This isn't farm city announcer's first rodeo; it's his 23rd

HERMISTON -- Randy Corley draws you into his world with a smooth voice that's touched with a hint of a Southern drawl.

His stories are engaging, his rodeo knowledge is vast and the more he talks, the more you want to listen.

As a rodeo announcer, that's his job.

Corley, 59, is announcing his 23rd Farm-City Pro Rodeo this week in Hermiston. He has called all the action at the FCPR from Day One, except for one year.

"They changed their dates that year, and I was already booked," he said. "They assured me it was just for that one year. Bob Tallman stepped in and did it that year."

But Corley has captivated the audience since, and he wouldn't have it any other way.

"As much as it's a great rodeo, it has a great committee," he said. "They are concerned with all aspects of it, and I appreciate that."

The feeling is mutual.

"Randy has grown up with this rodeo," said FCPR board member David Bothum. "He's been here since the first year. He is the best there is. He is as much a part of this as any of us."

Added board member Jon Gill: "He is the best guy out there. We want to be the best, and that means having Randy here."

Growing up in Lusk, Wyo., Corley dreamed of being a rough stock competitor, testing his skills on broncs and bulls, but he soon realized he would never make a living as a second-rate cowboy.

"I did high school and open rodeos around Wyoming," said Corley, who now lives in Silverdale. "I got along, but it was pitiful."

So, Corley turned his interest to announcing.

He began working in 1980 in North Platte, Neb., where his future father-in-law, Hadley Barrett, a four-time Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association announcer of the year and a member of the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame, heard him and encouraged him to apply for his PRCA card.

Corley's talked a blue streak from coast to coast and border to border ever since.

He started with gigs at small rodeos in such places as Hill City, Kan., and Springville, Calif. -- rodeos he still calls.

"When I first started, I needed those rodeos more than they needed me," said Corley, who has called the action in Hill City for 31 years. "Springville was the first California rodeo I ever did, back in 1982."

The FCPR used to have two announcers, and Corley recalled a year with legendary horse trainer Curt Pate.

"We were in it together, and I was the one on horseback," he said. "Curt Pate is one of the leading horse trainers in the world. How ironic it was that I was the one on the horse."

While Corley still does his share of small rodeos, he also has been the voice of some of the most prestigious, including the National Finals Rodeo.

"My first job at the NFR was tending bar in the VIP bar," he said. "I met a lot of people, people you need to know."

Corley has been named PRCA announcer of the year 10 times -- 1984, 1990-96, 1998 and 2003 -- more than anyone else. With each title came a custom saddle, one for each horse he doesn't own.

Though he was humbled by each honor, he has parted with a couple of his saddles, donating them for charity events.

Through the years, Corley said, one of the joys of his job has been watching cowboys and the sport of rodeo grow up together.

"I saw Ty Murray living out of the back of his car," he said of the seven-time World All-Around Champion. "It was fun to see Joe Beaver, Fred Whitfield and the Etbauers -- Rob, Dan and Billy -- compete during their careers. I'm glad I lived to see the Etbauers; they were something special.

"The sport has really evolved. A few cowboys have reached the $2 million (career) mark, and stock contracting firms have started breeding programs. It has become so intense, they trade out stallions and cross bloodlines. It has really made a difference over the years."

With more than 30 years on the road, Corley doesn't show any signs of slowing down.

"I've done more rodeos this year than I ever have," he said. "I said something about slowing down, but my wife (Michelle) said when people retire or semi-retire, they buy a fifth wheel or bus. We already have one. Her dad is 82 and still working. If he's still out there, so am I."