Back When They Bucked with Billy & Pam Minick
Written by: Siri Stevens< Back to Articles
Born January 10, 1939 in Fort Worth, Texas, Billy Minick’s dad was a boss gambler in Fort Worth. “Gambling in the late 40s and 50s wasn’t legal, it was tolerated,” said the 80-year-old.
Billy won the state high school All Around Champion in 1958, competing in steer wrestling and bareback riding. From there he went to the National High School Finals in Sulphur, Louisiana. “I was way in lead for all around; came off my second bull and broke my arm.” He was in the hospital in Lake Charles for ten days. While he was there, the coach from McNeese State College offered him a rodeo scholarship. “I went there a year and a half – got along good – but had ants in my pants and had to get back to rodeo. Fame and fortune were waiting.” A year into his rodeo road, in December of 1961, Billy was drafted into the Army, where he served as a medic. “How they made a medic out of the bull rider is a wonder.” He spent his time after medical school in Alaska. “I went to eight rodeos up there, winning the bareback at all of them, and won the All Around at the Anchorage rodeo.”
His stay in Alaska was spent in a field hospital working with the natives, giving classes on childbirth and other things. “The Army taught me #1 to always be on time or early; #2 respect the system of bosses. You can fight it or take it for what it’s worth and get something out of it. I was bitter when I went in,” he admits. “I was peaking in my rodeo career – then I learned that I can’t fight it. You begin to realize how many people went through the same thing and died for this country to let us do what we do today.”
Billy went right back to rodeo when he got out, starting off winning at the winter shows, but then hitting a cold spell and just getting by. He was able to make one NFR qualification in the bull riding, 1966. “I had a great year in ’66, leading one or two for the world championship most of the year, ending up fourth.” He had a job offer in 1967 and decided to take it, moving to Medora, North Dakota to start a show there. At the entrance to Teddy Roosevelt National Badlands Park, Medora is a tourist town that operated in summertime. The ranch/rodeo show was educational to the public and Billy remained there for two years. “I’d go to Spring rodeos and was approached by Harry Knight and Gene Autry to buy their rodeo company.”
Billy had experience in production and he inquired where the rodeo company was located; they said San Antonio. “I asked what the temperature was and they said 72 and I took it.” He was able to purchase the Harry Knight Rodeo company and lease the Flying A ranch in Fowler, Colorado. “Harry Knight stayed with me a couple years and we went on to produce major rodeos they had from fall of 1968 to 1974 adding a few along the way. Billy sold the rodeo company to Mike Cervi in 1975.
The year before, Mike had bought Beutler Brothers and combined them both and the combined rodeo companies dominated the major rodeos. Billy worked for Mike for four years, running Mike’s cattle ordering business, which was the largest order buying cattle company in Northwest. “The headquarters was in Caldwell Idaho, and we shipped thousands of head of cattle,” he said. “I loved that business – it was real people doing real things. I liked the action, and the numbers, I’ve always been good with numbers.” The job included working with a lot of people to ship the cattle all over.
About 1979, Billy headed back to Texas. “I came back and had a ranch leased from Neal Gay.” Neal became his best friend, and Billy helped him with the Mesquite rodeo for a few years. Billy ended up quitting that and started messing around with the chrome plating business in Ft. Worth. “The company had a truck division and offered me and another boy 10% to get the sales up in the chrome business for over the road.” He built that up and added another side job, bringing him back to his love of rodeo.
“When Billy Bob’s Texas opened April 1, 1981, I got hired to do the bull riding every Friday and Saturday night,” he said. The event is held in the former auction ring and is run like a regular rodeo – timers, announcers, secretary, bull fighters, etc. “It was a huge success. I had my own little operation in the bull riding. I was the only one that could stay on budget – I was in my element.” In December, Billy Bob Barnett, one of the owners of the 100,000 square foot club in Ft. Worth, made him an offer. “I took the club over as GM, not in charge of marketing, etc. just operational.” He stayed in that position through 1985.
In 1982, Billy’s life changed again. His wife, Pam, walked through the door of Billy Bob’s, there to watch The Beach Boys. “If it hadn’t been for Pam, I wouldn’t be here today,” said Billy. It was Pam’s first time in the Fort Worth Stockyards, and she fell in love with the brick paved streets and Billy Minick. That was in December and they were married the following May.
In 1986, Billy Bob started to do a development in the Stock Yards and raised a lot of money from notes to fund the development. Billy and Pam decided not to invest, so they parted ways. Billy sold insurance and picked up broncs, Pam worked for various TV shows, the face of the interviews at the NFR. “We got by.”
