The Foremost Ford

By contributor Charlie Coon

A bridge of top front teeth rests on a spotless kitchen table of his mother’s home outside of Kersey, Colo. as legendary ProRodeo bareback rider Bruce Ford sits down to inform me that one of the teeth fell out and he’d be replacing it before too long. Ford is 61 years old. He lost his house to flooding of the South Platte River last fall, yet through the help of many friends in the rodeo family, things are on the mend.

One of these friends, Jeff Boomer Reeves, is outside going over the designs he created to build a new home for Bruce and his wife, Sherry Ford. The Florida-based ProRodeo bullfighter has been on the property since Thanksgiving, not enjoying the cold, and combing the Internet to find deals on things like windows and wood along with all the other essentials for what will be a 1,400 square-foot residence. Denver is not far to the south and west and thus the market for bargains has been attractive. Most of the wood, for example, is stacked on pallets around the house structure Bruce and Boomer had delivered from a nearby community.

Rebuilding and reinvention represent a thick strand of Bruce Ford’s DNA. He qualified for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo 19 times in three different decades, won the world bareback riding championship five times and taught his unique style to several others who went on to become NFR contestants. Ford’s eyes shine in proud reflection when speaking about Marvin Garrett, a Ford riding school grad and owner of four bareback riding gold buckles.

Now in the horse-selling business with his wife, Bruce Ford shared the latest rebuilding story with us during a visit to the ranch last week. First though, let’s watch him ride. The initial slow motion footage is courtesy of documentary filmmaker Arthur Elgort from a profile called “Colorado Cowboy: The Bruce Ford Story” which won the 1994 Excellence in Cinematography Award at the Sundance Film Festival.

Bruce Ford made the NFR 18 consecutive years from 1974 to 1991. He cracked out of retirement in 1997, at the age of 46, spurred by the fire loss of his barn/arena and rode well enough to finish in the top 15 one last time.

‘Travels with Charlie’ is a biweekly series of features by Charlie Coon produced exclusively for the Wrangler Network. Using the penname Curtis Scott, Mr. Coon has provided stories for the past 20 years to such outlets as The History Channel Magazine, American Heritage and the Denver Post. He is based in Cheyenne, Wyo., where he serves as coordinator for the state of Wyoming’s cowboy marketing program. Coon and cameraman Mike McCrimmon put together news, sports, and human interest features on a semi-regular basis for TV stations in Wyoming, Montana and South Dakota.