- Associated Press - Monday, July 28, 2014

MAGNOLIA, Ark. (AP) - One fact that many people in Columbia County might not know is that the county is home to a professional rodeo contractor. Columbia County native Van Flaherty has been raising bucking horses and bucking bulls for years and has positioned himself as a contractor of professional livestock.

“When I was young, I worked in rodeo,” Flaherty said Wednesday.

“I’ve done pretty much two things in my life: worked in rodeo and in the oil field. I always said that if I made enough money, I was going to raise bucking horses.”

“Over the years, I went to university and obtained a couple of degrees,” Flaherty said. “The last degree was in petroleum engineering. I went some to SAU but graduated from Louisiana Tech University and ended up working primarily internationally.”

In 1995, he quit his job in Saudi Arabia and moved back to Magnolia. In 1996, he started buying mares to raise bucking horses. In 1997, he established Hi Lo Rodeo Company as a bucking-horse breeding company.

Through his company he had some amateur contracts and did amateur rodeos. He named the company after a book called The High Low Country, written by his friend, Max Evans.

“Over the next few years, I ended up with around 100 pretty good bucking horses and a small herd of bucking bulls and I needed an avenue to use them,” Flaherty said.

“I was continuing to work internationally in the oil and gas business, so I positioned myself financially to purchase a PRCA stock contractor’s card, which is Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. The PRCA is like the NFL of rodeo.”

Flaherty purchased Mid-States Rodeo Company, which is a PRCA rodeo company formerly of Kirksville, Mo., in 2011 under the LLC of the Hi Lo Rodeo Company.

Mid-States Rodeo Company currently owns 150 bucking horses, 40 bucking bulls and 60 head of timed event cattle.

“I’ve been buying, selling and trading horses and bulls continuously for the last three years, in an effort to build the company up,” Flaherty said.

“In Arkansas, I’m running stock on 400 acres and I’m running stock on 1,000 acres across all the ranches right now.”

The company has ranching operations in Louisiana, Oklahoma, Missouri and Arkansas and employs four full-time staffs and a number of ad hoc workers.

“Our rodeos are primarily in Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri and now Springhill, La., has come on board,” Flaherty said.

“I am trying to find more rodeos in this area.”

“I’ve got a contract with the Springhill Rodeo Association to provide the stock. We are going to provide the horses, bulls, steers and calves,” Flaherty said.

“This is their 65th year that they had a rodeo. They had professional rodeos for years then they stopped and started having amateur rodeos. Now they have gone back, after a number of years, to the pro rodeos and we were fortunate enough to negotiate the contract to get that rodeo.”

The rodeo will be July 31 through Aug. 2.

“We will have our top horses down there,” Flaherty said.

“We anticipate it to be a very big rodeo.”

The company specializes in PRCA rodeos but also have contracts for college and high school rodeos.

“We have a contract for one Ozark Region Rodeo in Marshall, Mo., and that is a national intercollegiate rodeo association rodeo. The SAU rodeo team participates in that rodeo,” Flaherty said.

“I have subcontracted some stock for the college rodeo but I have never been the primary stock contractor for the SAU rodeo.”

“We send the young stuff to the amateur rodeos and see how they do. If they are good enough there they move up to the pros, if they aren’t good enough we sell them off,” Flaherty said.

“We don’t keep anything that’s average, if they are average we sell them because we want the best.”

The company has participated in several professional invitational events across the country including the Justin Boots Million Dollar Finale in Omaha, Neb; the All American Tour Finals in Waco, Texas; the Great Lakes Circuit Finals in Louisville, Ky and the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Flaherty was born in Magnolia, grew up in Waldo and now lives in Emerson. He has two daughters, Kylie and Caitlin.

“We want to base the company in Emerson,” Flaherty said.

“The cooperate part is already based here but some of it is based in Missouri because of the rodeos that are held in the surrounding areas. Primarily it is coming to Columbia County.

Other than overseeing the rodeo company, Flaherty also works as a drilling superintendent for a joint venture operation in Algeria.

“I am based here in the US for 24 days out of every 56,” said Flaherty.

___

Information from: The Banner-News, http://www.bannernews.net

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