BELLVILLE, Texas – A little more than a decade ago, Maury Tate traded in his roping horse for a herd of bucking animals.
He had transitioned from the life of a competitive tie-down roper into stock contractor, and he has no interest in looking back. That’s a good thing for the sport and for the Austin County Fair and Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 12-Saturday, Oct. 14, at the Austin County Fairgrounds.
Tate’s Mo’ Betta Rodeo produces Bellville’s annual rodeo, and he does a pretty good job at it. It’s quite a bit different than when he traveled the rodeo circuit as a talented roper – among his credentials is claiming the National Circuit Finals Rodeo championship in 1991.
“Being a stock contractor is a way to be involved in the sport,” said Tate, who runs the outfit with his wife, Nikki. “It’s really about the only way to be involved. I love the sport of rodeo and the people in it.
“For me, the biggest thing is that I love the livestock. That is the most fun thing, taking new animals and getting them chute broke and getting them to handle and be around.”
This is just the next phase of exciting times for the Mo’ Betta brand. Tate introduced the name three decades ago when he developed the Mo’ Betta clothing line, which featured brightly patterned Western shirts eventually popularized by country artist Garth Brooks.
Now the Tates are well respected as stock contractors.
“Mo’ Betta raises some of the best horses and bulls in the industry,” said Chuck Swisher, who will fight bulls in Bellville with Dusty Tuckness. “Maury knows his way around livestock very well. They keep the atmosphere laid back, because they know the guys they hire are going to do their jobs.”
That’s an important aspect in rodeo production, and it’s a key factor in what makes the Austin County Fair and Rodeo such a successful event each year.
“It’s a great rodeo, and they pack the stands every night,” Tate said. “I think one of the reasons it’s so great is the town of Bellville. It’s the county fair, and the whole community is very supportive of their town, their county and the kids.
“All that fair is for its to raise money for kids, and everyone comes out to show their support for them.”
In a similar fashion, Mo’ Betta Rodeo caters to contestants. It comes from Tate’s experience on that side of the game, and he has kept that idea in the forefront of his mission as he prepares for each performance.
“As a contestant, I know what it’s like to drive all night to a rodeo, and when I get there I don’t have a chance to win,” he said, referring to the random draw that matches cowboy vs. livestock. “There were better cattle in the pen, and I didn’t draw one of them.
“So I want the contestants to have as fair a shot as they can no matter what animal they draw. I want to make it as even as possible for everyone. That’s what the sport is about.”
It’s a winning combination, and it’s a drawing card for some of the best in the game to make their way to Bellville. Because of other rodeos in the region – the All American ProRodeo Finale takes place in Waco, Texas, at the same time – it should open the door for many to make their way to Austin County.
“We’d definitely like to draw some of those contestants to Bellville if they can make it work in their schedules, because they have a chance to earn some good money,” Tate said, referring to the $4,000 the committee has put into the purse that is mixed with entry fees to make the overall payout.
“Before the schedule changed (to end Sept. 30), it used to be one of the last rodeos of the year. Now it’s one of the first rodeos of the new season (2018), and they can get off to a good start with a good showing in Bellville.”
Over the course of the year, Mo’ Betta livestock will be featured in 200 rodeo performances. For Tate, the focus will always be on making each night of each rodeo the best it can be.
“Maury wants to be successful not only for himself, but for everyone around him,” Tuckness said.
That’s the meaning of being a cowboy, and it’s a key reason why Mo’ Betta Rodeo and the Austin County Fair continue to find success.