When it comes to rodeo rough stock, it’s hard to go wrong with the broncs and bulls from Korkow Rodeos.
The Pierre, S.D., company has sent at least one bull or bronc to the National Finals Rodeo since its inception in 1959, and cowboys love to get on the back of one of its feisty charges.
Bareback rider Austin Foss of Terrebonne, Ore., drew Korkow’s Arabella on Wednesday night at the Farm-City Pro Rodeo in Hermiston. Foss won $10,300 on the horse in St. Paul, Ore., earlier this summer and was excited to see her again.
“Anybody would love to have her,” said Foss, who posted a 79-point ride, good enough for fourth on the night. “She’s a little tired. She’s been going as hard as I have, but she’s still one of the best.”
TJ Korkow and his family have brought their stock to the FCPR for years, though he has lost count of the exact number of trips.
“Holy cripes, I don’t know. We could be getting close to 10,” Korkow said. “We love it here. The committee is so good to the stock contractors and the cowboys. They really seem to reach out and make sure we have what we need.”
Korkow’s livestock is sharing the spotlight this week with Corey & Lange Rodeo Co., the Flying Diamond Rodeo Co., Calgary Stampede and Kesler Rodeo Co.
The more the merrier. In the long run, it helps keep your stock fresh.
“You turn events down in the year because you only take your good animals,” Korkow said. “They are only so good for so long, or you won’t have good animals anymore. You have to take care of them. They can’t go 45 times a year and be the caliber that they are looking for at Hermiston.
“When you are putting your horses and bulls together, you have to think: ‘I’m going up against Kesler and Mike Corey and Calgary Stampede. What horses in my herd are that good where they compare and the cowboys can win good money?’ ”
Though the livestock line the cowboys’ pockets with riches, sometimes their paycheck is worth more than the animal that provided the ride.
“They range from $3,000 to $150,000,” Korkow said. “There’s a pretty big price tag on some of them, but there are very few in the $150,000 range.”
And unlike the cowboys, who have medical insurance to cover injuries, Korkow said he does not have insurance on his livestock in case of career-ending injuries.
“There are outfits that do, but with the number I have, it just isn’t feasible,” he said.
Among Korkow’s pen horses and bulls that have made recent trips to the NFR are Inky (bareback, 2011-13), Vanilla Twist (saddle bronc, 2010-12), Swamp Donkey (bulls, 2007-09) and Bad Habit (bulls, 2011-13). Also going to Las Vegas last year for the NFR were horses Paint Chip, Fraid Knot, Wiggle Worm and Flaxy Lady.
Cowboys made a lot of money off Swamp Donkey during his time. He died this past winter at age 11.
“Growing up in South Dakota, where it’s cold and you grow up out in the elements, 7 or 8 is pretty old for a bucking bull,” Korkow said. “The miles he spent in the truck and the rodeos he went to, he was done last year. I loved him. He did it every time. All you had to do is keep your hand shut and your head down. You did that, you were winning some money.”
As the older stock is sent to pasture, the younger generation rises to the top.
“In the bareback, we have Arabella. In the bronc riding, we have Wiggle Worm — they won the first round of the NFR last year on her, and this summer she has been outstanding. We also have Rhubarb, Inky and Flashcard Champion. It’s a nice group of horses I brought in.”
The bulls are just as impressive. Bad Habit has made three trips to the NFR and hasn’t been ridden in four years.
Bad Habit was up Wednesday at the FCPR, but little-known Tyler Ray Taylor didn’t show up to ride him. He might not have wanted to try his luck, but fans wanted to see him try.
“Every weekend, the top dogs are drawing him, and they haven’t rode him yet,” Korkow said. “Then we have ?912 called Jackpot, who will light up the sky. With the purse here in Hermiston, there will be very few guys who ride a bull (for 8 seconds) who won’t get paid.”
Last year’s FCPR bull riding champion, Cody Campbell, pocketed $10,625.