2019 Champions, Elk City Rodeo

Bareback riding champion Tim O’Connell

For the second time, Tim O’Connell won the bareback riding at the Elk City Rodeo of Champions.

The Iowa native who now lives in Missouri was 88.5 points on the Beutler and Son horse Bad Influence, a horse that Tim says isn’t easy to ride.

Bad Influence “is as wild a bareback horse as I’ve ever seen,” he said. “He’s strong, he’s fast, and he does everything and anything he can do to get you off is back. When you think you have him licked, he’ll try to get you another way.”

He and the horse met up a second time, at the 2019 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. The horse “ragged on me at the Finals,” he said. Tim was 85 points on him, “but he was most of the points,” he said.

Even though O’Connell had a touch of the flu the during the Elk City rodeo, it was still a good weekend for him as he won the Ellensburg, Wash. rodeo the day after he competed in Elk City. 

As a kid, O’Connell’s first love was wrestling. When he was in second grade, he won the first wrestling tournament he went to, “and I was hooked. I loved it. I loved everything about wrestling.”

For college, he had more scholarships to wrestle than to rodeo, including some from some D1 schools. But he knew he’d never be a first line starter, so he rodeoed.

O’Connell is a graduate of Missouri Valley College in Marshall, Mo. and is a three-time world champion bareback rider.

First prize he won as a kid: “My first prize was a wrestling medal. Truthfully, I didn’t get on bareback horses till I was a senior in high school. I wanted to be a bull rider something fierce. I had no intentions of being a bareback rider, but I got on some at a Little Britches rodeo and won my first ever in the bareback riding.”
O’Connell won his first buckle at age eleven. “I still have that buckle. I wore that thing for a long time, till I won my first bull riding buckle.”
What is one thing people don’t know about being a bareback rider? How physically demanding it is. “I don’t think (fans understand) the severity and danger of our sport, and how insane it is.” O’Connell and some friends rolled a Ranger earlier in 2020. No one was injured, “but they were so sore. I was fine. I don’t think I even realized how much force goes through our body (in the bareback riding) and how we are used to going through a car wreck.”
Favorite food his wife and mom make: His wife, Sami, makes “really good meatball subs. The meatballs and sauce are from scratch, and she and I can prepare in fifteen minutes.”
His mom, Joann, makes panzerotti, a deep-fried pizza dough stuffed with sauce, mozzarella and pizza toppings. “She smothers it in red sauce. It’s really good.”
Influential people in his life: “My dad has been an influence in my life. My college coaches, Terry Coleman and Ken Mason have, too. I still work with my college coaches, to this day. Terry (the assistant rodeo coach at Iowa Central Community College) was the guy who believed that I could be a bareback rider. He was the first that said I was going to do big things in that event.”
Family: Wife, Sami, and two-year-old son, Hazen.


Steer Wrestling Champion Dru Melvin 

A win at the Elk City Rodeo of Champions was the shot in the arm that Dru Melvin needed.

The Hebron, Neb. man had a time of 3.8 seconds to win the steer wrestling at the 2019 rodeo.

He hadn’t won much all summer, and it had been the worst year of his fifteen-year pro rodeo career.

“I needed (the win),” he said. “It was one of the biggest checks I won all last year. I tell you what, it felt like a big old weight was lifted off my shoulders.”

He wasn’t riding his own horse, but the horse of fellow steer wrestler Jarek Van Patten. Zoom, an eight-year-old, is a horse Van Patten purchased from Chancy Larsen, and that Van Patten finished. “That horse has a lot of talent,” Melvin said. “He’s good in the box and gives a nice go. He has a big motor on him, too.”

Melvin had his own horse, but it wasn’t working for him. “Everybody else could win on my horse, but I couldn’t. The old sport of rodeo, it’ll dang sure humble you pretty quick. You’ll feel like you’re doing good, and all of a sudden you’re not.”

Melvin rodeos closer to home these days, due to a job, marriage and four kids. The two-time Wrangler NFR qualifier works as a a grain merchandiser at an area coop.

Being home more gives him time to spend with ids and get projects done. “Being able to see the kids every night is huge,” he said. “And we’ve been able to get some stuff done, too. We put up an arena four years ago and I’m finally getting the (timed event) boxes up.”

Melvin won the 2016 Elk City Rodeo as well.

