story by Lindsay Humphrey Last summer, Emily changed her last name from Vinton to Finney when she married Doug. It was a match made at […]
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Meet the Member Travis Kester
story by Lindsay King
Travis Kester may not have started rodeo before he could walk, but he’s made the most of his time in the practice pen in the last three years. It was the summer after his freshman year at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln when this Clearwater, Nebraska, native lived with his older brother Tyler who is a steer wrestler. “Tyler was going all over the place for rodeos that summer and I was helping him build an arena. I came back the next summer for the same internship and that is when I first started bull dogging,” said the 2017 UNL agricultural economics graduate.
“I have always been a fan of rodeo, but I did not have the resources to do it until I was living with my brother and had access to his circle of connections in rodeo. I always thought bull dogging was neat, so when I got the chance to do it, it was full steam ahead.” Part of that circle is Weston Winkers and Jeff Richardson, the guys Travis and Tyler travel with in the summer. “They have all done a lot for me, between letting me in the rig with them and riding their horses to practicing with them and giving me advice. They have been my go-to guys from the start.” It’s this comradery with the steer wrestlers that Travis likes so much about the event. “You won’t find any steer wrestlers that aren’t willing to give you the shirt off their back, everyone is having fun. They all want you to do the best you can.”
Though Travis admits the learning curve for any rodeo event is quite steep, it is all worth it when the victories finally start rolling in. One of those regularly comes at his hometown rodeo. “Most people get to their hometown rodeo and don’t seem to have as much luck as I do there. I have won that rodeo the past few years.” He has also managed to make both the NSRA and M-SRA finals the past two years. “I was very green my first year (2016), but the next two I was able to qualify for both finals. I got to run three steers at the finals against the best in the associations. That was a big accomplishment in my book.”
This season, Travis is gunning for a year-end saddle. “My goal this year is to get in shape and find time to be in the practice pen so I can get sharp again. I have had a couple of good years at the finals, but it is time to make those goals a bit higher and shoot for the saddle.” As a fairly recent college graduate, Travis is making plans to get himself and his wife Torie, whom he married just this past August, set up with a place to keep horses at their house and a rig to haul down the rodeo road. “I just want to continue to get more financially stable and better at steer wrestling. Hopefully in the next couple of years I can keep making the finals, win a couple of saddles and be ready to buy my PRCA permit and fill it with a trip to the circuit finals. Those are all big goals, but I want to make sure I keep pushing myself.”
As a grain buyer for Cargill, officially known as an origination specialist, Travis is working in the industry he grew up in. His dad raised Hereford cattle and now two of his older brothers are part of that operation. “I was always working around cattle, riding and roping to doctor calves and things like that. We showed in 4-H and all that too, but never really got into rodeo until the past couple of years.” Travis actually married into a rodeo family, the Opelas from Stapleton, Nebraska. Torie is an avid breakaway roper in the M-SRA as well.