John McBeth’s bronc riding career spanned more than 30 years. His pro-career, which ended in 1988, included 11 NFR qualifications and the 1974 saddle bronc riding world title. He judged rodeos, including the NFR, National High School and College National Finals several times. He also worked as a rodeo television commentator. John judged the National Little Britches Finals Rodeo this past year for the first time. “I’ve done every other finals there is – why not do this one too,” said the 72-year-old from Andover, Kan. The Kansas native spent his entire life involved in rodeo one way or another. “It’s been good to me,” he said. “It’s a challenge. Not many people get to make a living and raise a family riding bucking horses.”
Francie, his wife of 50 years, agrees. “It has its pros and cons of course, I love people and it’s been a wonderful way of meeting a lot of people. It’s exciting and disappointing and all the emotions in between but we wouldn’t trade it for any other life – it gives you a lot of freedom.”
The McBeth family had three generations involved in National Little Britches Finals Rodeo this year. John was a judge; his son, Bart, is on the executive board and was an arena director for the finals; Bart’s daughter, MacKenzie, is the Youth Board President.
Bart has been on the board for three years and got involved at the Executive level – he’d been an event director for the Prairie Circuit as well as the Kansas State Junior High President, so this fit. “Top to bottom, everybody involved in the NLBRA has a main priority of making the next generation of NLBRA better – not just rodeo kids, but everyone involved. We use rodeo to teach life lessons.” Bart has a small leather manufacturing shop that makes all the Ram pickup chaps, custom saddles. He is also a full-time crop adjuster. “Whatever it takes,” said the 50-year-old who calls Douglas, Kan., home. Bart rode saddle broncs after running cross country in high school and college. “I rodeoed for 20 years, competing against my dad in the saddle broncs at the Prairie Circuit Finals for three years (1985-87).” Bart made the Prairie Circuit Finals 15 years before retiring his saddle when he got too old to compete. He married to Eunice, who also competed . Her dad was the high school state director in Louisiana for 20 some years. He was also (Ellis Benckenstein) the National President for a few years and Eunice was Miss Rodeo Louisiana in 1983.
Their daughter, MacKenzie, is the Youth Board President for NLBRA. Following in her dad’s footsteps, MacKenzie also ran cross country helping her team to back to back state girls’ titles. “I like rodeo better – running hurts,” said the 17-year-old who has gone through hip surgery to repair damages incurred from running.” MacKenzie has been coming to the finals for six years and is the 2012 World Champion Senior Girls Goat Tier. She has an older brother, 20-year-old Brandon, who didn’t take to rodeo like the rest of the family. He preferred baseball, hunting, and fishing to rodeo. “I’ve always done rodeo,” she said. “I love the individual competitiveness. It’s all on me. That’s why I like running.” The 4.0 student from Douglass High School competes in barrels, poles, goats, trail, and breakaway. Her favorite is goat tying. “I used to not like it, but I got better at it and I can’t get frustrated at my horse – it’s all about me.”
She is in her last year of high school and plans to college rodeo the first few years and then she will concentrate on her career in pharmacy. The 4.0 student is also a singer.
We’re unique in that we’ve tapped into the families,” said Bart. “You come to Little Britches and everybody is involved. We see a lot of big families in Little Britches.”
John has five grandchildren and only MacKenzie competes in the sport that has been his life.
He has been inducted into three Hall of Fame locations – the Kansas Cowboy Hall of Fame, followed by PRCA, and most recently, the National Cowboy Hall of Fame, in Oklahoma City. “When you start as a kid, I was two years younger than MacKenzie, you just don’t dream of those things. By the time you learn how to rodeo, you’re too old to do it. That’s what was good about the National Finals – you could go one place and get on a bunch of horses.
John is writing a book right now – a menagerie of short stories that pertain to rodeo – one is about Jesse James the horse. John talks into a tape recorder and uses the help of a published writer to make the book.