Best part of rodeo, in his opinion: “That’s an easy one. The people. I’ve met some of my best friends on the road. Whether it’s committees or contestants or contractors, it’s awesome. You talk to anybody who’s quit rodeoing, and they don’t miss the road but they miss the camaraderie. Especially the bulldoggers. We’re a tight knit group.”
First prize he won as a kid: The sheep riding buckle at the 1986 rodeo in Sutherland, Neb. “My dad (the late Wayne Melvin) judged that rodeo on the Fourth of July for twenty or twenty-five years. It wasn’t a big buckle but I wore it like it was an NFR buckle. Now it’s in a box in the house.”
What is one thing people don’t know about being a steer wrestler? “It doesn’t hurt the steers. We train them. I also get the question, do the horns hurt (him)? Yeah, but they’re dull. I have plenty of scars on my stomach from horns going across.”
Favorite food his wife Brittany makes: “I don’t know how you can go wrong with steak, but at the same time, the best meal she makes, and we have it a lot, is my mom’s barbecue meatball recipe. We eat the heck out of that, with mashed potatoes and gravy. It gets requested pretty often.”
Influential people in his life: “My dad had a lot to do with why we (he and his siblings) are the way we are. He’s been gone fourteen years.” Wayne was sick the first year that Dru made the NFR, in 2006. He didn’t get to see his son compete at the NFR, but he did know that Dru had qualified. 
“Another guy that not a lot of people know who was influential was Dave Hebbert.”  (Hebbert was a steer wrestler who passed away in 2017).
“Shane and Missi Henderson did a lot for me when I was young and first starting, and when I got on the trail and got in (the truck ) with Sean Mulligan, he changed a lot of the things we did, and made it a business, where you could make money at it, but we still had fun. Sean was a big influence. He’s just an easy guy to look up to. I lived with him and his wife for quite a few years when we were rodeoing together. He’s an all-around great guy.”
Family: wife Brittany: son Jaxon, age six; twins Chase and Rainey, age four, and daughter Natalie, two.


Team Roping Champion Dylan Gordon (header) 

Dylan Gordon teamed up with Brady Norman to dominate the field of team ropers at the 2019 Elk City Rodeo.

The two had a time of 5.3 seconds to come out on top as champions.

The Ryan, Okla. cowboy was aboard a twelve-year-old red roan named Darrell. He traded a colt for the horse, which wasn’t supposed to be talented. “He was actually supposed to be a bronc. He wasn’t supposed to be anything good, but he got good.” So far, Darrell hasn’t bucked him off, “but I aint’ rode him in a while either,” Gordon joked.

The twenty-five year-old runs cattle and rodeos in Oklahoma and Texas. He won third place at the  2017 Elk City rodeo, heading for Hunter Koch.

Best part of rodeo, in his opinion: “You get to see everybody and hang out with everybody.”
First prize he won as a kid: “I can’t remember winning a buckle as a little kid but the first buckles I remember were for winning state in the team roping.” Gordon was the 2012 and 2013 Oklahoma State High School heading champion. 
What is one thing people don’t know about being a team roper? “It’s a lot more work than it looks like. It sure looks hard when you don’t do well, though. Or it seems hard.”   
Favorite food: “Probably steak. My dad grills it, with mashed potatoes and a salad on the side.”
Influential people in his life: “My dad (Andy Gordon.) I’ve always looked up to him. He didn’t rodeo, but when I wanted to, he was all about it. He made sure I had the horses and the steers. I didn’t go without very often.” His mom Krissie also supports her son. 


Team Roping Champion Brady Norman (heeler)

Brady Norman was the heeler who paired up with Dylan Gordon to win the 2019 Elk City Rodeo.

He and Gordon had a time of 5.3 seconds to win the rodeo.

Norman, a native of Springer, Okla., who now lives in Stephenville, Texas, was on an eight-year-old gray horse he purchased last year. The horse, named Wendell, is “really gentle, easygoing and laid back,” he said.

Last year was the first time he and Gordon had roped together. This year, Norman plans on rodeoing hard, where Gordon will stay closer to home, so they won’t be roping partners.   

Norman won third place in Elk City four years ago, heeling for Blake Hughes.

Best part of rodeo, in his opinion: “For me, personally, the competition. I love to compete. It’s also a tight knit group of guys. It’s a big family, really.It’s wince hwne you get to compete against people, but people are really there to help you and look out for you, too.
First prize he won as a kid: “The first one I remember is when I wo the USTRC Dummy Roping championship in Oklahoma City. I was five years old. They used to have the dummy roping in the main arena, and they would stop the roping and everybody would watch.”
What is one thing people don’t know about being a team roper? “The time, for sure. It’s not just the roping that goes into it. When you get to a highlevel thereare so manyother things. Youteam rope for fie seconds at the rodeo, but it’s all the other things that make the difference. One-tenth of a second makes a difference so you want your horse in the best shape. You horse has to jump in a trailer, ride for twelve hours, and compete at the rodeo. It’s really important to keep them feeling good and take are of them, and make it fun for them, because horses love their job.”
Favorite food his mom Kelly makes: “Grilled steaks, honestly. Steak and mashed potatoes, and gravy, too. She’s a cook.”
Influential people in his life: “I would say, first and foremost, definitely my parents (Buddy and Kelly Norman.). I know it’s cliché, but it’s very true for me. My parents took me to every roping I wanted to go to.”
Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame member Allen Bach. “When I was younger, I got to spend a lot of time with Allen Bach. My parents were friends with him, and I got to rope with him. I went to a few of his schools when I was really young, maybe ten or eleven years old, and I got a really good foundation from him.”

