‘Just for kicks’: Former bareback rider reflects on announcing career
Originally published in The Dickinson Press
It was somewhere in Kansas, during a rodeo circuit, that a near-retiree bareback rider watched from the sidelines as a judge when his true calling came. It was 1990, and Randy Taylor had been riding bucking horses since the late 1970s. He asked the rodeo coordinator for a microphone and a horse.
“I’m like, ‘Wow, here I go.’ I was horseback at a pro rodeo, my first announcing job scared to death,” Taylor said, joking, “It was more frightening than the bucking horses by far. Public speaking is one of the top five fears for many people and it took me probably seven years to get over that. I could act like I wasn’t scared, but it literally took me seven years til I would stand flat-footed. If you don’t get nervous about what you do and want to excel, then you might ought to look at something else to do.”
A native of Oklahoma, Taylor rode bucking horses for 16 years. In 1985, he was the first cowboy out of the chutes at the National Finals Rodeo during its inaugural year in its present host city of Las Vegas. It was his only NFR qualification, and a memory he’ll never forget.
Now instead of sliding down the chutes atop a 2,000-pound horse, Taylor uses his skills learned from an elective broadcasting class taken in college at the University of Wyoming to bring the crowds to a roar.
“Just for kicks, I took it. And I had a blast,” Taylor said. “All during my career as a rider, after you ride you go to the strip chute and get your bareback rigging — (or) your equipment — and you ice your elbow. When given the opportunity, I would sit and listen to the announcers. (I’d) dedicatedly listen to them.”
When it came to looking at life after competition, Taylor decided to pick up the microphone. But he also graduated the University of Wyoming with a bachelor’s degree in science and earned his chiropractic doctorate degree and a human anatomy degree from Parker University Campus in Dallas. Though he does not practice, he maintains his license.
“I did not realize that my announcing career would take off as it has. So life after rodeo, I was scared to death of digging fenceposts for a living or something,” he said, chuckling. “So I went back to school.”
On any given night, at rodeos spanning eight states, Taylor can be found consistently announcing rodeos. His announcing skills have taken him all over the world from the East and West coasts to overseas in places such as Moscow, Russia, and large cities in Poland as well as China — announcing rodeos and motor sporting events.
Compared to other sports that are limited to weather, rodeo is a sport that is “ever-ending,” Taylor said, adding that it’s a 12-month season. When summer rodeos in outdoor arenas are taken over by cold winds and drifts of snow, indoor buildings keep the sport alive.
“It is neat that you couldn’t really functionally have a NFL game or NBA basketball game, but you can have a rodeo in a small town like Dickinson and bring the best in the world of the sport — the major leagues… Rodeo offers that,” he noted.
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.
For Taylor, announcing is a way to keep his passion for rodeo alive.
“My career is advancing and I’m having a ball, and it’s working for me and I love it. I like the bucking horses most of all. Last night, I was standing 10 feet away from a horse, jumping as high as it could and kicking as hard as it could. And the cowboy was half off with this horse and it was just a beautiful spectacle in the spirit of competition between a man and an animal, and I’m right there with it,” Taylor remarked.
Authenticity and having participated in rodeo for almost two decades, Taylor noted that’s what keeps him fresh on the job. But it’s also vital in knowing each event intricately with both the animals and athletes, he added.
“Luck is typically a matter of preparation. Taking the steps to be knowledgeable and to be continuously entertaining and creative, a fresh mind is probably primary in my business because if you’re worn out, you’re not having as much fun and (you’re not) creative. You really have to take care of yourself on the road,” Taylor noted, adding that he maintains his fitness regimen by swimming on his down time.
Being knowledgeable on the location of the event and incorporating a different style to each event is how announcers differ from one another, he said.
“There are several genres and I think different announcers provide a variety and you try to fit the event and crowd. It’s different at an indoor bull riding (event) with a big crowd than it is say, a county fair in Wibaux, Mont. And you can have as much fun either way, but it’s different. People in North Dakota are rodeo savvy; they know a good ride and to embellish on a poor ride is wrong where(as) you can continue to hype a non-rodeo traditional place,” he said.
When not manning the microphone, Taylor resides with his family in Menno, S.D. But on the road, he has the pleasure of working alongside his wife Carmen, who is the music director for the rodeos.
Returning to the Western Edge, Taylor announced rodeos Sept. 2-3 in Killdeer, produced by Fettig Pro Rodeo. He will liven the audience in Dickinson at 2:30 p.m., Sept. 18, at the Stark County Fairgrounds with Fettig Pro Rodeo’s Wild Ride Rodeo Dickinson.
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