Cowboy Influences Rodeo

Kiowa resident John Miller began his rodeo career while in college and still competes today. He was instrumental in keeping the Barber Co. Rodeo going

HARDTNER, KAN. (July 19, 2013) – John Miller has been involved in rodeo for most of his life. The Kiowa, Kan. cowboy grew up in Oklahoma, and while in college at Oklahoma State, he got his first taste of rodeo. A friend entered him in the bareback riding, and even when the bareback riding wasn’t exactly what he wanted, he turned to bull riding. In 1966, his senior year of college, he won the bull riding at the Oklahoma State rodeo, and he was on his way to a lifetime of horses, ropes, and rodeo arenas.

After graduating with a degree in secondary education, Miller moved to Florida where he taught school for three years. After the first year, he married his college sweetheart, Bev, and together they were in Florida. In 1969, it was time to come back to Oklahoma to be closer to family. He took a teaching job at Lookeba, south of Hinton, where he taught vocational agriculture and advised the FFA chapter.

All the while, Miller was competing in rodeo on the side. He gave up the bull riding (“the bulls all bucked me off,” he joked) and took up calf roping and steer wrestling. He competed at open rodeos, in the Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association, and in the Kansas Pro Rodeo Association and Central Plains Rodeo Association.

Then one day his brother called. Would John like to move to Kiowa, and work in his John Deere dealership? So he did. Miller sold machinery, or, as he wryly said, “I guess I really didn’t sell it, I let people buy it if they wanted to.”

He continued to calf rope and steer wrestle, and at the age of fifty, began steer roping in a senior association. He tripped steers till about nine years ago, when he decided to focus solely on calf roping. Now he competes in the Ultimate Calf Roping Association, roping about every other weekend at events in Oklahoma and Texas.

Miller was chairman of the Barber Co. Rodeo from the mid 1990’s to the mid 2000’s. The rodeo had gone from being open to professionally sanctioned, and even stopped for a year. Miller, along with Kenny Mangus helped get it started back up as a pro rodeo.

Now, Miller, who retired from the dealership ten years ago, ropes every day, and trains calf horses. He’s made all his own horses, and has three right now. “I like to do it,” he said, “and I have plenty of time.”

He and Bev have two children, a son, Johnny, Chandler, Okla., and a daughter, Janie, in Kansas City, and two grandchildren. They have been married 46 years.

And even though he will miss this year’s Barber Co. Rodeo to travel to Cheyenne and Deadwood, S.D., Miller’s influence is there. As part of the committee that helped put on the rodeo, and as a long-time contestant, the Barber Co. Rodeo is part of his life

This year’s Barber Co. Rodeo in Hardtner begins at 8 pm on July 26-27. Tickets are available at the gate and are $10 for adults.