“We just penned this group of cows to work. I’ll have to call you back tonight.”
Work always comes first for a working cowboy. That’s his job, his profession, and when you’re in charge of 1,100 momma cows, nothing comes before the heavy workload.
Nobody loves the life more and proven there’s none better at it than Connor Grokett who runs the JLB Ranch at Fall River.
Besting more than 100 cowboys on 23 teams at the World Championship Working Ranch Cowboys Association Rodeo, Grokett received the Top Hand Award.
He excelled in diverse competition working with cattle and horses like every day in his chosen profession, being a ranch cowboy.
Riding at Amarillo for the Robbins Ranch and Keith Cattle Company team, Grokett was most humble about his success.
“I just got lucky. There were a lot of really good hands there,” he evaluated. “Any of another 50 good cowboys could have been honored. I was blessed to be selected.”
Yet, the Top Hand gives ample credit where due. “I really have a great team. It requires the best teamwork at these rodeos,” Grokett said. “We all work very well together.”
Representing the Cottonwood Falls and Allen ranches, additional team members are Brian Keith, Justin Keith, Adrian Vogel, Pax Vogel and Clay Wilson.
Proof of team effort is Robbins-Keith successes in the two-go-round rodeo. “We were fortunate to win the average in the stray gathering, and we also won a round of the team penning,” Grokett said.
Competing for the third time at the world finals, the Robbins-Keith team placed fifth overall.
Yet, indisputably, a top cowboy must have a top horse. Connor Grokett certainly has that horse. “Ranger has a lot of cow. He always has a lot of try,” Grokett amply credited.
An eight-year-old red roan Quarter Horse, son of Sweet Little Pepto, Ranger has a proven record, too, collecting Top Horse Awards at previous ranch rodeos. “I got Ranger as a three-year-old. Fortunately, he just keeps getting better on the ranch and in the arena,” Grokett applauded.
Ranch rodeo teams often find it difficult to decide which cowboy will ride the broncs. There’s no debate for Robbins-Keith. Earning several earlier ranch rodeo Top Hand titles, too, Connor Grokett is the bronc rider.
“I didn’t place in either round of the ranch bronc riding,” he admitted. “But, my first horse bucked pretty well, and thankfully I was able to stay on to make the whistle and get a score.
“I also qualified on my second bronc, but he didn’t really buck like I’d hoped, to score higher for my team,” Grokett said.
Growing up in the Flint Hills, Grokett said, “When I came to Cottonwood Falls at age five, Randy Peterson taught me all about the cowboy life. We went everywhere together working with cattle and horses.
“Randy is a great mentor and friend,” Grokett recognized.
Doing day work for Flint Hills ranches, Grokett graduated from Chase County High School in 2010.
On the Pratt Community College Rodeo Team two years, Grokett was coached by world champion steer roper Rocky Patterson. “I competed in team roping, and did all right, won some here and there,” he noted.
After returning to the Flint Hills awhile, Grokett went to Osage County, Oklahoma, and worked as a cowboy for a few years. “That grass is like the native Bluestem around here, so we mostly ran yearlings,” he recalled.
As the JLB Ranch manager, Grokett has one assistant for the 400 fall calving and 700 spring calving cows. “We background, send some to the feedlot, keep replacements, usually dry winter 500 yearlings, and send the smaller ones to grass,” he explained.
Looking ahead to ranch rodeo competition, the Top Hand anticipates “hopefully some success, and lots of fun.
“What I like so much about ranch rodeos is that they’re family events. Good, clean fun competing with cowboys who have the same appreciation for horses, cattle and the cowboy way of life,” Grokett insisted.
Lonesome Pine Ranch of Cedar Point won third overall at the finals. The team was the world champion in 2015, and reserve world champion in both 2013 and 2014.
Paul Osgood of the Lonesome Pine team was named the runner-up Top Hand.
Additional Lonesome Pine riders are Bud, Frank, Makenzie and Troy Higgs along with Travis Duncan.
Broken H Ranch and Hebb Cattle Company of Bronson and Fall River won the team penning event.
Wilson Cattle and Haystack Cattle Company of Canyon, Texas, won the 2017 world championship. The team also won the wild cow milking event.
Colten Mayo won the ranch bronc riding leading the Burns Ranch to be the reserve champion team.
With first place in team branding, the Jolly Ranch and S&L Ranch placed fourth in team standings.