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ProFile: Chuck Kinney
Written by: Ruth Nicolaus< Back to Articles
Chuck Kinney appreciates the Rodeo Clown Reunions, and plans on seeing his old friends at the 2021 event, to be held at Colorado Springs August 5-8, and the Douglas County Fair and Rodeo in Castle Rock, Colorado as well as the ProRodeo Hall of Fame & Museum of the American Cowboy in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Kinney is one of those “old-timers” whose body might show its age, but whose mind is bright, alive and fresh.
The retired rodeo clown grew up the son of Cotton Kinney, who owned Kinney Bros. Rodeo Co., alongside Cotton’s brother, Edward Lee Kinney. He traveled with his family across the nation as the family produced rodeos from coast to coast.
In 1969, when Kinney was twelve, Cotton and Edward Lee sold the business, ending their pro rodeo days but keeping enough stock to provide for youth events.
And Chuck resolved to take the Kinney name back to the National Finals Rodeo, in one way or another.
“I set my goals to go to the NFR in something,” he said. “I didn’t know what, and I didn’t care what, but I was going to get there one way or another.”
He competed in all the events but was better at the bareback riding, saddle bronc riding and bull riding. After high school graduation in 1975, he didn’t want to go to college so went to work. After a year of punching a time clock, he changed his mind. “I thought, no I need to go to college. This ain’t no fun.”
Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas, offered him a full ride, so he took it, graduating in 1982 with a bachelors in animal science.
By this point, he was fighting bulls and rodeo clowning, with one of his early gigs working with Mack Altizer of Bad Company Rodeo. He saw the Wrangler Bullfights and the freestyle bullfighting, and petitioned a friend, Miles Hare, to help him get on the Wrangler Tour. In 1988, his first year on the tour, he finished in the top six in the world, qualifying for the National Finals. “Whether I was first or last,” he said, “it didn’t matter. I had the Kinney name back at the Finals.”
The next year, he began working for other contractors, building his business.
Then the unspeakable happened. It was 1989, and he had worked the Salt Lake City rodeo, when Clint Branger, Cody Lambert, Tuff Hedeman, Jim Sharp and Lane Frost asked to shower in his hotel room after the rodeo. By 2 am, they were headed to Cheyenne and the fateful day when Lane would leave this earth.
Chuck saw Lane’s accident happen, and it changed him. His daughter, Devin, was born the year before, and it got him thinking. “I thought, I’ve accomplished everything I need to do. Lightning is striking pretty close to home. I might need to rethink this.”
So he retired in 1990. The only way he could retire was by not buying his PRCA card, so he could tell committees “no.”
Chuck went back to college and ended up as an agriculture teacher. He was teaching what he knew as a bullfighter: animal psychology. “You have to know how an animal thinks before you can control him,” he said. He added more to his curriculum: butchering, welding, woodworking and other facets of ag.
He taught for nearly 29 years in three parishes: Singer High School, rebuilding their ag program; Sulphur High School, starting their ag program, and Hackberry High School in Cameron Parish.
“I told people I teach life,” he said, “how to make a living, how to use your hands, and how to use your head.”
Newly retired the end of February, he’s found plenty to keep him busy. He and wife Tina’s place was hit by two major hurricanes last year, and there is still tree damage to clean up and buildings to repair. He also fishes nearly every day with his twelve-year-old grandson, Gavin. Grandpa Chuck enters him in junior bass master tournaments and youth fishing league tournaments, and “he wins,” Chuck said. “We’ve been fishing since he was three years old. He fishes. I don’t have to fish. I just have to drive the boat. That’s the way I like it.”
He attended the Rodeo Clown Reunion when it was in Stephenville, Texas, and looks forward to this year’s reunion. He hears stories about Kinney Bros. Rodeo, told from the men who worked with his dad and uncle. He loves seeing his peers, too.
He soaks up the newsletter written by Gail Woerner, on retired rodeo clowns, bullfighters, and acts. “I read it every time, from top to bottom.”
The best part of rodeo for him is the friendships and the camaraderie. He talks to Miles Hare nearly every day, and Mike Horton and Rob Smets regularly. He tries to stay in touch with his friends.
The rodeo life is like the old song, “the road goes on forever and the party never ends,” he thinks. “Ain’t nobody lived a better life than mine,” he said. “I just retired last week and from what I’ve heard, it’s fixin’ to get even better.”
In addition to Gavin, Chuck and Tina have a granddaughter, Kynsie, who is nine, and a step-grandson, Brye Burnett. Devin’s husband is Brandon Burnett.