Colorado’s most famous cowboy, Bruce Ford, is the first professional cowboy to be inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame.
Retired as arguably the best bareback rider ever with five world titles to his credit, Ford now operates a horse-trading business from his ranch in Kersey, east of Greeley. He also runs a school/training camp for bareback riders on his spread.
It was just a few years ago that this native Coloradoan rode a 150-rodeo schedule, wondering how he’d ever get used to not worrying about how he was getting to his next rodeo – by plane, train, pick-up or just plain hitchhiking. He eventually decided that that five world titles, a PRCA-record 18 appearances in the NFR, nine Mountain Circuit bareback titles and more individual rodeo titles to even count was enough.
So was the fact that he was the first cowboy to earn more than $100,000 in one single event in a season. And his $1,043,224 in career earnings put him in an elite list of pro rodeo cowboys to achieve such a feat.
Retiring from competition hasn’t left Ford forgotten amongst those in rodeo circles. Several years ago, a movie producer chose him to be the subject of a full-length motion picture, a rodeo documentary called “Colorado Cowboy.”
And if all that seems pretty remarkable, consider the fact that as a child, Ford was told by doctors to quit riding horses for fear of a possible head injury after surviving a school bus-train collision in 1961 that took the life of his oldest brother, Jimmy, and 19 other children.
Years ago, when discussing the accident, Ford said, “The fact that my mom and dad were the first to show up and start helping the kids…I think from that point forward, we became a closer family. We’ve had a good walk with the Lord, our family has. You can either toughen up, or get weak on a deal like that, and it makes us tougher, I think.”
But this tough, rodeo cowboy appreciates the recognition the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame has given him and his sport. “It’s neat, it really is,” Ford said. “Whether it would have been me or not, I’m glad that rodeo is appreciated by such an organization.”
You can either toughen up, or get weak on a deal like that, and it makes us tougher, I think.