Chase County cowboys, families top ranch rodeo team
By Frank J. Buchman
It's all in the life of cowboys and their families.
That's ranch rodeo to Bud Higgs and Randy Peterson.
Perhaps more readily recognized as the Buck Creek-Lonesome Pine Ranches team for their two decades of arena success, Higgs and Peterson are cowboys by profession and family men at heart.
"Our occupation is our sport, too," Higgs of Lonesome Pine at Cedar Point said.
"We manage Flint Hills cattle on horseback and have our weekend fun doing the same," Peterson of Buck Creek at Cottonwood Falls said.
"We've been going to rodeos as a team for 22 years, and now my dad and our children often ride with us, so it's truly a ranch family sport," said Higgs.
That is especially gratifying for both third generation cowboys who each individually and emphatically declare: "I've always been a cowboy."
Objective of competition is winning, and Buck Creek-Lonesome Pine has been in the limelight verifying their professional abilities.
Proof again came when the team collected championship saddles at the ranch rodeo during the Flint Hills Beef Fest in Emporia.
"This is the third year out of four that we've won it," Peterson tallied.
However, even more special to the team is that Troy Higgs was honored as The Top Hand. "That really was icing on the cake," admitted proud dad Bud.
Connor Grokett was the other team member, who Peterson credited, "He's worked for me several years and is about considered family, too."
Higgs' own father and daughter, Franklin Higgs and Mackenzie Higgs, as well as Peterson's daughter, Sammy Jo Peterson, were alternate team members that time, but they often see action.
Growing up at nearby Bazaar, Peterson said, "I started working as a cowboy when I was six-years-old riding alongside my dad looking after cattle for the Pinkston Brothers, who operated 47,000 acres of Flint Hills."
Showing horses in 4-H, but not participating in rodeos as a youth, Peterson was active in other sports through intramural competition at Kansas State University where he graduated in animal science.
"I then worked as a cowboy for feedlots in western Kansas, before coming back to Chase County to raise our family.
"We bought this ranch on Buck Creek in 1992, had a cow herd for several years and now background and graze cattle for other owners and in partnerships," said Peterson, who keeps a dozen horses ready for use.
Raised at Valley Center, Franklin D. Higgs II, best known as Bud, was named after his dad Franklin D. Higgs, lifelong award-winning Valley Center Quarter Horse breeder.
"I grew up riding and showing Quarter Horses, and today all of my family rides horses that relate back to my dad's foundation program," noted Higgs, who's now part of that horse production operation as well.
After graduating from Butler County Community College, where he competed as a team roper in collegiate rodeos, Higgs turned to the profession he was destined.
"We bought this place that had one pine tree in the yard, named it the Lonesome Pine Ranch, and I cowboy for a living caring for Flint Hills cattle," Higgs qualified.
After Peterson attended his first ranch rodeo, he said, "I decided that's what would really fit me."
"Randy and I were distant relatives and also knew each other from handling Flint Hills cattle, so we paired up our ranches for a team," Higgs added.
"The first rodeo we went to, I think it was Strong City, we had good beginner's luck, won it and have been going together ever since," Peterson reflected.
Each own seven trophy saddles and 60-plus trophy buckles verifying their capabilities, but they've had help too. "We're really proud of our team now, but we've had several highly capable cowboys with us throughout the years," Peterson credited.
Still, their team doesn't always win. "We've been to 15 rodeos this year, won seven of them. That's better than our average," Higgs admitted.
"Of course, we want first, but as long as we get a check and break even on expenses, we feel good," Peterson noted.
Competing in both open and Working Ranch Cowboys Association competitions, Buck Creek-Lonesome Pine topped the Kansas Ranch Rodeo Championship at Medicine Lodge two times and will be back trying for a win this year Sept. 28 to 29.
However, even more important to them is the WRCA World Championship. Nov. 8 to 11, in Amarillo, Texas. "We've been there nine years and hope to get qualified this year," Higgs exclaimed.
"We want to win it sometime, but you have to get there first," Peterson analyzed.
Recognizing changes in ranch rodeos, Higgs said, "The competition is sure a lot tougher."
"Interest is increasing as there are more teams than ever," Peterson inserted.
Buck Creek-Lonesome Pine Ranches backed by high-adrenalin in both Peterson and Higgs will be contenders for future decades.