story by Ruth Nicolaus t took a letter, written by Caiden Milam to his parents, to convince them to let their son ride bulls. It […]
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Meet the Member Zack Bradley
story by Ruth Nicolaus
A broken leg might keep Zack Bradley down, but it won’t keep him out.
The Nebraska High School Rodeo Association member was doctoring calves last July when his horse went down, breaking his tibia and fibula bones and requiring surgery, three plates and various screws. And it all happened the week before the National High School Finals Rodeo, where he would have competed in the team roping.
So Zack went to Nationals not to compete, but as a spectator in a wheelchair.
It wasn’t the way he wanted to go to Nationals, but he was at peace with it. “My good buddy Dane Pokorny took my spot (in the team roping) and they ended up twelfth in the world. I was pretty happy to see that, even if it wasn’t me.”
The broken leg hasn’t kept him down. He wasn’t able to compete last fall but this spring is back to team roping and hopefully will be tie-down roping soon.
A resident of Brewster, Neb., the cowboy’s heel horse (his header is Cooper Bass) is a nine-year-old chestnut mare named Mary Jane. She was purchased when he was in the eighth grade, “and she’s been my go-to horse ever since,” he said.
He is in his senior year and is homeschooled online through Grace Christian Academy. He loves homeschooling, after having started it in the fall of 2020. “I get the freedom to work and travel a bit and help my parents. I love homeschool, and looking back, I wouldn’t change it.” He knows homeschooling requires discipline and motivation, which his mom helps provide. “If I don’t get my schoolwork done, I can’t do the things I like to do.”
When he’s not doing schoolwork, he works for area ranchers and helps on his family’s ranch.
For fun, he and his buddies can be found at Merritt Lake or Calamus Lake, boating, water skiing, or tubing behind the boat, or on the North Loup River, which is right out his back door.
He loves to hunt waterfowl, including Canada geese and mallards. The meat needs to be cooked just right: “if you overcook them, you just as well be eating a boot,” he said. They often turn their waterfowl meat into jerky or sticks. He also deer hunts in the fall.
His favorite meal his mom makes is steak, medium rare, on the grill or the smoker, with a baked potato on the side and topped with butter, sour cream and cheese.
He loves his mom’s and grandma’s peach cobbler, and to wash it all down, likes a big glass of iced tea.
If he was given $1 million, he’d use it to build a nice barn or shop and start his own business as a welder.
This fall, Zack will attend Laramie County (Wyo.) Community College, working towards a welding degree. He plans on team roping collegiately, and might add tie-down roping.
He doesn’t have full motion of his leg yet, and if he isn’t able to tie-down rope, it’s not the end of the world. “I darn sure prefer team roping (over tie-down) and that’s why it doesn’t break my heart if I miss out on roping calves.”
After college, he’d like to work in various parts of the country, possibly in the oilfield, to “make some money, come home and start a welding shop.” There’s a shortage of welding and machine shops in north central Nebraska, and Zack knows he’d have plenty of work.
Zack has qualified for state finals in Hastings all three years in both events and for Nationals all three years, twice in the team roping (his freshman and junior years) and once in the tie-down (his sophomore year.)
He has two older brothers who were both high school rodeo contestants: Blayne, who is 27, and JT, who is 23.
He is the son of Justin and Tracy Bradley.