Create Bridges: Small Business - Big Rural Impact

Episode 7: Going Pro Ain't No Bull Part 1

December 24, 2020 Create Bridges AR Season 1 Episode 7
Create Bridges: Small Business - Big Rural Impact
Episode 7: Going Pro Ain't No Bull Part 1
Show Notes Transcript

In this two part Episode to close out 2020, Principals of Generations Pro Rodeo, Inc., Cline Hall and Cody Whitten sit down with us to share their journey operating an Ag-Tourism Entertainment business in Ash Flat, putting on rodeos locally and nationally with the goal of going to the NFR as a stock contractor. This fun and candid conversation will give understanding on what it takes to put on a rodeo and how is relatable to any small business. Part two will be released on Dec. 31 to carry us to 2021. 

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Come join us, explore the impact of small business here in rural Arkansas.

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What challenges would you face? Who can help you meet those challenges? How do you get in touch with others like you?

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This is Create Bridges, Arkansas, and we invite you to come cross these bridges with us.

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Hi, everyone. My name is Hazelle Whited, program coordinator for the Ozark foothills.

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And I am so excited that you continue to support our podcast series. For this last interview of 2020

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I close the year with Cody Whitten and Cline Hall, Principles of Generations Pro Rodeo Inc.,

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and ag tourism business in Ash Flat. From what it took to get to where they are today,

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advice to other entrepreneurs from their own experience and just how much they love this community.

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Cody, Cline, and I managed to record over 60 Minutes for a 20 minute show, partly because Cody and I like to talk a lot, but the content is so good.

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So this last episode of 20/20 has been split over two parts appropriate releasing Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve.

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Welcome to Part one of going Pro Ain't No Bull. Thank you both for coming.

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Appreciate it. Thank you. So, Cline, let me start with you. I know that you're a second generation radio producer through Hall Rodeo.

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And if you would, tell me a little bit more about what this really means and why did you decide to get back into rodeo. It's just a family tradition.

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I was born and raised around bucking bulls. Loved bucking bulls my whole life.

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In 2009, we started up our company again, Hall Rodeo at Sharp County Fairgrounds

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by putting on a Wednesday night rodeo. And that's something...

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I don't know why it just happened for me. It just everything was pointing me in that direction.

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So then we started putting on rodeos and really enjoyed it. About 2019 I think, Cody, is when a Generations Pro Rodeo was incorporated.

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Is that correct.

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No, we pretty much started then. The idea came in I guess, more towards the winter of 18 and then started in 19 and kind of move forward.

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But let me find out more about you and how you actually got into actually partnering with Cline

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because I don't think you're actually, you know, from the area.

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Yeah, well, you know, I started out a city boy and like I grew up in Little Rock and my family kind of had a big farm down that way.

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And and we come in. I grew up there and as time went on, my parents got divorced and we moved up here.

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And I, we, actually my dad married somebody from Evening Shade.

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And when we did I went to school at Highland and after just a little bit,

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me and Amy, Cline's sister got married, got together, and then three years later, we got married.

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And that's kind of how me and Cline got to know each other. And as times went on, I started Team Roping and Steer Wrestling, and we we just, I help

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Cline pick up when he started his rodeo company and from then on it just kind of blossomed, I guess.

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And then after, I don't know, like in 2015 or so, I kind of handed it over to Tanner.

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He picks up for us now and I quit picking out and kind of went more to the business side of rodeo, you know, and that's kind of what led up to it.

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And then me and Cline got together and decided to do Generations Pro Rodeo. 

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And and that's where we went from there. And that tells me that even city people.

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So so I might still be able to go barrel racing. Is that what you are telling me? Yeah. Anybody is capable

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This is this is if you if you want to do it, try. This is just one of those kind of sports.

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You don't have to be a pro athlete. I don't have to be pro athlete? Because that's not in no longer in my repertoire.

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So I appreciate that Cody. From an agricultural standpoint as well as a show standpoint, you know, why is producing your own bulls and stock important?

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2000 we bought in the rodeo stock registry, American Bucking Bulls, Inc. We went and bought seven heifers from a sale there.

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That was 20 years ago. And they're all registered. We bought our breeding bull Wolf Cat.

