There are over 600 PRCA sanctioned rodeos. To have a successful PRCA rodeo you need to have a good rodeo committee, dedicated sponsors, a good stock contractor, competitive cowboys, contract personnel, and a great SECRETARY. In light of women in rodeo week we thought it would be appropriate to tell you about the women behind the books. One of the 78 women who hold a PRCA card is the eight time Pro Rodeo Secretary of the Year, Haley Bridwell. Haley is the daughter of Bronc and Kate Rumford. The Rumford family are longtime supporters and members of the Miss Rodeo America organization. Bronc as served as president and Kate as a pageant chaperone. Haley’s mother, Vicky, is also a respected woman in the rodeo industry. Their son, Justin Rumford, is also a very successful clown and has received annual awards for his abilities!
The job of a rodeo secretary is very important and instrumental to putting on a successful rodeo from the perspective of the committee, the sanctioning organization, and the contestants. Their job includes completing the draw, handling the payouts to the winning cowboys, keeping track of the scores and the times, and much more. If these processes are not completed and organized correctly and in a timely fashion it can throw off the flow and timing of the entire rodeo.
Earlier this month the Miss Rodeo America office had the chance to interview Haley about her origins as a secretary, her accomplishments, and her love of rodeo! A sincere thanks to Haley for taking the time to speak with us. See the interview below!
“I was actually born into a rodeo family. My grandpa and grandma, Floyd and Lola Rumford, had started a rodeo company in 1942 after my grandpa was involved in a tractor accident. He was hospitalized and needed a way to pay for his medical expenses so he and his good friend, Paul Long who was a stock contractor in the Turtles Association, put together a rodeo in Sterling, Kansas. Grandma and Grandpa had two sons of which the eldest, Bronc Rumford, is my dad. This started what would become our family business and eventually get me into the rodeo business.
I didn’t compete in rodeos growing up. I was very involved in the rodeo business, but not the competition side. My first love was always the bucking stock. I helped feed daily with my grandpa and dad. For show-and-tell in Kindergarten I took a tamed bull to show my class and explain about bucking stock. I dreamed of being the first woman “flank man” at the WNFR when I was little. I eventually grew up and stayed very involved with all aspects of the family business but spent my competitive time in high school playing basketball.
As a little girl, I never really dreamed about becoming a rodeo secretary. Due to circumstances I became a rodeo secretary. It wasn’t something I considered a career until I had been working for a few years. Looking back, I viewed my secretary job as helping out our family business by filling in with something I could do for the team. However, along the way there were many women who molded me and helped me become the person and Secretary I am today and over time, turn it into a career. My grandma Lola gave me the knowledge of the job to start working. She also showed me how to gracefully deal with people. Without her, I wouldn’t have made it this far! In the early years after I began to venture away from my families’ rodeos, I found myself wondering into other people’s offices to watch, listen and learn. I took some jobs as a timer too. Linda ALSBAUGH, Sunni Deb Backstrom, Cindy Rosser, Vickie Shireman and Barb Duggan were all women who gave me pointers, showed me tricks of the trade and thankfully took the time to answer my phone calls. They were not only great secretaries but amazing women. Mildred Farris, another wonderful lady and secretary, gave me a special memory that I have used as motivation over and over throughout the years as well. She had seen my struggling silently in an office as I was dealing with a situation. As things calmed down and I returned to my desk, she quietly came over to me and put her arm around me. She had a small devotional book in her hand. She squeezed me gently and said I want you to really read this. It read, “….for success, attitude is equally as important as ability.” I hugged her back and took her book to the copy machine. I not only tapped the copy to the top of my computer screen, but I had the saying put onto all of my checks in which I paid the contestants. It was a constant reminder of someone who I admired and looked up to. The most defining turn in my career, thought, was around 2005 when Judy Ackley, a long time and award winning secretary from Oregon, called and asked if I would be able to cover for her at some rodeos while she battled some health issues. I didn’t know Judy that well other than from the annual conventions in Las Vegas during the WNFR. She said she was looking for someone young and willing and she had thought of me. Some of the rodeos Judy needed for me to fill for her turned out to be St. Paul and Pendleton, Oregon and Ellensburg, Washington; rodeos that are once in a lifetime opportunities. Unfortunately, Judy never was able to return to her secretary duties and she turned the majority of her jobs over to me. I will never be able to repay or thank Judy enough for the chance she took on me and the opportunities in life she gave me. Her friendship will forever hold a special place in my heart!
