competitors alike is one of Mike’s favorite things to do.
Eager for a change of pace, Mike left veins and arteries behind for the business world of mortgage brokering where he is an account manager. “I just wanted to do something a little different. It will hopefully give me a little more free time to rodeo.” Mike’s ultimate career goal is to make his way in the rodeo industry. He aspires to raise his own bulls for rodeo one day. That dream is something Mike hopes will come after a long, successful second run as a bull rider. “I was going to start riding bulls again in 2017, but then I broke my back and had to miss the entire 2018 season.” Last year Mike finally got to slide his hand into a bull rope again. For the first time it was with the NSPRA.
“My first year back I qualified for the finals. Unfortunately, I couldn’t compete due to injury, but it was still a huge accomplishment to qualify. I am looking forward to the 2020 season and hopefully making the finals again.” For Mike, rodeo has never been about the money it’s about the people he gets to be around. “It’s about the love of the sport and hanging out with my friends, or as we call it our rodeo family, having a good time. We are all there to support each other and that’s the biggest thing. When there are 17 bull riders there, you have 16 on the chutes rooting you on to make sure you cover your bull.” If Mike were to cover his bull and score an 84, he’s cheering the next guy on to get an 85.
Despite a whole chute full of cowboys cheering him on, Mike’s favorite cheerleader is his girlfriend, Jackie. “She’s amazing, she supports me 100%. She loves watching me ride.” Mike was elected to the NSPRA executive board this year and is looking forward to growing the association and its membership. “It’s about carrying on the tradition of rodeo; it doesn’t matter how old you are. I want to let older people know there is an association for them and we would love to have them.” Mike is looking forward to heading to Las Vegas next October for the NSPRA finals.