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And we didn't even have a trailer to get him home with.

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And luckily, we found a guy that knew my dad because rodeo is a huge family and everybody - I can go away from this community or in this community.

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But we can always find somebody that we know or have been to our rodeo. Or been to Ash Flat. There was a guy there said, oh, I know right where you're at.

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I'll grab him and take to your house. I'm going to work that way this week. He just brought her calves home.

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So we started, Me and Cody with a sixteen foot trailer trying to pack in as many bulls as

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we could into other people's rodeos. I actually hauled Cline around before he could even drive. I couldn't drive.

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So Cody had the driver's license and I had the flanks and things that make the bulls ride.

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And we'd take my truck. I had a one ton Ford truck. It was it was adequate.

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But, you know, we sat on the side of the freeway in Little Rock one time we had blown

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an o-ring on the head. And we finally started running.

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You know, we adapted. We went and I called somebody and sent some random person to a dealer.

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And he went and got the parts for us to fix it. And we go to Stevenville that time?

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I think we went to Steveville, TX, that trip and went down there and our calf did pretty good.

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I mean, I don't remember exactly what he came in, but maybe in the 20s, in the high twenties competing against 100 head.

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So really it's a pretty good number. we were green. I mean, so green at that deal.

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So you take your calves and you compete. Those bulls buck against each other and compete.

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So we're raising these wild animals that we barely catch.

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Barely get in a little trailer and then 2009 came round we're like we can't just have these things around

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then we go to competitions. We're going to have to give them a job. We're going to go put on a rodeo.

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So that's kind of where we started putting on the rodeos. But and now fast forward 20 years later from there.

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Now we both have our own black Peterbilts, trailers and arenas and we got stock everywhere.

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But it's still like when you get to the big shows.

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It's like your kid's there. When you have an animal there that you raised, you seen him born, you raised it and you take it.

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It's still something that you created. And it was born right here in Ash Flat.

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And now it's competing on the big stage in bright lights.

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It's a lot of fun. You've got to me or like who you're talking to earlier.

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It's family. People don't realize the family bond in rodeo.

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There you can even at this level, you can go to Arlington, to Las Vegas and rodeo people

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will take care of rodeo people. You can even disagree with each other and not even like each other.

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If you broke down, they're still going to come help. You're just part of something.

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Yeah. I mean, it really speaks to the industry, what you do for each other.

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And really,

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I think businesses can glean an example that especially here in Sharp County and Fulton and Izard that we're never really competing with each other.

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We actually are trying to help each other. Right. I know. It's always, especially in rural Arkansas,

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you have to be able to work with each other and not look at that person as, oh, they're stealing revenue from my pocket.

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At the end of day, it's like you were actually going to be helping each other, because if you're drawing people in, they're spending money over there.

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And let's face it, like in restaurants, you don't want to eat the same thing all the time.

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So you want to go to another restaurant. But maybe you wouldn't have gone there if you didn't know about that other person first.

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So there's money to go around. You have to help each other out. Yeah. You got to live life like it's not an endgame.

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This ain't an endgame. This is a continue on game our whole lives.

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So gotta move forward. And everybody has to come together to keep this wheel turning.

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If somebody is going to stop it off somewhere, that's going to crash the whole system. Everybody wants to see each other do well,

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because rodeos, a lot like life, everything stacked against you.

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You got to help each other out all the time to be successful.

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So before we start talking about National, I wanted to talk about what actual rodeo producer does.

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And like, you're hired to go to other cities. Right.

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And you put on a show. I wanted people to understand exactly, you know, kind of what your business model.

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There's a there's a lot that goes into it. First of all, we start right there at the house.

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Me and Cody live on next to each other and kind of have combining farm there where my parents, where me and Amy were raised.

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And Cody has added on to it and I've added on to it. So we have to feed these animals and be like a coach.

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We're gonna pick which ones get to go and then.

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Yeah, and it's funny because I mean, little to people now we actually sit out there and watch them walk around and you wouldn't think that would matter.

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But, you know, is this bull hurting, is he sore?

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I mean, you can tell and this comes with life and other people that rodeo and people that handle cattle understand.

