LAS VEGAS, Nev. - Bob Barnes, beloved stock contractor and rodeo producer who founded Barnes PRCA and MJM Rodeos based at the Rafter B Bar Ranch at Peterson and Cherokee, was one of the special VIPs honored last week at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.
The NFR celebrated its 50th Anniversary this year, and Barnes is one of only two stock contractors who has supplied stock for the NFR since its inception 50 years ago.
At a spry 79 years old, Barnes is the oldest stock contractor in the business and is in his 58th year of "Going down the road" producing high-quality PRCA rodeos. Barnes PRCA Rodeo is the nation's longest running professional rodeo company. He was honored as PRCA Stock Contractor of the Year in 1984, and inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1994.
Bob and his wife of 50 years, Donita, are the proud parents of children Marty, John, and Mitzi - who comprise the MJM Rodeos that started in 1984.
Incidentally, John is also the Livestock Superintendent for the NFR, spending more than two weeks in Las Vegas each December supervising the 800 head of NFR livestock from 56 stock contractors sequestered outside the Thomas & Mack Arena here. Included in that number are 100 bucking bulls, 200 bucking horses, 75 calves, 120 steers, 120 contestant horses, and 80 flag horses.
Barnes began in the rodeo business after he and his sister Marjorie began breaking horses in 1949 for neighbors in Cherokee County. In the early 1950s, a farmer in Yankton, S.D., provided Barnes with eight horses at $75 each to stage his first rodeo. Barnes' first rodeo was in 1950 on the LH Morrell farm one mile east of the radio tower on U.S. Highway 59 north of Cherokee.
Marty and John travel much of their eastern circuit for Barnes MJM Rodeos, while Bob and Donita visit places like Texas, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the Dakotas.
In his early years, Barnes competed in rodeos riding bareback broncs and bulls, before injuries knocked him out. He broke his leg "real bad" in 1955 on a bucking horse and doctors at first were going to cut the leg off, but they put pins in the leg bone and he's been going strong as a stock contractor and rodeo producer ever since.
He's had two hip replacements and a knee replacement, and four heart by-pass surgeries through the years and laughs that he can still click his heels at times if he can keep his cane out of the way.
Will he ever slow down?
"Slow down? No," said Barnes matter of factly. "They've got a couple funeral homes in Cherokee, and when I end up there, that's when I'll retire."
Because of the quality and unparalleled reputation of the rodeos and stock associated with the Barnes family, the high calber of contestants Barnes Rodeos attract, and the talents and efforts of the Cherokee Chamber of Commerce's PRCA Rodeo Committee, Cherokee annually hosts the popular Cherokee PRCA Rodeo every weekend after Memorial Day.
That Northwest Iowa Classic - the 43rd coming in 2009 - annually draws more than 10,000 fans from throughout the Midwest for its three-day run. And, despite their outstanding success on a national level and the number of quality rodeos the Barnes family produces year after year, the Cherokee PRCA Rodeo receives all the special touches the Barnes family can apply because it has been and will forever be, "home."
"The people here have always been wonderful to the Barnes family and we could never thank them enough for all they've done for us and with us," said the polite, humble Iowan with a priceless sense of humor.
"What is fun about rodeo is the folks you get to know."