There’s no rabbit in these coffin dodgers

Retired senior citizens might spend a good share of their free time sitting in their rocking chairs.Retired senior citizens might spend a good share of their free time sitting in their rocking chairs.

Story originally posted by: Teri Lee

Retired senior citizens might spend a good share of their free time sitting in their rocking chairs.

That’s not the case with the special group of 40-plus "youngsters" who belong to the National Senior Pro Rodeo Association. The only "rockin" this enthusiastic and energetic group get is the occasional "rockin and rollin" of their pickups and fifth-wheel horse trailers as they speed down the road between rodeos. Or a little "rockin" atop a bucking bronc or bull and/or as they speedily "roll" down the rope to tie up a calf they’ve just roped!

Don’t count these "coffin-dodgers," as this group is sometimes referred to, out among serious gold-buckle contenders. They may suffer from an occasional ache and pain but that just "goes with the territory." There’s "no rabbit" (back-up) in them. They’ve learned through the years to compete with injuries.

The association’s top 350 contestants, ranging in age between 40 and 68-plus, tested their skills during the Senior National Finals, held Nov. 8-11 at the Reno Livestock Events Center in Reno, Nev. Contestants competed for a share of over $200,000 in prize money and awards distributed at the event. A number of year-end World Championships were on-the-line during the Finals with several "first-time" champions crowned. Three 2000 year-end All-Around Champions successfully defended their prestigious titles, including: Cindy Reynolds, Douglas, Wyo.; Carol Stevenson, Arlee, Mont., and Burr Kennedy, Chowchilla, Calif.

Eight events are offered at National Senior Pro Rodeo Association-sanctioned rodeos, including: bareback riding, bull riding, saddle bronc riding, calf roping, steer wrestling, team roping, ribbon running, ribbon roping, and barrel racing. Competition divisions include ages: 40-50, 50-60, 60-plus and there’s also a special calf roping division for ropers 68 and older. All-Around Champions must compete in two or more events.

Event scores and times differ little from those recorded at many professional and amateur rodeos. An 8-second run in the calf roping in the 60-plus aged division is not uncommon and the 78-point bull rides scored during this year’s National Finals’ first and third go-rounds would draw a paycheck at many professional and open bull ridings. Roping and tying a calf in 11.9 seconds – at the age of 68-plus, as Bill Kelley, Dublin, Texas, did during the Finals’ first go-round – isn’t too shabby by anyone’s measure.

Event sponsors
The title sponsor for the SNFR was West Valley Imaging with the host hotels being Boomtown and Peppermill. The Finals’ performance sponsor was Reno Dodge, while event sponsors included: Nations Rent, Holiday Inn & Diamond’s Casino, Circus Circus, Morrey Distributing/Budweiser, and Featherlite of Reno/Logan Coaches. Media sponsors were Lotus Radio, KOLO-News Channel 8. Premier business sponsors included: Ruby River Steakhouse, Los Compadres, Port of Subs, C&M Foods, John Ascuaga’s Nuggett, The Trailer Mart of Bakersfield, Swedish Match Tobacco, Sheplers, Q&D Construction, Nevada State Bank, Bonanza Casino, and Silver Club Nevada Casino.

Twin sisters compete in Finals
Among the SNFR contestants were identical twin sisters, Wanda Cagliari, Fallon, Nev., and Wilma Hybarger, Reno, Nev., both of whom are single and will turn 66 in December. The sisters were professional trick riders for 15 years and performed up and down the West Coast area under the name "The Ludwig Twins." Each of them were recently inducted into the Nevada Horseman’s Association Hall of Fame.

Wanda is also a member of the Senior Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame and has won the year-end All-Around Championship eight times, the Reserve two years, and Senior Pro Barrel Racing World Championship 10 times. She’s competed in the NSPRA five years.

Wanda settled for the SNFR’s Reserve Champion Barrel Racing title in 2001 with Wilma taking home her first Finals Barrel Racing Championship.

Wanda and Wilma are hooked on Senior Pro Rodeo. "It’s a lot of fun and you meet such nice people," said Wanda.

Former World ChampionSaddle Bronc rider stars as a timed event winner

Kenny McLean, Hamilton, Mont., 62, is another 2001 SNFR star competitor. McLean, who owns the bragging rights to the PRCA1964 Saddle Bronc World Championship, won the calf roping (60-plus division) average as well as the event’s year-end championship. It was the first time for McLean to have won the titles. McLean, who quit riding broncs in 1974, twice qualified for the NFR’s calf roping event in the early ’70s.

McLean was pleased with his calf roping accomplishments having tied three in impressive times of 8.8, 9.2, and 11.2.

"I got pretty lucky; they were pretty good calves," the humble champion commented on his success.