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But it's called cattle sense. You can tell how that bull feels

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by the way, he just handles himself. And you don't you don't want to take animal that's subpar or hurting or you know,

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you want to make sure that he is on top of his game because they love it. 

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However you like at it, they love it. It's not like everybody thinks we are mean to them, they love it.

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For example, if you take a bull and you leave him in the pen by himself. Right there from my house, you just have to see what I'm talking about.

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There's a pen, but you have to drive by that pen to go down the hill to leave. Well if we load up a load trailer and leave that one bull at home.

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We've seen this a lot of times. They run the fence like, hey, you forgot me.

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Wait, wait, you guys forgot me. And that's just it.

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It's a lot of fun. They're true athletes. Yeah, they love it, really.

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And if they don't feel like doing it, we have to know that somehow. You can tell it to you.

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I mean there's bulls that we don't we don't buck.

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We buy 'em and have them and then just decide that it's better to move on, do something different with them because they don't feel it.

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And, you know, we don't haul that bull to the rodeo.

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We just we sell them to somebody else and let them use him as a breed bull or whatever they may with him,

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you know, and but the ones the true blue are going to get you their bulls and horses.

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They know it. They are just completely different. Most of them are always gentle.

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You can pet most of the really good one's. So we've got our pet bull, Big John, that everybody can pet.

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So on a typical week, say there's a show Friday and Saturday we leave.

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We may leave Monday or Tuesday morning. And we haul all these animals to another town.

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We get Big John out. We go up to the arena. We have news anchors, newspapers, you know, people coming out doing the public relations work and

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G=getting advertising for that town. Things we've already done and say we're coming this weekend, here we are.

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But then there's a lot more that goes into depending on what our job is at that particular rodeo,

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setting up the bull arena, making sure the dirt is in, you know, Cody will make sure the dirt is right.

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And we have a lot of moving parts before the show ever happens.

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You know, I mean, know is the Arena Square is the bucking chute square.

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People don't realize the time we spend.

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And we'll spend a couple of hours sometimes straightening the arena because we want it to look a certain way and flow a certain way.

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And that's something people don't get about arenas, cattle pens or anything.

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If the flow is correct, everything goes faster and we base all of our shows on two hours.

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That's what we want, unless somebody that's actually paying us for a production

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tells us different, you know, because in two hours you can really get a good show in and make everybody happy.

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So after the after the stocks in town, after the arena is all set up and we've done our part of the advertising,

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what we're responsible for, then we have a production meeting. We'll say we have the big screen coming in.

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We have to get those guys set up and have to get their crew over. Our announcer.

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Funny man. All the people that work in the back pens. Lots of people that work at these big rodeos, a lot of them.

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I mean, it takes 30 to 50 people, put on rodeo.

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So you're having this production meeting and explaining the exact order of events, what we're going to do,

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who we're going to introduce in the rodeo and go through basically the whole rodeo.

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A lot of people don't even understand like before the rodeo starts, we can tell you what bucking chute your bull is gonna be.

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And when he performs. What number a year. You're the seventh guy to go one time.

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Exactly what you're gonna be out at nine forty two pm, the seventh guy out of shoot three because you have to plan how everything is going to go.

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And then you're also running a rodeo with live animals and live performance.

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And there's gonna be things that happen that you didn't plan for. So that's where we have to look at each other.

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You know, something's gone and we've been doing it long enough together that he looks at me and like some time we'll find some way to buy some time,

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you know, you'll get already, you know, if we get a bull that won't leave and he's taking of our time.

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You know, my I guess my job valore all the time is I'll fill gaps wherever wherever there is a gap in the production.

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I'm the one that handles that. Or if we have a problem, I'm the one that goes and deals with it.

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And I kind of stay in the shadows and people don't really even know I'm there doing stuff, you know?

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But I mean, you're doing your job. Yeah, well, that's probably what I'm good at.

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Yeah. I'm the guy that if you know, if there's somebody at the gate raising cane with a ticket person,

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I'm the one that goes out there, deals with that or, you know, or we've got a bull roped in it and we're in a bind.

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Somebody is really in a bind. I'm going to get in there and help them. I mean, not to bring up bad things.

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Cline fell off the fence one time at a rodeo knocked his shoulder out.