I actually became a rodeo secretary by default. I was playing basketball during college my freshman year when my grandpa Floyd suffered a debilitating stroke which led to the discovery of a rare blood disease. My grandma became his primary care giver and was unable to secretary our rodeos. My dad and mom had been divorced for a number of years and there really wasn’t anyone else in our family to take over the secretary duties. I was 17 at the time and not old enough for eligibility to secretary with the PRCA so we made a deal under the extenuating circumstances for me to use my grandma’s card for the year. In 1997, I took my secretary test and acquired my own card. That was 18 years ago!”
MRAI: Do you remember the 1st rodeo you were the secretary at?
“The first rodeo I worked completely on my own was in Ponca City, Oklahoma. My dad had been at odds with the steer wrestlers and configured the steer wrestling to be a 4 go-round contest which caused me a lot of extra paper work and late nights. I hadn’t exactly entered into the job on my own free will, so there were many tears throughout the whole process, but I did learn a lot of valuable life lessons and I am truly grateful for the experience!”
MRAI: How many times have you been secretary of the year? What does being secretary of the year mean to you?
“I have won the secretary of year 8 times. The first time I won I was completely surprised and honored. It was a very surreal experience. However, I have since realized the responsibility that comes with the honor. Being recognized as secretary of the year has made me constantly strive to be better at my job. My position effects several aspects of rodeo even though it is a behind the scenes job. Many people count on the job the rodeo secretary does and it is vital for the whole production. I feel a strong sense of obligation to the contestants, committees and contractors that hire me to be at my best all the time!”
MRAI: What is your favorite part about the pro rodeo industry?
“My favorite part of our industry is by far the people. Rodeo has allowed me to travel all over the U.S and meet new people whom I wouldn’t have otherwise ever met. Some of these people have become like family to me and my children. All of the long hours and hard work are worth it due to the friends you meet and the fun times we share!”
MRAI: What is your favorite thing to do when you are not at a rodeo?
“My favorite things are watching my boys play baseball and coaching their basketball teams. We have many backyard kickball games and one-on-one basketball games. I also love to volunteer at their school. In the winter, I love baking cookies and sweets for my family and friends.”
MRAI: What advice do you have for young women aspiring to be a part of the rodeo industry?
“The rodeo industry is very diverse and there are many ways for people to get involved. However, it is a predominantly male industry. So for young women, I say to dream big but don’t be afraid of plans C and D. Meaning that we want to strive towards Plan A. When that doesn’t work we often settle on Plan B. Most often the biggest opportunities present themselves when we look past the obvious, learn from our experiences and become open to all possibilities.”
MRAI: How do you balance being a wife, mother, and rodeo secretary?
“Balancing those three are very difficult for any woman in any career. Balancing is about prioritizing, getting organized and sometimes putting me last. I am very fortunate to have a job where I am able to take my kids to work and spend time with my husband. When you wake up with the one who makes your heart happy, your day has to be good. And the worst work day ever is always erased when I can tuck my babies in at night and give them a kiss. Knowing that we are all in this business together makes balancing easy. I am also surrounded by some of the best committee people, contract personnel and contestants who are willing to help regardless. The good Lord blessed me with the ability to multitask amidst adversity, resilient children who have become accustom to rodeo life and an extremely loving, patient husband who supports my work! At the end of the day it isn’t as much about balancing, but just enjoying the rodeo road we are traveling!”
MRAI: How many rodeos do you secretary a year?
“Last year I worked 10 college rodeos, 15 pro rodeos, 3 PBR events, and 4 special events including RFD TV’s the American. It doesn’t sound like many, but I have a handful of events that range from 1 to 3 weeks in length.”