World Champions
Men’s All-Around (40-50) Burr Kennedy competes in the calf roping, team roping, steer wrestling, and ribbon roping events, and has qualified four years for the SNFR. In 1997, he won the Steer Wrestling World Championship and, in 2000, he was the Men’s All-Around Champion.

A former PRCA competitor, Kennedy was never able to compete enough to try and qualify for the NFR, when he was younger and working as a carpenter. The 45-year-old cowboy is now semi-retired which gives him the freedom to rodeo.

What made this NSPRA season especially meaningful to the All-Around Champion and Heeling Champion was the fact that Kennedy’s header was his 68-year-old father, Bob, who claimed his first World title – the Heading Championship.

"We won it together; that was pretty good," Burr said.

A native of California, Kennedy is married to a Professional Women’s Rodeo Association (PWRA) champion. Sheri Kennedy has qualified in the calf roping and team roping events for the PWRA National Finals in Fort Worth, Texas, the last couple of years. This year, she returned home with the Reserve World Champion Calf Roper and All-Around Reserve World Championship awards.

Kennedy has two children by a previous marriage, Ryan, 24, and Rhett, 22, who is a rookie PRCA roper.

Women’s All-Around (40-50) Cindy Reynolds claimed three World Champioonship titles in 2001: barrel racing, ribbon running and the all-around. She also won the SNFR All-Around Championship.

Reynolds has competed at the SNFR since 1995. Other World Championship titles Reynolds calls her own are: barrel racing (1997), and barrel racing, ribbon runner and all-around (2000).

"Cat" (AQHA registered as Tattoo Cat Nap), a 16-year-old gelding, is Reynolds’ main horse. She’d retired Cat and had started using her 8-year-old mare, Kaufima Jet, this year; however, Reynolds ended up having to ride Cat at the Finals when her mare came up sore.

Reynolds, 48, who ranches with her husband, Jeff, for a living, has rodeoed since she was a kid. She used to team rope, breakaway rope and calf rope and has been a card-holding member of the PWRA since 1974. She still competes in the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association (WPRA) barrel races.

"The nicest thing about the Senior Pro Rodeo is that everyone goes to have fun and enjoy," Reynolds said. "Everybody knows everybody, and that makes it fun."

The successful end to her 2001 rodeo season was especially meaningful for Reynolds because she had not been able to travel to near as many events following the death of her father, Richard Burks.

"I did it (won the championships) for him,"she said. "He didn’t rodeo; he was just a rancher, but he always supported me."

Men’s All-Around (50-60) Ernest Forsberg, Bakersfield, Calif., competes in the calf roping, team roping and ribbon roping events. Aside from the year-end All-Around Championship title, Forsberg also won the year-end Ribbon Roping World Championship, placed third in the calf roping event and fifth in the team roping.

Forsberg has competed in NSPRA events 10 years – since he quit going to PRCA rodeos. In 1999, he won the year-end Ribbon Roping Championship, was the Calf Roping Reserve Champion, and the Finals’ runner-up in the calf roping and team roping events.

During his professional rodeo career, Forsberg qualified five times for the NFR – four times in calf roping and once in team roping with his best finish having been a sixth-place in calf roping.

Forsberg, who has served two years (2000-2001) as president of the NSPRA, said, "The Senior deal is coming along real well, and the Finals are really taking ahold."

As president, Forsberg traveled to as many as 60 rodeos during the year.

"I thought that I ought to be at all of them and try and support them and help the committees," he said. "We’re going to have close to 90 (in 2002). We’ll be in Arizona in February, then go to Texas in March, then come back to Nevada."

Forsberg said the association’s roughstock events are the weakest as far as the number of entries.

"Our riding event guys can still ride real good, but they can’t run," he said.

"If our bull riders get bucked off, you’ve got to have some pretty docile bulls, that can buck but that aren’t ïhooky.’ And, the bucking horses, if they aren’t real strong and dirty, the guys ride them real good."

Forsberg has picked up checks at such notable PRCA rodeos as Cheyenne, San Antonio and Houston, however he considers his success at the NSFR as the most meaningful of his career.

"I think winning the all-around this year has meant as much to me, because I’m beating the same people … the same people I competed against years ago," he said.

"This (NSPRA) is so good because the people who do it – other than this, we would have nothing else except to sit at home and mow the lawn. They do this year-round. They load up in February and don’t come home until October. It’s really a lot of fun."

A blacksmith by trade for 37 years, Forsberg, 58, said he’s not anywhere near ready to retire. His father was a blacksmith and so were his uncles.

Forsberg’s wife, Candy, rodeos (barrel races). He has one daughter, Johenenne; one son, Todd, and four grandsons. His 6-year-old grandson, Tyler, won the Smith Brothers’ dummy roping championship, when he was 5 and has won three saddles at junior rodeos.

Women’s All-Around (50-60)
Carol Stevenson is another NSPRA contestant who pulls a horse trailer with living quarters from rodeo to rodeo.

"Just about everyone now has gone that way," she said.

