After winning the PRCA world championship in 1999, and returning to compete in 2003, steer wrestler Mickey Gee will make his third trip to the National Finals Rodeo in December.
That could mean a big payday for the Dean cowboy. Each of the 10 go-rounds pays $18,000 to the winner. The participant with the best overall average earns $46,000.
Gee won the average in 1999 and again in 2003. It was his winnings in each go-round that gave him the title of world champion.
This year, it wasn’t until several big wins did Gee consider trying to qualify for the finals, held in Las Vegas, Nev., Dec. 1-10. And even then, it almost didn’t happen.
“It came down to the last little bit,” said Gee.
On the last day of the season, Sunday, Sept. 27, Gee woke up $820 ahead of Stan Branco, a steer wrestler from Chowchilla, Calif. Gee was 15th and Branco 16th in the standings with one rodeo left. Only 15 make the cut. Gee had a rodeo in Anadarko, Okla. Branco performed in California. Gee finished third and fourth in two go-rounds.
To overcome Gee, and qualify for the NFR, Branco need to win first place. A steer got away from Branco, and he finished the season 16th in the standings for a second straight year.
“Stan’s a great guy, a friend of mine. I hated it for him,” said Mickey. “But I told him I didn’t hate it bad enough that I was going to give him my position.”
Just piddlin’ around
Early in the PRCA season, Gee had no intentions of qualifying for the NFR, making the rodeo circuit by picking up bucking horses for stock contractor Bennie Butler.
“I was just piddling around, and before I knew it, I had a little bit of money won,” said Gee. In mid-summer, and after the Independence Day shows, he found himself climbing in the rankings.
“The Fourth of July, when all the big rodeos are, I went with some boys for about two weeks, and won $25,000,” he said. “Well, that just jumped me right up there in the standings to about third or fourth. Then my wife, she wouldn’t let me come home the rest of the year.”
By the horn
After qualifying, Gee planned to take a month off, then begin training for the NFR. He and two friends brought in a fresh batch of steers and 15 minutes into his first practice session was injured when a steer horn punctured his leg, requiring a trip to the emergency room.
Gee said the injury shouldn’t affect his performance. The injury occurred Nov. 4, leaving the steer wrestler 26 days to recuperate. As far as practice time, he’s not concerned.
“When you’ve trained as much as I have, it’s kind of like riding a bicycle. Just a little tune up, then go out there and get after it,” said Gee.
He began his season in January while recovering from a knee injury suffered in an alumni football game. The injury required surgery.
I hadn’t had time to run any practice steers and I made the finals. Maybe it’s a sign that I don’t need any practice,” he said with a laugh.
This year is a bit different than Gee’s previous appearances at the NFR, now that he has children, ages 4 and 7. The trip to Las Vegas will be a family affair.
“It’s been a goal of mine, and her’s to, now that we have kids,” said Mickey. “It will be exciting. They’ve seen the saddles and watched me rodeo, heard about Vegas, and now they get to go see what it is like – what the Big Show is like.”
Also traveling to the rodeo will be Gee’s father, Dennis, who introduced his son to the sport while himself a PRCA cardholder. Dennis Gee competed for some 30 years.
“I jumped my first steer right there in that arena when I was 15,” said Mickey, pointing toward a painted pipe pen just beyond his front door. “My dad’s lived there for 25 years,” he said of the house on the other side. “That’s been my practice pen right there. Or, play pen, whatever you want to call it.”
Dennis Gee never made it to the NFR, finishing the season as high as 18th as a steer wrestler, but always kept his son in horses and steers.
“He did whatever it took for me to become successful. He has been the backbone of this whole deal,” said Mickey.
This year, Mickey Gee has competed on Fifth Wheel, a horse he trained and that has stood out this season. One of Gee’s main concerns right now is keeping his horse healthy after it began to get sore late in the season.
Gee gives Fifth Wheel a lot of the credit for his success.
You’ve got to ride a really good horse, and he has really stepped up this year,” said Gee. “I think if both of us are healthy when we get there, the sky is the limit.”