COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Bob Wegner, one of the greatest bull riding stars in an era populated with the likes of Jim Shoulders, Harry Tompkins and Ronnie Rossen, died March 30 in a Bandera, Texas, care center after a lengthy illness. He was 80 years old.
Over an 11-year span from 1956-1966, Wegner finished among the top five bull riders in the world standings 10 times, including a world championship in 1964 and four reserve world championships (1958-59, 1961, 1966).
Wegner finished second to Shoulders in 1958, falling short by $843, and again in 1959 by a margin of $1,207, after entering the inaugural National Finals Rodeo holding the lead. Wegner’s other near misses came in Ronnie Rossen’s two gold buckle years, losing out by just $418 in 1961 and $512 in 1966.
It may have been what Wegner had in mind when he told Time magazine in his heyday that “Luck is about 80 percent of bull riding.”
A native of Ponca City, Okla., Wegner got started in rodeo in 1951 when he entered a wild cow riding event at a local jackpot rodeo and while it was love at first sight for him, it was not an enthusiasm shared by his father, Ben.
“He told me rodeo cowboys were bums,” Wegner told the Bandera County Courier in a 2011 interview, and even when Ben realized his teenage son was dead set on rodeoing – giving him a $20 war bond and a $20 bill to get him started – it was with the admonition, “Son, you need to get a job.”
Thus advised, Wegner hit the road, hitching rides wherever he could along the rodeo trail and learning his craft as bull rider and bareback rider at jackpots and rodeos all across the West.
He joined the Rodeo Cowboys Association (precursor to the PRCA) in 1953 and, despite suffering a broken back a year later when a horse fell on him at a rodeo in Henderson, Texas, Wegner quickly found his place among the elite of the cowboy sport.
Apart from qualifying for the first eight NFRs and twice winning the average there (he tied with Rossen in 1964 and had an outright win in 1966), Wegner claimed titles at all of the sport’s biggest rodeos, including the Cheyenne (Wyo.) Frontier Days, the Pendleton (Ore.) Round-Up, the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo and Boston Garden.
In the latter years of his career, Wegner attempted to pioneer a team rodeo competition under the banner of the American Cowboys Association. While living in Auburn, Wash., he also developed quarter horse interests.
Funeral arrangements are pending through the Grimes Funeral Chapel in Bandera (www.grimesfuneralchapels.com/obits/2014/wegner.htm).
Courtesy of PRCA