Stevenson has rodeoed since she was in high school. However, it wasn’t until recently that she was able to actively travel the rodeo circuit. Like a number of other competitors, she worked full-time and was only free to rodeo on weekends or during her two weeks vacation time.

At age 56, Stevenson, who owns a wholesale beer distributorship in partnership with her ex-husband, can now travel year-round, which she does with a friend, Arlyn Simms, who won this year’s All-Around (60-plus) Championship.

Stevenson, a native Texan who moved to Montana a couple of years ago, tries to return to the Lone Star State monthly to watch her 8-year-old granddaughter, Rachael, compete in youth rodeos.

Stevenson’s NSPRA Championship ranks at the top of her list of rodeo accomplishments.

"You had to travel and that’s hard work," she said. "I won the year-end before the actual Finals and that was my goal. Because I couldn’t go (years ago), and now that I’ve got so I can travel – that’s been my goal to win it for the year-end."

Stevenson is serving her second term on the association’s board of directors.

"We don’t get to meet that many times because we are from all over the country," she said. "And, when we do meet, our meetings are sometimes very long, but I think they are very productive."

Men’s All-Around (60-plus)
The 2001 SNFR is an event Arlyn Simms, Arlee, Mont., who has qualified for the Finals 10 or 11 years, will not soon forget.

"This is probably my extreme year of success at the Finals," said Simms, who also won a Finals’ all-around title in 1997. "I won the average in the ribbons and the team roping, placed fifth in the average in the calf roping and won the year-end in two events (ribbon roping and team roping – heeling)."

Simms rodeoed while in high school, but thereafter, he competed limitedly until he reached his 50’s.

A member of the NSPRA Board of Directors, Simms is pretty proud of his fellow SNFR contestants’ performances.

"Those guys were tough as whale leather," he said. "It was a pretty nice demonstration of the ability of us ïcoffin-dodgers’.

"We’re a little slower from Point A to Point B than they (today’s young professional cowboys and cowgirls) are. It seems like we’re going to beat heck, but it just doesn’t seem like we cover much ground."

He was especially proud of the times recorded in the 68-plus roping division.

"They don’t break into the 9’s very often, but every once in awhile, they will," he said.

Simms, who will turn 65 in January, believes his personal best time (fastest) to have been a "9-something."

"I was 8.6 one time, but I took 10 (barrier penalty) with me so you can’t count it," he jokingly said.

Formerly in the construction business, Simms said he’s "pretty much retired now."

Simms confided that rodeoing – traveling from event to event – can sometimes get tiring.

"I think it gets longer the older you get, but I also think it keeps you young," he said.

"You have aches and pains, but you have to hustle through them. I think it’s an equal opportunity – everybody has got it (pain), and the one that can hide it or run through it – that’s the one that wins."

There’s no time for self-pity in this game.

"We’ve got a guy who ropes in the 60-plus division who has only one hand," Simms said. "He ties calves in the 18’s and 19’s – I think the fastest I’ve seen him is a 16 or 17 – and that’s using one hand.

"If you think that you hurt and then you watch him – then you don’t hurt anymore, you don’t know how lucky you are."

Born and raised near Malta, Mont., Simms has five grown children.

Women’s All-Around (60-Plus) Donna Shedeed, Hermosa, S.D., competes in the barrel racing, ribbon roping and team roping events.

"We start out in Arizona in January or February, then go to Texas," she said.

Shedeed explained the NSPRA’s year-end point system with 60-50-40-30-20-10 points for first through sixth. Then, if a person beats 25 people, he, or she, will receive 25 bonus points.

"It’s a pretty fair way to do it," Shedeed said.

"I had a pretty fair lead going in (Finals), but I still had to do some placing. I ended up second in the barrels and the ribbons for the year," said Shedeed, who has competed at Nationals 12 or 13 times.

Shedeed, 55, used to compete in WPRA rodeos, and she and her husband, Bob, have competed in amateur rodeos in Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming.

Aside from NSPRA events, the couple plan to take in some USTRC competitions next season. Shedeed team ropes with her husband, who was the 2001 year-end NSPRA Reserve World Champion Calf Roper (50-60).

"I’ve always loved the horse aspect and was raised on a farm," said Shedeed, who has rodeoed for 30 years.

The couple, who have four boys (Stacy, Troy, Cory and a foster son, Dave Dunn) and one daughter (Danelle Newberry), are retired but own some rental properties and a hardware store.

Aside from rodeoing, Bob and Donna hold church services at the NSPRA rodeos they attend.

While providing the services is not a "salaried job" per se, Shedeed confided that there were some benefits to be gained. "The good Lord gives us benefits," she said.

For more information on the National Senior Pro Rodeo Association, write to the National Office at 1963 North First Street, Hamilton, MT 59840, call 406-375-1400, e-mail: [email protected], or visit the NSPRA web site at