Emery County's own rodeo judge
The Desertview Pro Rodeo came to town the end of July and along with cowboys and cowgirls from across the United States came rodeo judge Kenny Behling. Behling is a Ferron native and now resides in Clovis, Calif. on a cattle ranch outside of a large metropolitan area.
Behling graduated from Emery High in 1978 where he was active in high school rodeo. He attended trade tech for two years and worked in a coal mine for two years. He returned to school at Utah State University in Logan.
Behling earned a full ride scholarship to the University of Wyoming where he spent four years of rodeoing at the college level. In high school and college he went to the finals in team roping. Behling was the high school state champion calf roper. Behling remembers his partners in team roping as Brenda Durfee in college and Shane Nielson in high school roping. He went to the high school finals in team roping with Hallie Lemon.
After college he turned pro and went rodeoing. "When I started winning I just took off and hit the circuit," Behling rode bulls full time, "It was a full time vacation that paid for itself. I met my wife Sally at a rodeo in California in 1986. We were married in 1987.
"I was still riding bulls, she couldn't travel with me too much because she had a job. Her family had a cattle ranch in Clovis and I helped out on the ranch and did some construction work too. In 1993, I broke my neck riding bulls, so I quit. I hit the ground wrong when I landed and landed on my head. While I was recovering from that injury I started judging more rodeos. I had judged a little bit before my injury and I started judging more after my injury. I was doing maybe 10 rodeos a year before and now I do 25-30 in a year. It's a nice part time job. We own the cattle ranch now and we run 300 head of mother cows. We have two sons 14 and 16 years old.
"In the rodeo all events need a judge. Bareback, saddle bronc, bulls and the other events. There is a rule book which lists the criteria for the rider and the animals. On a bareback ride you look for a horse that bucks hard and has a lot of qualities. You look for how well the rider rides the horse. A perfect score is 100. When you have two judges you each give up to 50 points. Twenty-five of the points are for the animal and the other 25 is for the cowboy. There's only been one perfect score. We each have our own side to watch to make sure the rider spurs the horse out. I like all of the events.
"To be a good bull rider you have to be half crazy and draw a good bull and ride it well. Guys who do well have that competitive spirit. It takes a lot of practice and a lot of it is mental and having a positive attitude. More of the cowboys these days are athletes. You have to be aggressive.
"I travel to rodeos all around the United States. Some of the bigger rodeos have four judges and you're more event specific at those rodeos. It's set up to break up the responsibility so there's not as much pressure judging all the events. I usually judge the rough stock. Sometimes people get upset, but a rodeo judge is hired for their opinion. If you stay within the guidelines in the rule book you're fine. It boils down to how well you can identify the criteria for each event. You watch for the spur stroke. You watch for how much control the cowboy has. You identify how well the animal bucks and the power he has and the amount of kick. You come up with a number (score). You need to stay consistent. The smaller rodeos usually have two judges.
"I really enjoy what I'm doing. I usually fly to a rodeo, or drive if it's close. Judges apply for the rodeos they would like to judge a month in advance. Tommy Keith is the supervisor of the Pro Rodeo officials, he is from Colorado Springs, Colo. and he makes all of the assignments. The judges belong to the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. The judges are all rated. The judges with the higher ratings are assigned first for the month and it continues until all the rodeos for the month are assigned. The judges all get along pretty well. They are team players. Our job is to get the money in the right spot. Judges are trained and go to a judging seminar each year to get caught up on new rules.
"This year I've been to Ft. Worth, Texas, Palm Springs, Calif; Clovis, Calif; Lehi, Prescott, Ariz; Spanish Fork, Hermiston, Oregon; Santa Barbara, Calif; Canby, Oregon and San Juan Capistrano, Calif; to name a few.
"I have friends and acquaintances from everywhere I go. Some of the people, I've made business deals with for our cattle business. I've learned a lot traveling to many different places. One of my friends from Prescott when we were down there has an 80,000 acre ranch and he took us on a tour through it. We judged the college finals together. From these ranch tours and seeing how they operate, I have been able to incorporate ideas from that into my business.
"We do associate with the cowboys, but we can't be buddies with them. We talk to them and we're approachable, but it's a business, rodeo and judging.
"It's fun to have a chance to come back to Emery County and visit my parents and family. I get back here once or twice a year. California is home now. But, it's more laid back here and I like that. Our ranch is on the edge of town in Clovis. It's seven miles to the center of town from the ranch. Our ranch is 3,600 acres and we sell off the calves each year. We breed the cows so we buy a few bulls each year. I've found a ranch in Oregon where we've purchased the bulls the last nine years. The genetics of the bulls have improved and we've had good luck with them. We sell our cows on the internet. We have a website. Some feedlots in Nebraska have been buying our cows. Our cows are a cross between Gelvey and Angus. About two thirds of them are black and the rest red. Approximately 99 percent of the calves we are getting are black.
"I like the challenge of rodeo judging. Every place you go is a different challenge. The places and the people are great. I really like everything about it. I enjoy it. I might get tired of the travel. But you can pick which rodeos you want to judge. The pay is adequate. It's a great part-time job to supplement the income. Since it's part time and flexible, I can come and go as I am needed on the ranch. The end of August is calving season, so I won't judge then or only judge close to home. There are many major rodeos in California. I set up the shipping of our cows between rodeos.
"My wife goes with me to some of the close rodeos. Every now and then the boys come along, but someone has to be home to do the chores.
"At first I really missed bull riding. I love the bull riding. The cowboys now are riding for more money and there are better stock contractors out there than there were when I was riding. Everything has improved. The stock's better, the breeding better and the talent level of the riders has gotten better.
"As a judge I've been run over and had some close calls, but I try to get out of the way. My younger son is interested in competing and getting into the roping events," said Behling.
Behling judged the three nights of rodeo at the Desertview Pro Rodeo in Castle Dale and has now hit the road for the next rodeo at the end of the trail.