While many of the records Jim Shoulders set as the world's greatest cowboy rodeo has ever seen have been broken, it took a lot more than just one man to break them.
I saw him only a few times towards the end of the career, but even then watching him on a bull or a bronc was a revelation.
I even met him once and managed to make total fool of myself. It was at a rodeo where my buddies and I had some bucking stock. It was fight night in back of one of the local bars and after I did a little bucking myself of a couple guys, I heard someone behind me say something to me - and not certain if he was a buddy of one of the guys I had just 'bucked' and I quickly spun around with raised fists and suddenly was face to face with... Jim Shoulders.
Now I still had no idea what he had said, I was also suddenly deer-in-the-headlights stunned at suddenly being face to face with him - when he smiled, put his hand on my shoulder to give it a quick squeeze and turned and left as I... babbled... something... totally incomprehensible... to everyone's (and I mean... everyone's) considerable amusement.
It was one of those moments I... painfully... relieved in my memory for years and years afterward.
Rodeo loses a legend
Star cowboy Shoulders, 79, was "Babe Ruth" of sport
By Richard Green The Associated Press
The Denver Post
Article Last Updated:06/21/2007 12:47:16 AM MDT
Oklahoma City - Jim Shoulders, one of the greatest rodeo cowboys in the history of the sport and the only man to win the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo all-around title four times, died Wednesday. He was 79.
Shoulders died at 3:30 a.m. in his home in Henryetta, Okla., after a long battle with a heart ailment, said his son, Marvin Paul Shoulders.
Jim Shoulders won 16 world championships, the most of any rodeo cowboy, and was a charter member of the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs.
"He was the Babe Ruth of rodeo," his son said. "Besides being one of the greatest rodeo cowboys, he was a great man."
Shoulders was still able to ride horses until a few months ago.
"He did not have to suffer," his son said. "He wasn't the kind of person who would handle that real good."
Jim Bainbridge, a spokesman for the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame, called Shoulders "the best rodeo cowboy ever."
Born on May 13, 1928, in Tulsa, Okla., Shoulders was 14 when he entered his first rodeo. In 1949, at age 21, he won the first of his world titles.
Shoulders amassed five world championships in the all- around category, seven in bull riding and four bareback. He was nearly unbeatable during the 1950s.
Shoulders was a seven-time winner of the Calgary Stampede.
In addition to his 16 world championships, he was reserve champion another 10 times, including four second-place finishes in the all around.
"I think in future generations he will probably be the biggest rodeo cowboy hero that we have ever known, and we've had some great ones," rodeo announcer and longtime friend Clem McSpadden said. "If Shoulders was a tree, he'd be the biggest tree in the rodeo forest, period, over and out."
McSpadden said Shoulders' ability to withstand pain was a key to his success.
"Rodeo had changed so much," he said. "When he ro- deoed, they didn't even wear mouthpieces.
"Now with the training and medical background, they stretch, they have the best orthopedic surgeons available.Jim had none of that. He was just tough and would go beat you.
"He had no pain level. He was impervious to pain."
A look at Jim Shoulders:
Life: Born in 1928 in Tulsa, Okla.; lived in Henryetta, Okla.
Early career: At age 14, won $17 for bareback riding in his first rodeo; won his first world title at age 21.
Résumé: Won 16 world rodeo championships, a record that stood from 1959 until 2003.
Legend: Inducted into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in 1979 as a charter member; gained added fame by appearing with Yankees manager Billy Martin in a series of beer advertisements.