Saddle bronc riding champion Dean Wadsworth

Dean Wadsworth almost didn’t come to Elk City in 2019.

He was planting wheat for his winter cattle, and he wasn’t sure about the horse he’d drawn.

But he changed his mind. “Last minute I was like, heck, I’m entered, I might as well go.”

And he’s glad he did.

The Buffalo Gap, Texas man won the saddle bronc riding with a score of 80.5 points on the Beutler and Son horse Revolution.

He’s competed in Elk City every year since 2007, and qualified for the Texas Circuit Finals Rodeo eleven times.

Best part of rodeo, for him:  “The camaraderie with the other contestants and contractors. Getting to know everybody and the family aspect of it, and getting to see the country. I love to travel.”
First prize he won as a kid: A buckle for the all-around at a junior rodeo in Ozona, Texas, when he was six. “I’m pretty sure I did the barrel racing, pole bending and flags.” He wore it all the time “It was hard to get off of me till I was older and had won another one.” 
What is one thing people don’t know about saddle bronc riding? “I guess it would be that there are a whole lot of small details going on really fast. One little bauble and you can get yourself bucked off. Stub your toe and it can cost you a whole bunch of points real fast. There are little things that can cost you in the long run.”
 Favorite meal:  “It’s hard to top steak and potatoes, no matter who makes it.” Wadsworth prefers his steak medium rare, with “absolutely no sauce, but salt and pepper and garlic.” 
Influential people in his life:  “It would be both of my parents (Kenny and E.A. Wadsworth). My dad rode bulls back in the 70s and growing up, that’s what I wanted to be my whole life. They both have supported me quite a bit the whole time I’ve been chasing this dream.”
Family: parents Kenny and E.A. Wadsworth


Tie-down Roping Champion Lane Jeffrey

Lane Jeffrey had the fast time in the tie-down roping last year to win the 2019 Elk City Rodeo.

The Wilburton, Okla. cowboy roped his animal in 8.7 seconds to win the event and the gold buckle.

He was aboard his sixteen-year-old sorrel gelding, Tom, who is his primary mount. “He’s really good at the big outdoor rodeos like Elk City. Shoot, he did his job that night. He usually does.”

Best part of rodeo, in his opinion: “Getting to be around my friends and my buddies, and getting to see the country. Those are the best things about it.”   
First prize he won as a kid: A buckle for tie-down roping when he was sixteen years old, at an Oklahoma Youth Rodeo Association event in Durant, Okla.
What is one thing people don’t know about being a tie-down roper? “How much effort it takes to be good at it. You have to practice so much to be good at it. There are so many timing aspects of it and your horse has to be tuned up, too.” When he’s not rodeoing, Jeffrey figures he practices three to four days a week, for about three or four hours each time.  
Favorite meal:  “It’s pretty tough to beat steak and a baked potato. I like mine medium, with nothing on it. If you get a good steak, you don’t have to put anything on it.”
Influential people in his life:  His dad, Earl Jeffrey, who passed away three years ago and was a steer wrestler. “My dad rodeod when he was younger, and that’s probably what got me into it. We already had an arena at our place, and that made it easier.” Earl couldn’t rope, but he supported his son. “We always had calves and horses.” Lane thinks his dad won the steer wrestling at the Elk City rodeo years ago. “I’m not positive but I think he told me that.”
Family:  mother, Claudia Jeffrey.


Barrel racing champion Jeanne Anderson

Jeanne Anderson rode away from the Elk City rodeo as the winning barrel racer.

The White City, Kan. cowgirl rounded the barrels in 15.76 seconds to win the title.

She was aboard a nine-year-old mare, EZ Jazz N Jets, whose barn name is Berda. The sorrel, whose dam was a race horse, does great in outside pens. “She’s a great outside horse,” Anderson said. Anderson qualified for the 2019 Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo on Berda. The horse, whose temperament was a bit grouchy when she was younger, is named after the maid on Two and a Half Men.

Anderson loves the Elk City rodeo and has won three bangs of silver dollars, the money given out for the Winner’s Circle (by Western Sizzlin’) and the Hard Luck Award (given by Ivester, Ivester, and Ivester, Attorneys at Law.) They sit in her family room, still in their handkerchief containers.

