The ProRodeo Hall of Fame just announced its 2011 class of inductees. I have to admit, I was surprised by the list, but all the men (and horse) are quite deserving. Here's who?s in: the late three-time World Champion cowboy Burel Mulkey (1930s bronc rider), two-time World Champion Bareback Rider Lan LaJeunesse, PRCA Chairman of the Board and longtime San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Keith Martin, the late three-time PRCA Bucking Horse of the Year War Paint, trick rider/roper J.W. Stoker and the Deadwood (S.D.) Days of ?76 rodeo.
Of course, I didn't know Mr. Mulkey, I've worked with Mr. Martin some, never got a chance to see War Paint, don't know Mr. Stoker and have never been to the Deadwood rodeo.
However, I do know Lan LaJeunesse. Fresh out of college, I came to work in the PRCA?s media department in 2000. He had just won the world title the previous year, so we used him quite a bit for promotions and recommended him for interviews to the press. Lan was always well-spoken and cooperative with the association and the media.
I remember of as being very sturdy. Built square and true?and his personality matched. He wasn?t a rodeo lifer. He did his deal, made his mark and went on to other things in his life.
I'll never forget the regular season of 2001, though. He and Kelly Wardell were traveling partners and battling it out for the No. 1 spot in the world standings. We worked a lot with both of them for promotions and photo shoots and interviews that year, and I truly cherish my friendship with both men. I still get to see Kelly as he has held an active role on the PRCAs board of directors.
If memory serves, Wardell beat him out that year and was No. 1 headed into the NFR, but Lan overtook him at the Finals to win his second gold buckle. Lan also denied Bobby Mote of his first world title that year.
After 2001, Lan basically retired?never to make the NFR again, and we didn't keep in touch. But about two years ago I was looking to buy a horse. The breeder, of all things, was from Logan, Utah, Lan?s hometown. Logan is a pretty small place, so I figured Lan would know the guy. I tracked down his number and called him up. We had a nice chat (Lan knew the breeder) and we ended up buying the horse.
Cody DeMoss once told me that, ?You never forget rodeo, but rodeo forgets you.? I think that's pretty true, but one thing I've noticed is that the friendships formed in the sport remain despite retirements, etc. And Lan, rodeo hasn?t forgotten you. Congratulations.