When his grandfather gave him a dollar bill to buy tickets at ten cents each for the pony rides at Hershey Park in Pennsylvania, Pete […]
Back When They Bucked with Kenny Pfeifer
Written by: Lily Landreth< Back to Articles
Kenny Pfeifer is always on the move. In his earlier days, it was on horseback, whether training horses, or riding broncs and bulls in the ICA and RCA. Today, he’s entering his 45th year as a business owner, operating Western States Movers, LLC, out of Nampa, Idaho, and staying involved in the rodeo world with his granddaughter, even helping at several Martha Josey Clinics a year.
Born in 1947 in Caldwell, Idaho, Kenny grew up northwest of there in Parma, Idaho, riding the horses his dad brought home. “We always had horses around, and I did everything on horseback. The first date my wife and I went on was horseback,” says Kenny. “I was riding a bunch of horses for people, and I’d ride one to school, tie it up, and ride a different one home. I didn’t even own a vehicle until I was a senior in high school. It was seven miles to town, and my dad told me if I wanted to play sports, I’d have to get myself there and home, so I rode horses there. When I was a kid, there weren’t any kid rodeos around,” he adds. “Leonard Hamilton produced rodeos around the area, and he had an arena we built. We’d go over there all the time. He bought all the horses from the ‘Run, Paint, Run’ movie, and we had to rope them all to catch them. Some were like a bull – if you were on the ground, they’d come after you.” Kenny even started horses on wagons, mowing and hauling hay. “It turned into a lot of wrecks, but we had a lot of fun!”
Kenny’s horse training made him the perfect candidate for riding roughstock. He and his dad put bronc saddles on the horses they started and snubbed them up to a post while Kenny climbed on. “It was just in a big dry lot, and it was harder than a pancake,” Kenny recalls. “I went to Polson, Montana, in the winter where the snow was deep and the ground was frozen, and I was riding bucking horses in a building. I never broke any bones, but I had lots of sprains, and I got stepped on and run over. I even fought bulls a couple of times. I liked riding bulls, but I got hurt too many times, so I quit that.”
Kenny started rodeoing in high school, including high school rodeos, jackpots, and local rodeos. Little Britches started when he was a senior, and he competed there for a year. With just one rodeo to qualify for the NHSFR at the time, Kenny often placed just one out of the qualification, though he won several high school rodeos in all his events and the all-around. He also college rodeoed, helping start the Treasure Valley Community College rodeo team with Joe Mayor in the 1960s. “Joe was the first president, and I was the second. I rode three years with them, and I made the ICA finals probably ten times in a row.” One cowboy who helped Kenny with his roughstock was Cotton Rosser, the producer of the Caldwell Night Rodeo at the time. “He had a paint bucking mule I rode for him during the rodeo, and he always started the rodeo with a buffalo scramble,” says Kenny. “They were all turned out at the same time, and I learned after riding the first one, that halfway down the arena, you’d better get off because they’d turn into a herd and you couldn’t get off.”
Following college rodeo, Kenny competed in professional and open rodeos around the Northwest, traveling with his wife, Kris. They met in 1965 on a trail ride after her horse – one that Kenny had trained – threw a shoe, and Kenny put it back on by campfire light. They were married in 1970, and Kris college rodeoed and competed in several rodeo queen contests afterward. Their two children, Shawn and Tami, rodeoed when they were growing up. Shawn also played football and went to school on a football scholarship, while Tami barrel raced in the PRCA.
It was at the Days of ’47 Rodeo in Salt Lake City, Utah, where Tami was competing that Kenny became acquainted with Martha Josey, holding her horse, Orange Smash, during the rodeo. They met again in Ogden, Utah, and when Kenny learned they were headed to Nampa next, he invited Martha and R.E. to stay at his place. “They’d come to the Northwest and stay with us for two or three nights, any time of day or night,” says Kenny. “Right after the Caldwell Night Rodeo, they started doing clinics each year, and my wife and I and both our kids helped. We’d rent the Caldwell rodeo grounds, the fair building, and the Charolais Barn. There was anywhere from 40 to 70 students depending on the year.” Kenny has also stayed involved locally judging the Snake River Stampede parade that kicks off the Snake River Stampede Rodeo. He judged the drill teams for many years, and most recently judged the wagon entries. “It’s originality for me – no rubber tires,” he says. “I also look at condition, cleanliness, and the type of harness. I’ve also judged horsemanship in some queen contests.”
While Kenny retired from rodeo in 1981, he started his moving business in 1972 on 40 acres in Nampa. “I started everything from scratch – it was tough! Back then, you had to have PUC (Public Utilities Commission) authority, which was a license you had to get. It usually took a few years to get them. I invented a machine that will raise a house or any load without jacks or dollies, and it runs wirelessly by remote control and raises and steers hydraulically. We do all our own machining and fabrication right here in the shop.” Over the years, they have moved silos, bridges, houses, historical buildings, and tanks – anything heavy or oversized. “It’s kind of like rodeo,” says Kenny. “They said it couldn’t be rode, so you try it anyway. Every one is different, and that’s the challenge. We moved a historical town, Sherman Station, to a park in Elko, Nevada. There was a livery stable, blacksmith shop, creamery, and a schoolhouse. It was 117 miles south of Elko, and it took two and a half months to move because it was in the mountains and we brought (the buildings) down narrow roads and through a creek. We moved another building in Battle Mountain, Nevada, they said couldn’t get out, and we raised up a bridge to get the building across it.”
Kenny’s inventiveness has also benefited the Joseys. Last year, they were in need of more drag dummies, and after putting together CAD drawings, Kenny fabricated 55 dummies out of half-inch pipe. “They’re a little wider and longer, so they don’t tip over so easy on the side. There’s a little drag to them, and when you rope them, they stand up and lay down when the rope comes back.” Kenny makes the 31 hour drive to Josey Ranch often three times a year, helping with their clinics and calf roping reunion, and taking his granddaughter, Kylie, to their roping and barrel racing clinics. “It’s Texas Disneyland,” says Kenny. “We’ve been doing that for 17 to 19 years.” His goal is to continue working at Josey Ranch and helping his granddaughter – and moving the West one project at a time.