Perhaps Red Steagall, cowboy culture legend and master of ceremonies at the 2006 ProRodeo Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, described the ProRodeo Hall of Fame and its enshrined best as, “A magnificent monument to the spirit and achievement of the people of rodeo,” as he introduced the inductees.
Headlining the timed-event inductees was Chris Lybbert of Forestburg, Texas, the 1982 all-around champion, 1986 tie-down roping champion, two-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo tie-down roping average champion (1980-81), 1982 steer wrestling average champion and eight-time Wrangler NFR tie-down roping qualifier and five-time steer wrestling qualifier.
“It surprised me, the impact and the real significance of what it means when I got up here,” he said.
He thanked his family for their tremendous support and joked that his wife, Kaki, could be a cameraman for Spielberg with as much time as she spent videotaping his runs.
Jack Roddy, Tom Ferguson and Charlie Maggini-all of whom are enshrined in the ProRodeo Hall of Fame-he credited as his major influences.
“The perfectionist that Tom Ferguson is-he would not accept anything less than that from himself or someone he was teaching-is what made me accomplish what I did,” Lybbert said. “I went to the National Finals two times before he ever told me I made a nice run.”
Of all the years he competed in his prime, though, 1985-the year he missed making the NFR in either of his events-stood out to him most.
“In 1985 I didn’t make the National Finals in either event,” he said. “That really bothered me and made me try a lot harder in the roping. That next year, I won the calf roping. It’s one thing that really stands out in my career.
“My winning percentage in 1982 was very high. I placed at a lot of rodeos. It was probably my best year in two events. It was probably my signature year.”
Razor Jim Sharp won titles at every level of competition, he was rookie of the year in 1986, won two world titles and three Wrangler NFR average crowns, but his most significant achievement will remain becoming the first person to ever ride all 10 bulls at the Wrangler NFR, which he did in 1988.
“I was there with him the year he rode all 10 bulls at the Finals,” his friend and rodeo legend Ty Murray said. “There were 20,000 fans that were nervous and he was the only one that wasn’t.”
Sharp nearly repeated the feat the next year. However, he fell victim to Mr. T in the 10th round-a memory that’s more vivid in his mind than covering the 10th one the year before. All totaled, Sharp rode 23 consecutive bulls over a three-year period at the NFR.
“I remember riding my 10th bull at the 1988 Finals, but the next year I rode my first nine and bucked off that last one, Mr. T,” Sharp recalled. “I don’t think I’ll ever forget that bull. I would have done it twice in a row and that might have been hard to beat. But it’s history now, I didn’t ride him. I don’t think you could have tied me on that bull.”
His coolness under pressure and controlled riding style were his trademarks. Many said he made bull riding look easy-so easy that perhaps he’s not as readily remembered among the greats as he should be.
Murray, however, isn’t one to forget the impact his friend had on the sport.
“I can’t take anything away from any of the other great bull riders,” he said. “What Donnie Gay did speaks for itself, but the guy I’ve always looked up to and tried to emulate the most and learn from was Jim Sharp. Beyond the great talent he had for riding bulls, the way he handled the pressure, I thought he could do that better than anybody I’d ever seen. He’s the only guy that I’ve seen that I can say he truly never let pressure affect him. That’s what made him so great.”
For Sharp, it was much more simple.”I loved to ride bulls and I just went and did it. I was happy doing it. If I won, I was happy, and if I didn’t, that was fine, too. I was getting to do what I loved. The pressure didn’t bother me too much. When I got up there on that stage today (to give my acceptance speech) I got more nervous than I ever did riding a bull.”
John & Mildred Farris
After years of serving behind the scenes at rodeos across the country and, most notably at the Wrangler NFR, John and Mildred Farris were finally front and center to accept their induction into the Hall. The Farrises became the first married couple to be inducted simultaneously after 51 years of marriage.
For those who have studied the photographs taken at the Wrangler NFR, you’ll recognize John Farris. He’s probably the one person who’s been to the NFR the most (39 years running) and seen the least action.As timed-event chute boss, he’s the one you see in the background stooping down to reset the barrier after every run.
John has staked the barrel racing pattern at the Wrangler NFR since 1967, worked as the NFR saddle horse boss for two years, served as the assistant rough stock event chute boss one year and as the timed-event chute boss for 17 years.
Mildred is a five-time Wrangler NFR secretary, a five-time Wrangler NFR assistant secretary and a 15-time Wrangler NFR timer. She has been named PRCA Secretary of the Year eight times and served on the PRCA Contract Personnel Executive Council from 1988-2002.
She also qualified for the NFR 12 times as a barrel racer and served as the GRA/WPRA director, vice-president and president from 1965-71.
Year-round, the duo plies their trade at rodeos across the country. Mildred thanked family, friends and members of the rodeo world, and chronicled the changes she’s seen the sport make-from the first NFR, to the circuit system to the Wrangler ProRodeo Tours. John, on the other hand, had only one person in particular to thank.
“I’d like to thank Stace Smith,” Farris said of the stock contractor. “We’re supposed to be working a rodeo for him for this week, but we had to turn out.”
Bob A. Robinson
In the steer wrestling category, Bob A. Robinson was inducted, but his influence on the sport of rodeo far exceeded what he accomplished in the arena. While he did qualify to the first two Wrangler NFRs (1959 and 1960) in both steer wrestling and saddle bronc riding and won the steer wrestling title in 1960, his real impact may have come on the sidelines of the arena.
Robinson was one of the first pro officials for the sport and later he became the PRCA’s director of rodeo administration and was instrumental in moving the Wrangler NFR from Oklahoma City to Las Vegas and helped establish the Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo.
“Rodeo’s been good to me and my family,” he said. “It’s provided a way of life that’s been special. This induction is a great honor and will be one of my fondest memories forever.”