Anderson has qualified for Wrangler National Finals Rodeo twice (2010-2011) and fifteen times for the Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo. She has competed at the RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo three times.

First prize she won as a kid: “I have plaques of me winning buckles and prizes when I was seven, but I know I won buckles before then.” Anderson’s parents were horse trainers and rodeo contestants, and Anderson was a National AQHA youth champion. “I won plaques for running barrels in the Northeast Kansas Quarter Horse Association.”
 What is one thing people don’t know about being a barrel racer? “How much work it is. If you want to be good, it’s a whole lot of work. This is all I do. I train horses, and ride about seven horses a day. It’s a wonder I don’t walk in circles.”  
 Favorite food she makes: “I’m a cooking son of a gun. I make homemade cinnamon rolls, and everybody goes crazy over the chicken enchiladas I make. There are times I come in from riding at night, and I’ll have my cookie dough made, and I’ll bake cookies.”
On the road, “I love to go to Texas Roadhouse or have Billy Sims BBQ ribs.”  
Influential people in her life: “I was lucky. My parents (Darroll and Phyllis Edwards), even though they were trainers, had me take jumping and dressage lessons from an old German man. I went to Martha Josey and Wanda Bush (clinics). They took me to everybody. I was lucky my parents sent me to everyone to learn from, even though they knew a lot.”
Anderson also learns from observation. “I have watched everybody over the years, because you can always learn something.”
Family: Husband, Rick; they have been married 41 years.  



Bull riding champion Cody Keathley

At his hometown rodeo, Cody Keathley showed his bull who was boss, and it was the Sweetwater, Okla. cowboy.

He scored 86 points on the Beutler and Son Rodeo bull High Bender to win the 2019 Elk City Rodeo.

It was the second time he and the bull had matched up. He had been on High Bender at the Pretty Prairie, Kan. rodeo, and the bull had gotten the best of him. In Pretty Prairie, he “jerked me down, dislocated my shoulder, and nothing felt good. Then I saw I drew him at my hometown rodeo and I was like, dang, that’s not the one I wanted.”

Nothing in Elk City had gone good for Keathley before last year. In 2018, he got a bull that was “big and stout and one that you don’t want to draw every time. I got in a bad bind, the bull stepped on me, and he ripped my chaps off.” When he saw he had High Bender for 2019, he thought, “I hope history doesn’t repeat itself.”

And it didn’t. Keathley had a strategy for his ride. “I went at him a little different. He wants to jerk you down over his head and blow your feet out. I put most of my focus in his outside shoulder and worked on looking out and not getting jerked down.”

The win came at the right time for him, too. Keathley was out of money and about to be done rodeoing.

“I was in a rut (before Elk City). I had rodeoed all summer and had only won one rodeo. I was having horrible luck and was down to my last dollar. I had $300 in my account and was going to pay (entry fees) for Elk City, Weatherford (Okla.) and an open rodeo in Thomas (Okla.).”

His luck changed. “I ended up winning Elk City, and the next day I won Weatherford, and got third place in Thomas.”

Winning in Elk City in front of family and friends was “really neat,” Keathley said. “Everybody was there,” his mom, Tammy Mertz, and sisters, including the sister, Lana Keathley, who raised him. “Basically we were best friends. She raised me. She was one of those people could tell anything and she didn’t care.” Lana passed away in January of 2020.

Best part of rodeo, in his opinion: “I think it’s the atmosphere, getting to be with all of your friends, laughing and having fun.”
First prize he won as a kid: A mutton busting buckle at the age of five. “I don’t remember the association, but it’s a really pretty buckle with emerald green rhinestones in it. I wore it up till I won the Camp of Champions Christian Rodeo Camp (in Sayre).” Cody won a memorial buckle at the camp.
What is one thing people don’t know about being a bull rider? “Some people look at it as a hobby. They don’t realize all the work that goes into it, the countless mornings of getting up and doing your two-mile run, getting on the drop barrel, getting on practice bulls, and watching old film. They don’t see all the time and effort put into it.”
 Favorite meal:  Eggs. “I like eggs. I’ll eat them any way, but I like them more (fried) over easy.” He also cooks. “I do make a pretty good jambalaya.”
Influential people in his life: “I think Everett Erickson was probably a huge (influence.) After my dad passed away when I was ten, I quit riding for a year or two. When I wanted to get back into it, (Everett) taught me a lot. I wouldn’t be anywhere in my career if it wasn’t for him.
“Clay Taylor has helped me out so much. He’s always given us good practice bulls to get on. He’s one of those types of guys that if you’re slacking, he’ll put you right back into gear.”