The best ranch cowboy in the country hails from right in the Flint Hills of Kansas.
Proof came when Wes Bailey of Cottonwood Falls was honored as “Top Hand” following the World Championship Ranch Rodeo last weekend at Amarillo, Texas.
Bailey was selected for the high honor out of more than 96 cowboys representing 24 teams from Colorado, Florida, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Wyoming.
As pleased as he was with the title, Bailey was quick to credit the other members of his second-place overall Arndt-Bailey Ranches team from Lyon and Chase counties.
“I was shocked to be named for the title, but anyone of my team members was just as qualified,” Bailey credited. “They are all top hands, and we work well as a team.
“We’ve competed together enough that we have a sense of where the other one’s going to be, and we each do our own duty,” Bailey calculated. “All members of our team compete in every event, while some teams alternate members they think will be do better in a certain event.
“In reality, there were a lot of excellent working ranch cowboy representing the teams at that rodeo,” Bailey admitted.
Additional members of the Arndt-Bailey Ranches team from Lyon and Chase counties
are Ryan Arndt, Emporia; Glen Collinge, Hamilton; and Josh Lilley, Manhattan.
Riding as alternates in case one of “the starters” can’t compete are Bailey’s wife, Richell, and Arndt’s dad, Mike.
Arndt-Bailey earned the right to compete at the world championship by collecting first place following the Kansas Championship Ranch Rodeo earlier this year in Medicine Lodge.
“It came right down to the last event, before the world champion team was named,” Bailey related.
Monroe Timberlake Ranch, Hereford, Texas, and the Rainbow Ranch, Deming, N.M., joined to win the championship title.
Third place went to the Driver Cattle Company of Garden City, Texas, and fourth place was the team of Wilson Cattle, Hereford, Texas, and T4 Cattle, Canyon, Texas.
En route to the runner-up title, the Arndt-Bailey team won the team penning and team branding events in the two-go-round, four-day rodeo competition.
Additionally, the team was second and 12th, respectively, in two go-rounds of wild cow milking, and placed tenth in the second go-round of stray gathering.
Other teams competing from Kansas were 2i Feeders, 4L & C Bar Cattle, Haden Ranch, Scribner Ranch& Haywire Cattle, and Stierwalt Ranch & Broken H Ranch, with divisions in Kansas and Oklahoma.
Each team won a Working Ranch Cowboys Association-sanctioned rodeo this year to qualify for the world competition.
As an all-around cowboy and a former circuit champion bronc rider in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, Bailey represented his team in the ranch bronc riding at the championship on former National Finals Rodeo qualifying horses from the Vold Rodeo Company.
“I had a good horse in the first go-round and marked 75 points, and my second horse was going good for about 6-and-a-half seconds, until I got bucked off right before the whistle,” Bailey admitted. “It always concerns me that I’m letting my team down, when so much of the total outcome depends on the bronc riding scores.”
However, Bailey’s “top hand” ability was obvious as he worked closely with his teammates in both go-rounds of each of the other four events.
“I didn’t miss any of the loops when I threw, and I always try to be right on the cattle, when they have to be mugged or handled,” he noted.
Riding his sorrel gelding called Eddie, Bailey credited his horse for “being in the right place at the right time, and doing his part right, too.”
“Looking back, I didn’t do anything different than I do on the ranch. I was just doing my job. Everybody on our team did their job,” Bailey evaluated his Amarillo performance.
Actually winning “Top Hand” titles isn’t anything new for Bailey as he was named “Top Hand” out of 20 teams at the 2012 All Around Ranch Rodeo Challenge in Glen Rose, Texas, where the Arndt-Bailey team was seventh this year after being first a year ago.
Additional handmade saddles were added to Bailey’s trophy collections following both of these ranch rodeos. At Amarillo, he also received an engraved-bit, embossed-silver-stirrups, a new hat and a year’s use of a new gooseneck trailer.
As event winners, each team member received trophy buckles as well as additional working-cowboy awards.
All members of the Arndt-Bailey team are ranch cowboys for their livelihood, and winning ranch rodeos is nothing new to them.
They have been the Kansas Ranch Rodeo Champions six of the past seven years and have competed at the world championship six years, too.
“We’ve been eighth, sixth, fifth, third last year, and second this year, so we’re shooting
for being world champions next year,” Top Hand Bailey forecasted.