Rodeoing at age 53, Retherford wins second
Rod Retherford is 53 years old and hasn't been on a bucking horse in 20 years, but that didn't stop him from entering the NPRA rodeo in Grant County and riding off with a prize.
Culver resident Retherford, who turns 54 in November, competed in college on the Treasure Valley Community College rodeo team, and rodeoed as an adult in steer wrestling until age 44, before retiring from the sport.
"I'd been saying I'd ride on the Senior Rodeo Circuit for three years, but never did because the rodeos are all held so far away that the $400-$500 for first place wouldn't pay for your gas," he said, noting the events are held in Arizona, Montana, Wyoming and Canada.
The senior circuit is for cowboys age 40 and over, and Retherford would compete in the 50 and over category if he entered.
Not wanting to travel so far, Retherford said, "I decided to ride against the young guys in the NPRA (National Pro Rodeo Association). I had watched the Madras and Redmond (fair) rodeos and thought I could beat those guys."
After the Redmond rodeo, he obtained an NPRA membership card so he could enter the next rodeo.
"It happened to be in John Day, my hometown, which was the fun part of it," he said, noting his parents live there and he still knows a lot of townspeople.
However, Retherford had been busy setting up a saddlemaking business in Redmond, and hadn't worked out for 1 1/2 years. "I was in the worst shape I've ever been in my life. I'm 200 pounds, and I used to ride at 175 pounds," he admitted.
Aug. 26, when the bareback riding event started, he got into trouble on a horse named "Ponka Pride." The horse crashed Retherford into the chute on the way out, which was considered a foul.
"I pulled all the muscles in my back and couldn't even stand up straight when I got off," he said.
Because of the foul, the judge offered him a reride, which he was about to refuse, when another cowboy taunted him.
"A guy on the bucking chute hollared, `Ty Murray would of took that reride, you daisy,'" Retherford said.
Looking up, Retherford replied, "Well, I ain't no daisy; run the horse in."
In his younger days, he had ridden with cracked bones and pulled muscles, but this time he couldn't even climb onto the bucking chute and had to have two men help him up.
He said getting on that second horse was the hardest thing he'd ever done in his life, but he reasoned, "Hell, it's only eight seconds."
His next ride was a bronc named "Sweet Annie," which he managed to stay on, even though he was in excruciating pain.
When it was over, he remembers being totally exhausted and on his knees in the ring and hearing the announcer say, "Rod, you're 53, and haven't been on a bucking horse in 20 years, and you just won second place at an NPRA rodeo!"
After the event, he spent two days in bed recuperating at his parents' house before he could drive home. "When you're 54 and you beat them young guys, it makes the pain a little more tolerable," he observed.
He emailed his rodeo photos to his old football coach at Washington State University, who wrote back, "Isn't there an easier way to make $500?"
But it wasn't the money. "It's about competing, challenging myself again. Making life a little more fun," Retherford said.
"I'm proud of myself to be able to cowboy-up and get on that second one. It proved to me I've still got the heart to do this anyway," he added.
Able to walk upright now, but still healing, Retherford has set his sights on competing in the regular NPRA Rodeo circuit, which starts in March. That gives him five months to train, drop 25 pounds and get in tip-top physical shape.
Eager to get started, Retherford said, "I'm like a kid at Christmas. I'm cravin' bucking horses like I did when I was a teenager."