KILLDEER, N.D. – There was a time not so long ago that Randy Taylor would have arrived in western North Dakota carrying a gear bag loaded with a bareback riding rigging, chaps and tremendous talent.
You see, Taylor was a ProRodeo cowboy who made his living riding bucking horses. In 1985, he was the first cowboy out of the chutes at the National Finals Rodeo during its inaugural year in Las Vegas. It was his only NFR qualification, and it’s a memory he’ll never forget.
Now, though, he makes memories for others in rodeo as the announcer. He took his years of experience as a cowboy in ProRodeo and has since built himself a resume by calling the action at rodeos across the country and at motorsports competitions worldwide.
“On a whim, I had a broadcasting class, and I thoroughly enjoyed it,” said Taylor, now living in Menno, South Dakota. “I liked the old-time radio and listening to baseball games. Of course, I listened to the announcers when my dad was racing. When I was rodeoing, I would get my bareback rigging and ice my elbow, and whenever possible, I’d listen to the announcers.”
He will utilize his experiences during the Badlands Iron Cowboy Rodeo, set for 6 pm. Thursday, Sept. 2, and the Wild Rides Rodeo Killdeer, which takes place at 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 3. Both events are at the Killdeer Rodeo Grounds. But that’s just the start for Taylor, who will also announce the Wild Ride Rodeo Dickinson at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 18, at the Stark County Fairgrounds.
“It’s going to be great being at event up there,” he said. “That area has a tradition in its own. That North Dakota country invests much heart and money into their Western sports.”
The events in Killdeer and Dickinson are produced by Killdeer-based Fettig Pro Rodeo, and Alicia Fettig plans to sub-contract other major livestock firms to have their bucking athletes involved in North Dakota rodeo. She has enlisted the assistance of Macza Pro Rodeo and Pete Carr Pro Rodeo, firms that are well known for having top animals.
But Fettig has a pasture full of talented buckers, too.
“She really has a deep herd of horses,” Taylor said of Fettig, the company’s owner and first woman in North Dakota to own a PRCA membership. “She has good people who are going to be there. She handles things very well with her prowess of hiring people.”
He knows so much about the game that he understands the intricate details of each performance, each level of competition. That comes in handy. Of course, he’s been around the Western way of life since his youth in the tiny hamlet of Inola in northeastern Oklahoma. He went to a bull riding school over Christmas break of his freshman year of high school, and his life has been lined out since.
“That school was about all she wrote,” he said. “That’s what I wanted to do. I went to the college finals riding bareback horses and bulls for the University of Wyoming. They had a wrestling team, and I had college and Olympic aspirations.
“I went to college on a wrestling and rodeo scholarship, and my desire to rodeo took over.”
Taylor earned his PRCA card in 1978 and competed at a big rodeo in Denver as a sophomore in college. His greatest experience was qualifying for the NFR, the sport’s grand finale that features only the top 15 contestants in each event from the regular season.
It just added to the love affair he has with what he does. The son of a dirt-track racing legend, there are sights, sounds and smells that draw his attention to both motorsports and rodeos, which is why he loves announcing both.
“I have always loved the fairgrounds,” said Taylor, who is endorsed by Wrangler, Justin and 4 Bears Casino. “I like slack. I like the smell of popcorn before a performance, the excitement and, of course, the bareback riding. I have called the Indian National Finals Rodeo seven times. I’ve been all over the world with monster trucks. That was fun to go international with a motorsport.
“The PRCA rodeos are the best. You really appreciate what you see.”
Of course, the sport has changed greatly since his days as a competitor, and he likes what he sees.
“The bloodlines are so much different in the horses and the bulls, more pronounced,” he said, noting that there have always been great bucking animals in rodeo; there are just more of them because of the breeding practices of the livestock producers. “There’s better exposure, and The Cowboy Channel airing so many rodeos has helped with that.”
“The biggest thing is the money. These guys are setting themselves up with a future from what they make in rodeo, and that’s great for the sport.”
There will be big money up at both Killdeer and Dickinson in September, and that’s a good thing for the cowboys and cowgirls hoping to clinch a spot at the 2021 NFR.