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I happened to jump down in there and let the bull around him so it didn't maul him. And he was rolling around like a shot deer on his face, you know, but we.

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But the rodeo. No one even knew it. I picked himup, carried him out the back gate.

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The show went on. Cline went to the ER. We finished the whole rodeo.

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No one even knew he was gone, you know. And it's because we all do our part so often and work: Dusty Carr, Tanner Hunt

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Scot Long, all them  Christ Burmaster, Chad a lot of people.

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They're all we're family.

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And they whoever needs to be picked up, they just pick right up where we go and move on, you know, and that's that's something it's important.

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Well, I mean, and that speaks to it being entertainment, right? I mean, the idea is, is no one knows what's going on behind the scenes.

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You know, you're there as a as an audience member. You just want to enjoy.

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Oh, I don't care what's going on. Like, you know, well, they don't need to know.

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The black curtain is there for a reason. Right. That's all you guys. And so.

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Yeah. So that's what we do know. And that's super exciting.

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And I appreciate you sharing that because I think like I said, even from setting up the arena,

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I don't think people realize it's the most times they're not static arenas like you are actually building, you know, a portable one.

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And so bringing that in and making it, you know, good angles for the audience and and just keeping everyone safe, of course.

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So that's something we do, you know, for events in multiple places, multiple states, multiple people.

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We actually lease out the arena and actually provide a full rodeo arena anywhere.

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Essentially, we can put it in your backyard, in a parking lot, anywhere you need. We've put it in backyards, parking lots, baseball fields.

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But you know, w work for hire. We do that. We do that on a daily basis.

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A lot of people don't realize what it takes to do that. But, I mean, we've got two big semis.

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We actually roll into town with arena on one trailer and we may have a one-ton two. 

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And we'll bring in like some of the events we do.

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We have a bucking bulls and we'll have like 22 bucking bulls on that trailer and you'll have the arena and we'll pull in there and actually set it up.

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We can actually set up an arena and be bucking bulls within probably three hours, something like that.

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And so and then after the show, when everybody goes home and enjoys themselves and happy,

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we're tearing down the arena and packing it back up to move to the next spot or to go home, hopefully home much of the time.

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So we enjoy being here. You know, when you get to doing that a lot, you want to go.

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You want to leave here and go rodeo as much you can and get out there. And then when you're out there, all you can think about getting back to Ash Flat.

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You do a lot of stuff here in Ash Flat, your traveling.

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So why the decision to go pro? I mean, and what does that really mean?

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Actually it means, going pro has always been the plan all along since day 1.

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It's something that we worked towards the whole time to buy into the PRCA Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association.

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And they don't just let you in. It's. Well, and that's what your dad was aiming for

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when he passed away. Right. He was headed to go pro.

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And that was his goal. And that's kind of something that we helped push over the edge.

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I mean, that's what he worked for. He was working for it. And so that's that turned into Cline's goal and my goal and

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We moved forward. And now me and you are just

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here at the national level, you can put on the biggest events, the world. It's like a club.

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We can't even, like if they were to call us and ask us to come put on their PRCA rodeo before would have to say sorry, we're not allowed to.

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We're not a PRCA contractor. So now that we're contractors, when they call, we can go.

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We can set it up. It opened a lot of doors for us. This past two weeks

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it's first time in Cody got a bunch of free stuff. It was nice Although all the Wrangler shirts you can carry. Wrangler gave us clothes.

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Pendleton helped this out in a lot of a lot of different things. Cinch provide us face masks, Covid masks.

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Yeah. And they mail us stuff, too, you know, they mail us rodeo equipment. Before,

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well, we had to buy all that stuff. Now we're getting it mailed to us.

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So it's a product too you know, I mean, they sell. PRCA does an exceptional job selling their product and selling themselves.

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And it's also something that you want to be part of. I mean, it is a very, very professional, clean rodeo.

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Like there's a whole list of stuff you can be fined for in and you're gonna do your job.

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And everybody at that job. Cline and I kind of talked about this before.

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You used to put on rodeos, if something went wrong or somebody did wrong.

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We had to handle it. Now, when we get the rodeo, the rodeo runs itself.

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We can almost we can almost just sit on the back of the bucking chute because

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the judge is professional or even the Cowboys are, you are so professional.

