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Being the judge

Former contestants are now judges at Buffalo Bill Rodeo

By Ruth Nicolaus for the Buffalo Bill Rodeo

NORTH PLATTE, Neb. — The men who are behind the scenes at the Buffalo Bill Rodeo in North Platte, Neb., next month have been on the scenes in the past.

PRCA judges Skip Emmett and Clayton Macom used to ride and compete in North Platte. Now they will serve as judges for the competition.

Emmett, of Ponca, Ark., and Macom, Stigler, Okla., have been on both sides of the “arena,” in North Platte, so to speak.



Emmett rode bareback horses, steer wrestled and team roped before he retired from competition.

He won the College National Finals Rodeo in 1975, having become a PRCA member in 1970 and quitting the bareback riding in 1986 but adding steer wrestling and team roping.



In the 1970s, cowboys who were injured had to serve as a rodeo judge, so Emmett took his turn at that. A school teacher, he taught ag then became a principal for 10 years.

In 2005, he began judging rodeos, juggling his teaching job and traveling on weekends and in the summers. In 2011, he retired and the next year was on the road for 100 performances, judging, including being selected to work the National Finals Rodeo, pro rodeo’s championship event, in 2014 and 2017.

He went back to teaching for three years, but retired a second time this spring, and now works as one of the PRCA’s official judges.

Macom’s career started much like Emmett’s. He competed in the bareback riding and bull riding, qualifying for the Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo several times. After retiring from competition in 1999, he began as a PRCA judge in 2005. He began judging to stay involved in the sport.

Former bull rider Clayton Macom now judges rodeos. The Oklahoma man competed at the Buffalo Bill Rodeo and now will judge the rodeo, June 15-18. Courtesy photo

Macom competed at the Buffalo Bill Rodeo three times, winning second one year. When he’s not on the rodeo trail, he ranches and does leatherwork.

ENJOYABLE EXPERIENCE

Both men have judged the rodeo more than once, and they enjoy it.

“There’s tons of tradition at that rodeo,” Emmett said. “That rodeo draws good crowds and the fans enjoy it. When you have a good crowd and good facilities, it’s fun to work those rodeos.”

Macom has a much more memorable experience from the Buffalo Bill Rodeo. In the early 1990s, he and a fellow contestant were flying in a twin engine plan, headed home. As they took off from the North Platte airport, the plane blew a tire. “It was really nip and tuck for a minute,” he said, “getting off the ground.” The pilot was ordered to land the plane, and Macom, who would have rather driven than flown anyway, looked down and saw a line of ambulances and fire trucks, waiting for them as they made an emergency landing.

“I was OK till I looked down at the runway,” he said. “Then I started to panic. We are going to die in North Platte,” he quipped. But the pilot landed the plane with no problems. The cowboys stayed overnight as the plane got a new tire, missing the next rodeo, “but we lived to talk about it,” he laughed.

While they’re in town, Emmett and his wife MaryLynn will shop, as will Macom. The men have brought their golf clubs, too, hoping to get a round of golf in.

Being a rodeo judge doesn’t always make a person a favorite of the contestants, but Emmett and Macom know they have a job to do. “There are difficult calls to make,” Macom said. “I’m not always (the cowboys’) favorite person. Sometimes I am, if they win, and sometimes I’m not. But I enjoy it. I still get to travel and be around rodeo.”

DeWitt Forrest is the third judge for the rodeo.

The Buffalo Bill Rodeo takes place June 15-18 at the Wild West Arena in North Platte. Performances are held nightly at 8 p.m.

Tickets are on sale at NebraskalandDays.com and at the gate and range in price from $10-$23.

For more information, visit the website or call the office at (308) 532-7939.

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