Dell Hall couldn’t imagine doing much else.
The longtime stock contractor for Manhattan’s Kaw Valley Rodeo said it’s better than hauling hay and digging postholes for a living.
A stock contractor since 1961, Hall is pretty good at it too, hauling his world-class livestock around the country and reaching nearly 30 professional and college rodeos a year.
“The first rodeo I put on, I was still in college, 19 years old,” Hall said Friday before Kaw Valley’s second performance of the three-night rodeo at Wells Arena. “I made $600 at it. I thought, ‘well, there’s a better way at making it, but this was the easiest I had done it because I was riding bucking horses and bulls and steer wrestling at the time.
“Back in the early 1960s, $600 was a lot of money.”
Hall, who owns and operates Rafter H Rodeo Livestock Co., located on a 2,000-acre ranch outside Tahlequah, Okla., has been the stock contractor for Manhattan’s pro rodeo since 1976. He provides all the livestock for the event, including the bucking horses, bulls, steers and calves. It takes Hall and nine others to make this road show work, using between eight and 10 trailers to haul the livestock to and from rodeos across the country every week.
It’s also a family business for Hall — his wife Betty is a PRCA timer and daughter Shelly is the rodeo secretary.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” said Hall, who is also the stock contractor for Kansas State’s annual rodeo in February. “That’s how we do it and we’ve always done it.”
The rodeo business for Hall started as a cowboy himself, something he continued to do even after he realized there was money to be made as a stock contractor. He rode another 10 years after he put on his first rodeo, eventually calling it quits at 29.
“I was at this college rodeo back then and this boy kept jacking around with his rigging, he wasn’t getting his rigging set,” Hall said. The rigging is the leather handle and mount a cowboy hangs onto when riding bareback. “I said, scoot back and let me set this rigging for ya and he said, ‘old man, you know what you’re doing?’ I said ‘I’ve done this a time or two.’ I pulled his rigging set and said, ‘run your fist in there, nod, get out of there and get the money.’ He said, ‘you know what you’re doing?’
“I said, ‘well, I’ve been on about 1,500 head of these bucking horses.’ Boy, he dropped down in there and got wide-eyed and won the bareback riding on that horse that night.”
Hall has come a long way since his first contracted rodeo when he used practice horses and bulls on the college rodeo circuit.
“We breed all of our bucking horses — we keep about 30 mares and we have three bucking horse studs,” Hall said. “We keep all of our colts until they’re 4 or 5 year olds and then we buck them at these college rodeos.
“And with the bulls, breed them and raise them too.”
Rodeo is a big business, especially for Hall, who has been sponsored by Dodge Trucks and Wrangler for the better part of 30 years.
“The rodeo business is better than it’s ever been because of the sponsors,” Hall said. “I haven’t bought a pair of britches or shirts for 30 years. Wrangler always takes care of me. I get a Dodge truck every year, but you have to earn that. There are about 20 of us in the United States and Canada that have been in it long enough they let us represent their companies.”
And rightfully so. Hall has seen his fair share of success in the business, taking livestock to the season-ending PRCA championship in Las Vegas — the National Finals Rodeo — every year since 1975. Three times one of his bulls was named PRCA Bull of the Year, as well as a saddle bronc horse of the year. He currently has 11 active bulls with NFR credentials, including Alligator Chomp, who had no trouble bucking off Strong City, Okla., cowboy Sage Steele Kimzey on Friday night at CiCo Park. That bull has a near-90 percent buck off percentage this year. A bull is selected for the NFR by a vote of the Top 30 money-winners that year.
Nobody made the required 8 seconds to score atop Hall’s bulls through the first two nights of the Kaw Valley Rodeo — a clean sweep of 10 up and 10 in the dirt.
“They’re pretty bucky,” Hall said, as he grinned. “That’s what the cowboys want to ride because they know if they whistle up, they’re going to get a check.
“But you know, you raise that stock and then to watch it buck and perform, that’s a thrill.”
Hall admits today that he couldn’t still be doing this without his family and his committed staff, also noting that cowboys don’t retire, they just go until they can’t anymore.
“It’s better than hauling hay and digging postholes, so I just keep doing it,” he said.
Friday’s rodeo results
Jake Brown — from Hillsboro, Texas — scored an 82 on Friday night, taking the top spot after two performances in the bareback event. Matt Crumpler scored a 69.
In saddle bronc, it was just Ty Hamm (Fort Scott), who came away with a score, posting a 74 atop the horse Stuart Little.
Nobody recorded times in the steer wrestling event Friday.
Jerome Schneeberger (Ponca City, Okla.) scored the best time after two days in tie-down roping, finishing in 9.5 seconds.
J.D. McCuistion (Collinsville, Texas) recorded a time of 10.8 seconds, while Ben Madsen (Anadarko, Okla.) finished in 11.5 seconds. Jimmy Jumper (Midlothian, Texas) came in at 18.7 seconds and Clint Townsend (Senatobia, Miss.) at 20.9 seconds.
The duo of Parker Warner (Jay, Okla.) and Dustin Searcy (Mooreland, Okla.) had the best time in team roping, finishing in 8 seconds.
Brandon Vaske and Chase Boekhaus, both from Alva, Okla., were second on Friday at 8.6 seconds. Tyson Champidilli (Bluejacket, Okla.) and Richard Kreder (Heavner, Okla.) came in at 13 seconds. Brett Christensen (Alva, Okla.) and Derrick R. Jantzen (Ames, Okla.) posted a time of 15.4 seconds.
Gretchen Benbenek (Aubrey, Texas) scored the best time in barrel racing at 18.11 seconds, just edging Carley Richardson (Pampa, Texas), who finished in 18.27 seconds.
Sandy McElreath (Cimarrron) posted a time of 18.32 seconds, while Andrea Wolf (Decatur, Texas) made it around the barrels in 18.49 seconds.
For the second night in a row, nobody was able to post a score in the bull riding event, as all five cowboys failed to make it 8 seconds.