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They are not going to mouth you. They're gonna do what they're supposed to do. They get in and get out and handle their business.

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And that that's one of the biggest steps that helped us in kind of decision making.

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It's pro rodeo. You're a pro.

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And if you're going to handle something in a pro fashion and because you claim to be professional, you're going to be professional.

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We actually had several NFR qualifiers and several professional athletes come to Ash Flat the last two years.

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Now that we're putting on PRCA rodeos here. Will Lumis. He was in the NFR 

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He comes to the rodeo. You know, Tyler Waguespack come to the one in Hot Spring. 

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You know, Fallon Taylor was here this year at our rodeo we built here at Ash Flat, and she was a famous barrel racer.

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So a lot of kids in our area got to come out and meet professional athletes and see them.

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And it helps put Ash Flat on the map. We made this joke. You know, one time

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We're gonna get t-shirts made, you know, Generations and Hall Rodeo putting Ash Flat on the map.

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I love it when it's because, you know, you don't have to leave these local kids.

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They don't have to go to Las Vegas to see these people.

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When I meet Ashley, it's not a very big town. I mean, they're growing by leaps and bounds every day.

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You know, I'm I'm super stoked about that, Emerson. I'm super stoked about all this new business, Tractor Supply, because growth is what we need.

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If you don't get one up, you're going down. So that's the trick. You've got to keep moving forward.

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And so we can actually bring what you can get somewhere in a big town at a high price to Ash Flat at a smaller price.

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And then that's big for this this community. It gives accessibility to people who may not be able to journey beyond our region, at least not right now.

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And so I think having the ability to bring those people here, I think really is an asset to the things that you do as entertainers.

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I mean, that's the thing. And I just wanted to let the listeners also know that

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so when we talk about pro rodeo, it's not only the venue and the production itself, but also the athletes and also the animals.

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Right. So that's the big thing we're talking about is two weeks ago they were able to

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bring one of the bulls that was qualified to actually be ridden in  ationals.

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And his name is Matthew was actually picked, if I remember right, can't remember his name.

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But he was number nine. He was I think is the gentleman that was picked to ride

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on Matthew. That was the goal, right. Is to do that very thing that you guys were able to do. Get an animal to the NFR was the goal.

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And we succeeded in that goal this year. We we made it.

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We have another partner of ours, Chris Burmaster with that bull

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in there. He takes care of that bull everyday and he lives in Chris's barn and that bulls part of our crew.

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They won three rodeos on that bull this year, and that's how he got his name.

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And so the Cowboys wanted to get on that bull. So then after, you know,

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the hundreds of bulls we've raised and thousands of bulls have gone through and tens of thousands bulls right now in the U.S.,

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there's only one hundred selected every year for the national finals rodeo.

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And when they well, we've got all of our bull numbers turned in to the PRCA, all the contractors, everybody went through their herds.

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And you have to qualify with eight outs on the animal. He had to be ridden eight times

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on PRCA rodeos. There is 450 bulls on the list qualified that could have gone.

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So then it's up to the PRCA bull riding director and the bull riders. 

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We actually submitted four bulls and had four bulls on the list.

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Yeah. Yeah. Videos. No issues within it.

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There is something he said, the director. He basically calls around and checks everybody's story.

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And then after that, he calls round and checks all the contractors side of. And then he watches the video.

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And then if he sees something he doesn't like, that bull still gets pulled

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even though everybody else said he could. Yeah, he could be a really good bucking bull, but he doesn't stand in the chutes

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very good. Well, if you're trying to put on a performance and you only have X amount of minutes and seconds per animal,

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you can't give that animal any extra time. And so anything gets you knocked out of going to NFR.

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And we're just, out of the seventy five contractors that tried to take bulls this year, they only took 48. They only took 48 different contractors.

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For us to be one of them was a very big deal for us. For more information about this or any Create Bridges podcast or more about Create Bridges

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Arkansas, visit uaex.edu/createbridges.

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The Create Bridges Arkansas podcast is made possible by a Walmart Grant to the University of Arkansas System

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Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Community Professional and Economic Development Unit.

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And with the cooperation of Spring River Innovation Hub and White River Now productions.