She has both arms, and this cowgirl’s not a bandit.
But, there’s no questioning the nationwide traveler’s inbred natural instinct with livestock and ability to cope with whatever conditions might arise.
It was minutes before a heavy Kansas Friday evening downpour cut lose. Amanda Payne and husband Josh Sellers, and their youngest daughter, Rowdy, were on the flatbed of their big bright red shining Ram dually with an eight-foot span longhorns mounted above the cab.
Attached was a long aluminum trailer, bearing heavy insignia identifying who the rig belonged to, with top covered by rubber matting semblance of what the floor inside might be.
Here’s the world-renowned The One Arm Bandit & Company rodeo entertainment troupe.
That is at least “one-third” of the unprecedented 12-time Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Specialty Act of the Year.
Arriving from a rodeo in Wisconsin, and leaving on Monday headed for Indiana, Amanda Payne, known by family and friends as Mandy, was in Junction City, Kansas. Her brother, Lynn Payne, with a similar rig was in Florida. Their dad, “THE One Arm Bandit,” with another “like” outfit, was in California.
All different, yet similar were their acts, which were to be performed within minutes of each other, depending on time zone.
The cowgirl of the entertaining threesome had to postpone her show to Saturday night, and then the show did go on despite muddy conditions that might have deterred any except “The Bandit’s Daughter.”
Engine could be heard roaring to the West as the arena gate swung open, and husband Josh Sellers, pulled the truck and trailer into the mud and slush with tires spinning, and rig “sun-fishing,” as it was turned around and manipulated into position facing the gate.
Instantly, Amanda ran in at full speed on her Paint horse, Tex with, a long bullwhip popping loudly in the evening’s calm, and jumped right up on top of the trailer, politely removing her big black felt hat in acknowledgment, to the crowd’s approving applause.
All eyes turned back west as gates clanged, and three undisputedly beautiful big sorrel and white wild mustangs from the Sioux Reservation of South Dakota thundered past the horseback rider and rig like there was no stopping.
Calmly, the mounted One Arm Bandit Prodigy voicing barely audience audible orders manipulated what initially appeared unmanageable renegade horseflesh onto the top of the trailer, and went right up there with them to a most emphatic rousing handclapping endorsement from spectators.
Repeat entertainment Sunday night brought equal and surpassing crowd appeal, as did shows of the cowgirl’s troupe in distant states. With similar routines, brother Lynn rounded up “wild” Longhorn-Watusi steers, and THE One Arm Bandit himself drove a herd of buffalo, both to tops of trailers nearly identical to Mandy’s.
Mules are sometimes part of the act as are Blackmouth Cur dogs.
“I’ll do about 15 rodeos, somewhere around 45 performances, a year, and Lynn has some more, but Dad does the most,” Mandy noted. “We generally trade out livestock after we’ve been on the road so long.”
Headquartered at Shidler, Oklahoma, where mom Judy often stays behind to keep operations intact, the Payne Ranch runs cows and calves on 25,000 acres grassland coterminous of the Osage Indian Reservation, home to the Osage Nation. They’re all most proud of their Native American heritage.
A book itself might be written about the Payne family, which would be impossible to detail at this point. But, Lynn’s name was chosen two years prior to his birth out of respect for his great-grandpa, V.L. Payne, and Captain David L. Payne, often considered “The Father of Oklahoma.”
The One Arm Bandit & Company is a repeated story necessary to reiterate. John S. Payne was born to a rancher in the oil rich town of Shidler on April 19, 1953. Ranch life with four brothers taught John to “Get out of the way or get run over.”
He decided, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going. If there is a will, there is a way.”
In 1973, while tearing down a house, John climbed an electric pole to cut wires thinking the electricity had been shut off. That was not the case, and 7,200 volts of electricity ran through his entire body for 10 seconds. It burned through the fingers of his right hand releasing his grip, and John fell 25 feet.
Most would have been dead, but John regained consciousness with mouth to mouth resuscitation, yet in very bad shape with almost unimaginable injury.
Doctors wanted to amputate John’s left leg, but he wouldn’t permit it. “I can’t ride a horse with one leg, and if I can’t ride a horse I don’t want to live,” John insisted. However, his right arm was taken off below the shoulder.
After five weeks, John walked out of the hospital and continued ranching, while specializing in gathering wild cattle in several states.
“My slogan was: ‘If you can turn ’em loose, I can catch ’em.’ My horsemanship ability and Blackmouth Cur dogs became the foundation of my rodeo career,” John contended.
When at a rodeo in 1987, John criticized the entertainment, and the stock contractor there challenged him to come up with “a better show.” John Payne did just that.
“My first show was in the same arena the next year. I put five Corriente steers on top of my trailer with the aid of my dogs. A few weeks later, I got asked to do a show for pay, and The One Arm Bandit & Company rodeo entertainment troupe began.
“The first year I entertained about 90 crowds and was nominated for the Specialty Act of the Year. I didn’t win it, but I did in 1989, and we have 11 times since then.
“My biggest joy is that Lynn and Mandy each hit the road with similar acts at the age of 18, which allows us now to take our show in three directions at the same time. They are truly my right hand,” contended John. “And, the shows will likely continue into future generations with our grandchildren; Amanda’s Rowdy, Patrick and Liza Jane, along with Lynn’s son, Gunner.
“We are truly a force to be reckoned with,” John Payne guaranteed.