RANGE writer inducted into the Montana ProRodeo Hall of Fame

From John L. Moore’s Facebook post

Poet, RANGE magazine contributor, horseman and cowboy, John L. Moore, was celebrating his friend’s induction into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame when he got some good news of his own.~Ed

Indulge me.

I was pleased to open the August issue of Western Horseman and see that my old friend, Randy Witte, had been inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame. Randy was certainly the most pleasant of any editors I’ve worked with anywhere during his long tenure at Western Horseman.

And I was pleased with the ProRodeo Hall for recognizing the importance of journalists. It hasn’t always been that way. Rodeo, in general, has often had an unsophisticated relationship with the media. Journalists, it was assumed, knew nothing about cowboys, horses, or cattle, and secondly, were simply publicity agents to promote their event.

Newspapers weren’t much better. When I first sat down in a newsroom in 1970, rodeos were really considered a sport. They were a cultural event, and when city-born reporters tried to cover a rodeo, more often than not, they got things wrong.

When I began writing sports for the Great Falls Tribune in 1978 the editors gave me free rein to cover rodeo. All aspects of rodeo: Youth Rodeo Association, Northern Rodeo Association, Montana Rodeo Association, National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association, Montana PRCA Summer Circuit, and yes, Major League Team Rodeo.

Covering that last one got me in trouble with at least one bigwig at the PRCA. In essence, he told me: “Team Rodeo is an affront to cowboy tradition. Cowboys are individuals. And cowboys wearing advertising on their shirts is sacrilege. Rodeo is not NASCAR.” Then he closed with, “If you continue to cover Team Rodeo I will see you banned from all PRCA rodeos.”

The NIRA wasn’t ready for me, either. They, too, wanted a publicity agent, not an investigative journalist. When I encountered some wrongdoing in two Montana schools, a bigwig at the BIG school wrote to me: “You are banned from our campus.”

But, there were highlights, too. Some rodeo people were genuinely supportive of my work, and others treated me with personal respect. Among them: bull rider Dave Wagner, bullfighter Bob Romer, steer wrestler Roy Duvall, announcer Bruce Cornell, rough stock rider Jim Jacobsen, and stock contractor Don Jacobs. The Montana Summer Circuit even surprised me in 1979 with a special award for my coverage. I left the Tribune in ’79 to return to the family ranch but I continued to cover rodeo, in one facet or another, as a freelancer for another decade. The Tribune’s rodeo coverage dropped after I left, but the slack was picked up its rival, the Billings Gazette when they hired sportswriter Joe Kusek. Unfortunately, in some recent budget cuts, Kusek was one of two newsroom personnel cut.

I must admit I felt jaded when I finally quit covering rodeo. I whined only to my friend Wally Badgett who understood I was doing what I do best: complaining.

Then, just this morning, I received a letter in the mail from the Montana Pro Rodeo Hall and Wall of Fame saying I will be a 2021 inductee. “You are being honored,” the letter said, “and will be a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award as an individual that has left his mark on Montana rodeo and Western Heritage.”

Then, just this morning, I received a letter in the mail from the Montana Pro Rodeo Hall and Wall of Fame saying I will be a 2021 inductee. “You are being honored,” the letter said, “and will be a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award as an individual that has left his mark on Montana rodeo and Western Heritage.”

Thank you. Thank you very much. Me and Randy Witte being singled out; Randy nationally, me, state-wide. I’m honored. I’m happy for Randy. And I am pleased that rodeo, as a sport, is learning who journalists are. Not simply, what we can do for them. But who we are.

See John’s original Facebook post here