In 1987, country music declined in popularity the economy in Texas went south, and the development project failed to produce the budget necessary. Billy Bob’s fell into bankruptcy in 1988 and closed its doors Friday, Jan. 8, 1988. Three investors formed a partnership and reopened the honkytonk November 25, 1988 with a very conservative budget. “Holt Hickman was financing it. He came and got me and said would you go back to work and see if you can pull it out. Said I’d give it a try, only if I had total control of it all.” Billy walked back in the door Feb 1, 1989, and promptly hired his wife, Pam, to do the marketing. “We went to work cutting corners and getting this cleaned up and straightened out. We started breaking even and making a little money. Garth Brooks came along and changed music. Country turned around in the early 1990s and that was a big help.”
37 years later, Billy Bob’s Texas is a success, with more than a million and a half people coming through the door each year. Billy Minick still comes “to the office” one day a week and Pam runs the marketing. The rest of his time is spent at their home, a little slice of heaven that they enjoy. “We have the best horses in the country and my biggest decision every day is where I’m going to lunch and playing golf.”
“I’ve been fair with people – I come off the asphalt and made myself a cowboy,” he says of his life. “Rodeo taught me how to survive – I’ve always enjoyed real people doing real things.”
He is quick to give credit to Pam. Married for 35 years, he calls her excellent. “I don’t like to take credit for anything. I couldn’t do it without that bond – it’s the relationships.” She’s excellent – married 35 years.
Pam was raised on five acres in Las Vegas, Nevada; considered a ranch. Her family of four had no involvement in horses until Pam and her sister, Lynn, decided to give it a try. Her parents bought Rebel and Rio, quarter horses that were used to pull a wagon up and down the Vegas strip for advertising. Pam and her sister rode the $300 horses bareback for the first nine months – with no clue how to care for or even ride. Those two horses shaped Pam’s respect and love for horses and forever changed the direction of her life. She joined 4-H, showing her horse and entering all the events associated with the county fair, which included speed events. “They had 8 events; four speed and four show. One year I won high point in all 8 on the same horse,” she recalls.
That led to rodeo. She started competing in the Nevada High School Rodeo Association. “Every high school rodeo is 400 miles away when you live in Las Vegas – every weekend you’re driving 400 miles one way. My mom would occasionally go, but for the most part, I went alone. My parents weren’t involved in rodeo, and we didn’t know any different.” She competed in breakaway, barrel racing, pole bending, and goat tying, finding the most success in barrel racing. Her horsepower changed over the years, and thanks to friends and mentors, she was able to compete at the National High School Finals.
After high school, she planned to go to UNLV, but before she could go to her first class, she won Miss Rodeo Nevada at the state fair in Reno. “Two months later, I won Miss Rodeo America,” she said. As the youngest Miss Rodeo America, she hit the road in 1973 to represent the sport. Traveling by herself was nothing new to her, having traveled to several rodeos, including National Finals, on her own. “For me, it felt like rodeoing, and I’d worked in high school in the PR department of a hotel, so publicity is what I knew, so when I would get into town, I was an aggressive publicity monger. I did every interview possible,” she said. “I felt the job was a PR person. The committees paid $15 a day and required you to go to Rotary breakfast and a few others, but I would go over and above those; I created my own path.”
After her reign, she lived in Arizona for ten years. During that time, she continued to pursue her career in front of huge crowds and television; commentated for the NFR on and off since 1976, commentating for PBR for 12 years, 26 shows a year; announcing the Houston Livestock Show and rodeo – the first woman to announce that event. “I don’t like being a woman announcer,” she admits. “I like being a sideline reporter where I can do some investigative stuff.” She ended up in Ft. Worth to announce a rodeo. “That’s where I met Billy.”
The duo have continued to manage the famous Billy Bob’s of Texas, Pam as the marketing director. “I’m here 9-5 everyday Monday through Friday – I love it because it’s a challenge,” she said. Along with that job, she produces Gentle Giants, a show she shoots, hosts, and edits every week for RFD-TV. When she’s home, she rides all her horses and really feels she has come full circle in her life.
“I’ve never made big plans, I believe in God’s plan. Sometimes I have to be patient – I never thought I’d be Miss Rodeo America, or the first lady sports commentator; but I never looked at it as setting a goal,” she said. “I was in the right place at the right time. I’ve always been prepared for the next thing that God has for me. Every day I sit on my porch and look out where I live and say I’m blessed.”