There just aren’t enough second chances in life. But for many members of the National Senior Pro Rodeo Association, they are getting their second chance […]
story by Siri Stevens and Mary Williams Hyde
When Lane Barton was in fifth grade he was going to cow camps with his father, George, and going to rodeos on the weekends. “We were on the desert moving cows around and back to the ranch,” said the 24 year old from Winnemucca, Nevada. “I went to rodeos with him since I was a baby. Once I got old enough, I got to go behind the chutes. When I got to high school, I got to put the saddle on and get it set and pulled down, and measure the rein.” George competed all over – California, Idaho, Oregon, Utah, and everywhere. George, now 43, was 13 the first time he rode a horse out of a bucking chute in the days way before ranch bronc riding was even an event.
His grandfather, George Abel, is in the Buckaroo Hall of Fame in Winnemuca, a museum that preserves the Buckaroo Heritage of the Great Basin (Oregon, Idaho, and Nevada) area of the west. “Being a cowboy up in this country, back where there weren’t many fences; they lived their lives on horseback,” said George, who worked on ranches in the Great Basin most of his life. Several stock contractors came to buy horses that George Abel had. “We had a couple hundred head of horses on my grandma’s ranch in Fort McDermitt on the reservation,” he said. He was lucky to have plenty of horses to practice on. “They’d drive them 74 miles from McDermitt to town,” he remembers. “The horses would fill up a two lane road for a long time.” He rode broncs in high school rodeo and in 1991 was the Nevada State Champion and traveled to Shawnee, Oklahoma, for the National High School Finals. George went on to ride in the PRCA for seven years. He quit a little after his second son (Chance) was born. He picked up ranch bronc riding instead, working on his father-in-law’s ranch. “You don’t get the time off to travel, but I hit the ranch rodeos that I could get to.” He has since moved to Winnemucca, where his wife, Denise, teaches school and he works in the gold mine. “I learned a trade instead of cowboying,” he said. “I go brand calves and help out everyone around.”
Lane picked up the rodeo bug, climbing on his first bronc at the age of 13. “Ever since I was a little kid that’s all I wanted to do was ride bucking horses.” He started riding broncs in high school and rode until he was a junior, when he ventured out to bull riding. “I hung up the rope after the last one my senior year. I had already started riding ranch broncs and I could do that better.” Western States Ranch Rodeo started up his senior year in high school, so he had a place to go. “The biggest difference between ranch bronc riding and saddle bronc riding is the saddle – you get to ride with both hands if you want to.” He likes the fact that you don’t get disqualified if you ride with both hands or lose a stirrup.
He didn’t get his Western States Ranch Rodeo card until 2012. Ever since then, he is entering every rodeo he can, as time off from his full time job, and availability of entry money allows. Lane welds fence for Nuffer Welding and will marry his fiancé, Kayla Dowd, next September. He is determined to make the WSRRA National bronc riding finals for the third time this fall. Only the top fifteen, of over 100 ranch bronc riders who try for the same honor every year, can ride at this prestigious event.
Today, George is more his son’s biggest fan and mentor, traveling with Lane as often as he can, rather than going for points and money himself. Even after thirty years and over 1,000 broncs, George still loves to ride an occasional rank bronc, especially if he can complete against his son, Lane. “Take a deep seat, give your horse his head, keep moving your feet forward, and let the horse buck,” is his standard advice.
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