Rodeo stock producer Will Cook and his family may be a dying breed.
“We are some of the last of the old school rodeo producers that put on the old traditional rodeos,” Cook said. “If someone wants to put on a rodeo, we furnish all the livestock, all the personnel, the announcer, the secretary, the pick-up men, bull fighters, the clown, all trucking of livestock. We do the set, the whole deal. A lot of producers don’t do it this way anymore but there’s not much of a challenge to that.”
In addition to Flying C Rodeo Company — the group that will produce the upcoming Gainesville Riding Club Rodeo, the Madill, Okla. family operate Flying C Ranch Rodeo and Rocky Mountain Pro Rodeo Company. Rocky Mountain puts on sanctioned Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association (PRCA) competitions.
Cook’s been in the business 30 years and said he intends to log 30 more years.
“I always say it’s kinda like riding a bus for 30 years and not knowing what stop to get off on,” he said.
His company produces rodeos in Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Colorado.
A week of preparation usually goes into rodeos such as the riding club rodeo set for July 27 and July 28 at the riding club arena in Gainesville.
“The rodeo deal is a challenge every week,” Cook said. “You’re getting livestock for seven different events and furnishing people for the complete production. To put on a three day rodeo it takes six days. The entries open on Monday before the rodeo. That gives you the number of contestants and quality of contestants in each event. You spend Tuesday gathering and sorting livestock and getting them ready to go. Wednesday you haul the stock to the rodeo and set it all up and get everyone in place, make sure everyone is on the same page. Then there’s usually three days of rodeo — Thursday, Friday, Saturday.”
Saturday nights are spent getting all the livestock and equipment home.
“Then on Sunday, you do all the miscellaneous things you should’ve done during the week,” he said, laughing.
Most rodeos, Cook said, including the Gainesville Riding Club Rodeo, are United Professional Rodeo Association (UPRA) events.
The organization has singled Flying C out as Stock Contractor of the Year multiple times.
“We’ve been in the UPRA for about 26 years,” Cook said. “In the last 12 years, we’ve been fortunate enough to win stock contractor of the year 11 times.”
Stock production is a family business, Cook noted.
His wife Karen Cook and sons Todd Cook and Casey Cook all play a part in stock production.
He’s also training a third generation of rodeo stock producers — his grandson, Cain Cook.
“Cain will be two in September, and he already likes to ride and feed [the stock] with his grandpa,” Cook said.
In addition to the Gainesville Riding Club Rodeo, Flying C has provided stock for other area events including the annual Whitesboro Rodeo.
“Whitesboro’s rodeo, we’ve done it for the last 26 or 27 years in a row,” Cook said. “We’ve done a lot of (local) rodeos for several years. That’s what you call repeat business.”
Cook said the rodeo has a mystique and a history that dates back over a century.
“It’s just a traditional deal that people need to realize has been around for over 100 years,” he said. “It’s the original sport. I’ve met more people than most people, and I’ve never met a kid — boy or girl — that some time in their life didn’t want to grow up to be a cowboy or cowgirl.”
Cook said he believes the rodeo production industry is changing. Many producers now specialize in one area of the rodeo, providing livestock for bull riding or roping events.
New full-service producers such as Cook are few and far between.
“There’s several producers around,” Cook said. “A lot of them. But not many new ones because no one wants to be a stock contractor. It takes lots of livestock, lots of people and lots of room to house this stuff. Some contractors do roping and bull riding events. But the traditional deal is the (whole) rodeo and there’s not that many out there. Not many new ones.”
Being a stock producer isn’t easy but Cook said he gets excited every time his company arrives with its stock and complement of staff members.
“Rodeo is a good community event and the money goes back into the community,” he said. “That’s what makes rodeos so good. That’s what life’s all about. The money don’t leave town. I would urge people to come support their rodeo and support their community, and I promise you it will be a very entertaining event.”
Danny Reagan, owner of 4R Bucking Bulls of Palestine and a co-producer of the Gainesville Riding Club Rodeo has praise for Will Cook.
“I was actually going to Will’s rodeos when I was a kid,” Reagan said. “He’s the best, and we all wanted to go to his rodeos.”
The former bull rider has been a stock producer for 15 years.
Like Cook’s Flying C Rodeo Company, Reagan has garnered awards for his rodeo production skills.
His company was 1999, 2004-2010 UPRA Stock Contractor of the Year. Reagan has also had the bucking bull, saddle bronc horse and bareback horses of the year for several years.
Reagan said producers must be able to evaluate herds and find the most promising stock.
“It starts from when the bull is a year old,” Reagan said. “I’ve raised a lot of my own and I buy a lot of them and I know when I wean one off of its momma whether or not it’s going to be something....It’s all in their breeding.”
Reagan knows how it feels to be a kid awed by the spectacle of the rodeo. He later became a bull rider and said he hasn’t forgotten the thrill of fighting to hang on the required eight seconds.
“It’s scary,” he said. “It’s more of an adrenaline rush. You’re scared to death when you’re doing it but the accomplishment overcomes the fear.”
Reagan said the Gainesville Riding Club Rodeo should satisfy local rodeo fans.
“I just think for the people that wanna watch a professional rodeo that is run smoothly and in a professional manner, they’re gonna be entertained for the two hours that they’re there,” he said. “It’s gonna run real smooth, and they will get their money’s worth.”
Reagan is also involved with Ropin’ Dreams an organization which grants wishes for children with life-threatening illnesses.
“The organization Ropin’ Dreams is mainly for kids that are terminally ill with serious diseases like cancer,” Reagan said. “We take them to a western store and buy them a hat and clothes and then we take them to a rodeo event and just let them meet the bull riders. It kind of fulfills a dream for them. I was influenced by some good friends of mine to come aboard and I try to do a lot for the organization. I really like what they do for the kids and I wish more people could get involved with it.”
One of the last full service rodeo stock producers, the Cook family, will produce the Gainesville Rodeo
Rodeo stock producer Will Cook and his family may be a dying breed.
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