“My mom (Sonya) was the typical horse crazy girl who grew up on a hobby farm in Missouri. My dad (JB), who grew up farming […]
Written by: Lily Landreth< Back to Articles
Ray Beechy is a cowboy who has overcome many obstacles. When he was 12 years old, he was involved in a sawmill accident, which resulted in his right arm having to be amputated below the elbow. The loss of his hand did not slow him down for long, however. It served to make him very competitive and he quickly became adept with using one hand. “It’s never kept me from much of anything other than shuffling cards – or clapping,” Ray said with a laugh.
As Ray grew up Amish, he did not start competing in rodeo until after he moved away from the Amish community when he was 16. He tells the story. “I was 16 when I really took an interest in the rodeo circuit. A friend of mine that lived close by was riding bulls at the time, and got me interested.” Ray was given a boost into rodeo by Galen “Peewee” Helmuth. “He got me started way back in the day and has taught me more than anyone else,” says Ray. He has also been inspired by Ray Cox, owner of Lazy C Rodeo School in Jacksonville, Ill.
Ray rode bulls for five years until he had a serious accident in the arena with a bull. “I broke my entire face,” Ray explained. “My thought was that I might try to build a career that has a better retirement plan than bull riding,” he said with a hint of humor. “I can pick up good trade skills, but I got tired of watching bull riding and I needed a hobby.” After four years, Ray climbed once more onto the back of a bull. He practiced on 20 bulls and set off to a rodeo. By his second rodeo he was winning money with a renewed vigor in the sport. After his four year retirement from bull riding, Ray, now 27 says, “I approached it with a completely different mindset, and learned the respect you have to have for the sport of bull riding.” He further explains his mindset about riding bulls. “You don’t think about the ride until you nod your head. I try to think about anything other than bull riding right before I go to the chutes.”
While the rodeo season is fairly slow for the CSRA during the winter, Ray works his full time job as a concrete finisher. Having use of one hand has not slowed him down in rodeo, nor in anything else. The avid outdoorsman lives in Hammond, Ill., and whether golfing or playing sports, he pursues it all enthusiastically. He also enjoys music of all varieties and loves going to concerts and supporting local bands in his area. One of Ray’s favorite things is to work with horses, and while he doesn’t have any of his own right now, he helps his friends with training and riding. “I’ve developed my own training techniques and routine I go through. It’s a combination of a lot of other successful trainers,” Ray says.
This winter, Ray is helping his friend Galen Helmuth put on rodeos every other week at the “Blue Barn”, a barn that Helmuth is leasing near Sadorus, Ill. “Rodeo is pretty popular in my state, just not in the area I live,” Ray explains. “We’re trying to promote this for young people and help them get exposed to rodeo.” Ray and Galen are additionally putting on ranch rodeos and bull ridings in an effort to introduce their community to several aspects of rodeo.
Ray’s goal for his rodeo competition is to win the bull riding in the CSRA in 2014. “I want to get on as many bulls and win as much money as I can,” says Ray. During 2013 in the CSRA, he won the bull riding in Kankakee and Brownstown. He is considering competing in several other rodeo associations as well, but his fondness for the CSRA is evident when he says, “I like having a rodeo association in Illinois, and my main goal is to do whatever I can to make it an even better rodeo association.”