ENID, Okla. —
With the American Cowboy Rodeo Association season over, stock contractors, like Barnes & Sons Rodeo Co., of Tahlequah, look back over another successful season.
Contractors must provide quality livestock for an event, as well as the people to run it. Most stock contractors supply their own timekeeper, secretary, pickup men, bull fighters, announcer and people to run gates, chutes and pens behind the arena. Finding people with these skill sets, free weekends and the willingness to drive is no small job.
For both contestants and stock contractors, rodeo is not a hobby, it’s a passion or way of life.
For family owned and operated Barnes & Sons, love and passion for the sport have led to conducting rodeos for more than 30 years, and the company has become one of the most well-known stock contractors for the Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas and Arkansas region.
“We never had bicycles growing up because there was always a pasture full of horses,” said Rhonda Teague, rodeo secretary and daughter of Thelbert Barnes. “Dad’s theory was if you want to ride something, go catch a horse.”
Teague said her family started with a beef cattle operation and raised their own horses. As she and her siblings grew up, they competed first in the miniature rodeo association and then the junior rodeo association.
“By the time we got into our teens, rodeo was a huge part of our lives,” Teague said.
With five children competing in rodeos, Thelbert Barnes wanted to do all he could to help them succeed.
“My boys started riding bulls, and I started going down south, picking up bulls and bringing them back for practice,” said Thelbert Barnes, founder of Barnes & Sons Rodeo Co.
After coming up with a few bucking bulls that did their job well, Barnes said someone suggested to him that he invest in a few horses and start producing rodeos.
“I thought about it a little bit and decided, ‘Well that might be all right,’” Barnes said. “So, we got a few contracts and went from there.”
Those first rodeos led him to start raising bulls. He started by putting some bucking stock cows together and building a herd of bucking bulls.
Teague said the family started by producing junior rodeos and grew from junior rodeos to open rodeos, and open rodeos grew to sanctioned rodeos.
“Sanctioned rodeos are where we are now,” she said. “We produce ACRA and IPRA rodeos.”
The difference between a sanctioned rodeo and an open rodeo has a lot to do with quality in stock and contestants. Open rodeos are for anyone, while sanctioned rodeos require a membership and more money is added for winning, she said.
The Barnes family has not only grown in the types of rodeos they have contracts with, but also with their stock. The family specializes in raising and selling bucking bulls.
“We try and sell our 4-year-olds (bulls),” said Wayne Barnes, ranch manager and son of Thelbert Barnes. “That way they’re seasoned, and we know which ones are best and that they are going to work for someone.”
Several of the bucking bulls raised and sold from the Barnes ranch have gone on to perform in the National Finals Rodeo and Professional Bull Riders events.
Not only are the Barneses well-known for their bucking bulls, but also for care of their rodeo stock.
“A lady came up to me at a Missouri rodeo and told me she appreciated the way we handled our stock,” Wayne Barnes said. “I didn’t really think we did anything different.”
He said they only use hot shots when absolutely necessary, especially with bucking bulls.
“Hitting them with a hot shot just increases the risk of them jumping over a fence or getting their legs caught,” he said.
“This lady talked about our stock, how our horses were fat and our bulls looked good,” Wayne said. “But you know, if you’re going to use them, you need to take care of them.”
The family members agree on keeping their animals well fed and not overworking them.
This type of compassion has earned them ACRA’s Stock Contractor of the Year numerous times. Barnes & Sons also have received other ACRA awards, such as Bull of the Year, Rodeo of the Year, Horse of the Year and Stock of the Year.
“Those awards are voted on by the cowboys,” Teague said “To us, that’s a little more special, because it comes from the people who actually ride the animals, so if they pick your stock, or they pick your bull as Bull of the Year, then he’s done something really good.”
Barnes & Sons never loses sight of the importance of family. Each respects the other for all the work put in and the roles they play to make everything run smoothly.
“We know how the other thinks,” Teague said. “We’ve worked together for a long time as adults, and then of course grew up together. It just works really well.”
Some of Barnes & Sons bucking stock were featured during this year’s ACRA finals and will be part of the International Pro Rodeo Association finals in January.
Beard writes for Farm Talk, of Parsons, Kan.