Our search for a person who can inspire us to greater achievement in our chosen endeavors often ends close by or just down the road.
Meet such a person — B. J. Pierce. He won’t tell his age, but some quick calculations say he’s past the 70s. He doesn’t look it, and he surely doesn’t act it.
B.J. began a professional rodeo career in the 1940s. He was a roper, mostly tie-down calf roping. He won almost every major rodeo in the nation, competing in the International Professional Rodeo Association early, winning the calf roping title in 1952, ’53 and ’55.
“That championship was at Omaha,” he says. “I was presented a silver-mounted saddle. It was a big deal. I still ride that saddle.”
He says, “After that I went to the RCA (now PRCA, Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association).”
He and Pat Rawls were married in the ‘40s. “I rodeoed to get money for more education,” he says. “The first year I won enough money to pay our way through four years of college.” He ended up with a master’s degree in elementary education while Pat’s degree was in journalism. She wrote articles for western magazines.
There are many stories about rodeo cowboys in the 1950s who had airplanes and flew from one show to the next. That was the rough stock riders. A roper needed to haul his good horse, so flying wasn’t an option.
B.J. says his best rope horse was named Iodine, sired by high-powered stallion Billy Clegg. “I hauled him 18 years, and he knew me as well as I knew him. He knew exactly when I was gonna throw (the rope).) We might be traveling two or three months, but somehow he knew when we were nearly home, and he’d try to help us go faster.”
B.J. shares a bit of the “glamour” of rodeoing in the 1940s and 1950s. “Sometimes you’d drive all night. In those days everybody camped outside or in tents or whatever. We just had sleeping bags at first, and bathed in a stream — or a horse tank. No hot water. I built a camper for the back of our pickup, and we had a Coleman stove and an ice box. No air conditioning, so we parked in the shade.”
Patti passed away, and years later B.J. married Sue Pickle. She passed away about two years ago.
For many years after B.J. retired from rodeo he taught sixth grade in Clovis. His former students still come by and visit with him, a huge testament to his inspirational teaching philosophy.
He’s a longtime member of the Curry County Mounted Patrol, which sponsors the Clovis Pioneer Days Rodeo on June 3-5 this year.
Fellow Mounted Patrol member Carl Hahn is one of B.J.’s many fans. He says, “B.J. is a valuable asset to the group and to the community. He’s a mentor for the community’s kids. He loves kids — he’s just a big old kid himself.”
Speaking of his local community, B.J. says, “We cowboys need to always help the rodeo committees.”
Glenda Price has been a contributing editor to New Mexico Stockman magazine since 1982. Contact her at: email@example.com