“Cowboys have to have success to feel confidence. Success breeds confidence.”
“That’s true of anything and especially in rodeos and bull riding, but it’s also most essential to build the younger generation of cowboys.”
It’s those philosophies coupled with an inbred, lifelong cowboy adrenalin that keeps Charlie McDonald at a near dead run pace week after week, year after year.
“The rodeo business and bucking bulls have long been my love, and it continues to get stronger and stronger. My intention is to do my part to spread that feeling to others from the ground level up,” contended McDonald from his McDonald Rodeo Company Ranch near Ava, Missouri.
“I just got home from an evening function at school where we had a bull drop barrel set up, and I’ve been rocking it all evening. There must have been 300 kids got on that barrel. It’s those kinds of events that help keep our sport alive and growing,” added McDonald, a math teacher by day, a family man and rodeo bull breeder by weekday night, and a bull riding contractor-producer, weekends.
“As soon as I get out of class on Friday, I head to Wichita, it’s 300 miles, where I have a jackpot and sanctioned bull riding every Friday and Saturday night,” said McDonald, who produces 130 performances in the Midwest annually.
“It’s been so successful for so many years, now we’ll be producing a live bull riding series at Corey’s Country Corral in Junction City, kicking off this weekend,” he added.
No slowdown in conversation as McDonald relives his life as a cowboy and the sport of bull riding and rodeo life. “I started riding bulls when I was in high school in Bonham, Texas. My football coach always had bulls, and I got on my first bull at his place, and have been going ever since. He still has bulls, helped me get started and we talk all the time,” McDonald related.
Attending Tarleton University at Stephenville, Texas, McDonald competed in rodeos as a livelihood for several years. “It was a moderate living, but that’s all I did and got started contracting and producing rodeos,” he continued.
The business continued to expand with McDonald Rodeo Company contracting livestock for his rodeos and bull riding jackpots as well as providing livestock for other producers.
“I love bucking horses, too, and had a top string of horses in addition to the bulls, but dispersed them a couple of years ago. I can lease bucking horses just like I do roping and bulldogging cattle if I need them,” McDonald related.
As his family grew, McDonald continued his education. “I have my masters and specialists degrees and will have my doctorate in two years. I’ve been teaching five years and will be tenured this fall,” he said. “If I can get an advanced degree, anybody can. You just have to believe; it’s like riding bulls, just different.”
McDonald and his wife, Shanna, have seven children ranging in age from a three-year-old to a daughter who’s 19. “This all wouldn’t be possible without my wife and family. They keep everything going,” he credited.
Questioned on the number of bulls in his string, McDonald emphatically clarified, “I have no idea, and I’m not talking about that around my wife. There’s always too many to feed, and sometimes not enough when we have several events contracted and other producers are leasing our stock.”
Everything for every caliber of cowboy is included in the bucking pen. “We have calves, steers, junior bulls and bulls for the beginner up the Professional Bull Riders Finals (PBR),” guaranteed McDonald, who has several bulls annually qualified for the Southern Extreme Bull Riders (SEBRA) Nationals as well as additional prestigious yearend competitions.
“Many of the top riders at PBR events have ridden at our jackpots and still do when they’re in the area.”
With a herd of Longhorn cross cows, McDonald raises a number of his own bulls sired by top buckers in his company. “I get my bulls from a lot of different sources. The important thing is that they buck,” he insisted.
Some bulls bucked at Wichita are kept at a former feedlot near Towanda. One of the top bulls in the herd is 7R Rango. “He’s been un-ridden at the SEBRA Finals, but he is ride able and they’ll mark an 85 or higher,” McDonald related. “Another top bull is Tiffy’s Wink. He’s wild, but ride able, for a win.
While bull riding jackpots at clubs are still somewhat unique, the method in which McDonald handles his contestants speaks to his sincere desire to enhance the sport.
“There are always top bull riders in our sanctioned competitions with a fair draw from the top end of our bulls. Professional cowboys stop every week to ride and pick up extra cash. We have top judges, bullfighters, and a really top show.
“But, the exhibition division is what helps build interest in bull riding. Those who’ve never been on a bull, the wannabes who only dreamed about it, can ride at our events. I pick the bulls they ride, and they can still win money and a buckle. They become heroes of the night and will keep coming back to ride again.
“However, when they start getting the ‘big head,’ and thinking they’re really something, the draw can change and they find out the bulls are tougher. They’ll get bucked off, hard, too,” McDonald explained.
Following in their dad’s boot steps, McDonald’s sons, Kelly, 14, and Quincey, 13, are already successful in bull riding competitions, collecting several Missouri titles. “They really like the sport and are great help, too,” McDonald credited.
Concerning the upcoming bull riding series at Corey’s Country Corral in Junction City, McDonald explained, “We’ll have professional, well-choreographed, fast-paced events and draw the best bull riders in the Midwest, as well as the local riders who want to become top riders. We hope to even eventually have a junior bull riding during the afternoon.”
Kickoff events, starting at 8 p.m., are May 17 and 18, with follow-up bull ridings June 14-15, and July 19-20, with a three day finals on August 8-9-10.
“An added attraction for each bull riding will be a bounty bull with extra added cash if the rider makes a qualified ride,” McDonald said.
Unending enthusiasm and optimism for bull riding, McDonald reiterated, “We’re doing everything we can to build success in the sport, confidence in the contestants and increasing the spectators, starting with youth.”