Back in the saddle again
Rider back on bulls
Editor’s note: This story is the final in a series of three, covering local World Champion cowboys in the National Senior Pro Rodeo Association.
After seven years away from the rodeo, Jim Holt anxiously waited for Craig cowboys Wes Hertzog and Dave From to pull up to his Baggs, Wyo., home.
As they approached he explained why his emotions were so high.
“After seven years out of the action, I was so excited when Hertzog pulled into the driveway, I felt like a man who had just swam through the sharks and ice water to get off Alcatraz.” he said. “We went to High River, Alberta, where I was thrown off the first bull and I was on the next two. I was back on track.”
Once he got back on track, Holt was riding for the World Championship in 50+ bull riding on the National Senior Pro Rodeo circuit. Unlike his two travel partners, who ride saddle bronc, Holt rides bulls because he is missing his right kneecap and, “with bull riding, you just let your legs dangle.”
Holt started riding in 1975 when he lived in Steamboat Springs. He continued to ride throughout the 1980s and early ’90s, eventually riding one year in the NSPR. He said he took a break from riding because he was getting married and working on building a house in Baggs. Once he was back in the saddle again, he had one goal.
“I knew I could win if I put the work in,” he said. “I started hitting everything right and felt pretty good about my riding.”
Everything continued to go right for all three local riders on the rodeo circuit, including a three-buckle night in Sweet, Idaho.
“It’s not often that three guys in the same vehicle are on the top of the world standings,” he said. “I think we realized how special our group was the night we all won champion buckles in Idaho.”
Riding came to a halt for Holt in late August when he broke his shoulder and collarbone at a rodeo in Douglas, Colo. He went home and healed while Hertzog and From continued on the circuit.
The bull rider hopped back on his nemesis again on Oct. 10 for the Canadian Finals where he was runner up, putting him back in first place for the final ride at the NSPR finals in Reno, Nev.
Going into the finals, Holt had a narrow 28-point lead in the standings with two riders close to him. He said the bulls in Reno made it almost impossible for anybody to catch him.
“Out of the 60 rides, there were only seven times that a cowboy didn’t get bucked off,” he said. “I was able to get one ride in and it kept me ahead enough to win the championship.”
Holt credited his travel partners for giving him support and encouragement on the circuit.
“Wes is my psychologist,” he said. “He and Dave have always encouraged me and convinced me that I could do it.”
Hertzog also had a name for Holt.
“We call him Jimmy Travolta,” Hertzog said. “‘Cause he can bust a move on the dance floor.”
Holt laughed when asked about his nickname and explained, “Dave and Wes don’t like to dance and I do. So they get jealous when I’m getting the girls on the dance floor when we’re at the bar.
“They also call me ‘Navigator Bob’ because I’m always getting us lost.”
Traveling and winning buckles are what keep ‘Navigator Bob’ interested in beating his body trying to stay on a bull.
“When it’s all over, all you have are the pictures and buckles,” he said.
At 52, Holt isn’t sure how long he’ll keep riding.
“Bull riding is really hard on the old body,” he said. “I’ll just take it one year at a time but I have to come back next year to make sure it wasn’t a fluke.”
Sounds like next year Wes Hertzog, Dave From and Jimmy ‘Travolta’ Holt will be back in the saddle (or in Holt’s case, back on the bull), hitting every rodeo they can. Which is bad news for the other riders and good news for the three good ol’ local boys who enjoy each others’ company as much as winning all the buckles.
David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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