A Cowboy’s Perspective :: by Luke Creasy
The name Kesler is synonymous with Canadian rodeo. Every professional rodeo cowboy has heard of or met stock contractor Greg Kesler. He was broad at the shoulders but his presence was bigger than his stature. Greg passed away February 1st, 2016 at his family ranch near Magrath, Alberta. He was 70 years old. His funeral was February 8th, 2016 in Lethbridge, Alberta. Rodeo will never be the same without him.
Greg was the son of the late Reg Kesler, a Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame inductee. Greg worked with his father at Kesler Championship Rodeo but in 1974 at age 29 he founded his own company Kesler Rodeo. Greg’s Kesler Rodeo earned 10 World Championship Titles with his horses; Cool Alley, Painted Smile, Alley Ways and Alley Cat during his career. Kesler Rodeo’s Alley Cat was the 1988 PRCA Saddle Bronc Horse of the Year and Painted Smile was PRCA Saddle Bronc of the year in 2001, 2002 and 2003. Country Cat, Order Up, Painted Smile, Cool Alley, and Polka Dot, were all voted the top horses of the WNFR.
Greg and his son, Duane, bought Reg’s card in 1994 and continued running Kesler Championship Rodeo (founded by Reg in 1950). Duane primarily ran Kesler Championship Rodeo while Greg remained the owner/operator of Kesler Rodeo. They based their operations out of Helena, Montana and Magrath, Alberta. Kesler Rodeo sent five bareback horses, one saddle bronc horse and one bull to the Wrangler NFR in Las Vegas this past December. Kesler Rodeo puts on approximately 15 rodeos a year and subcontracts at many large rodeos across the continent as far south as San Antonio.
Greg always stood firmly on the chutes, confident in his ideas and his role. You did things his way or you faced the consequences. When horses were loaded, whether it was 5 minutes before the start of the bareback riding or 25 minutes before start time he wanted your riggin’ on your horse. But it had to be on there loose. “Don’t pull it too tight,” Greg would say, “it’ll make their front legs numb.”
Often he’d tell you to wait and pull last minute, with maybe 2 riders ahead of you, and if you were still pulling when it was your time to go he’d assert himself, “That’s tight enough. Hurry up son. Why aren’t you ready?” It was usually frustrating at the time and funny later.
I can remember rubbing a horse’s neck to sooth him in the chute and having Greg say, “Don’t pet my horse, son, this isn’t a petting zoo.”
I usually found the best way to keep from getting on Greg’s nerves was to chime in with a lot of, “Yes sir. I’m hurrying sir,” and a lot of other chatter so he knew I was doing my best.
One time, in Taber, I was third rider in the bareback riding and got a reride, which made me then the fifth rider out as well. I hurried to get my riggin’ on my next horse and had plenty of help, but it was obvious we were going to slow up the rodeo. As my help pulled my riggin’ and I caught my breath I could see Greg’s growing need to say something. As his chest swelled up in preparation to tell us to hurry up I took it on myself to say what Greg was thinking, to save him the effort and in an attempt at humor, “Hurry up guys. Finish that riggin’ off we’re holding up the rodeo,” Greg just looked at me and sort of nodded in approval while my help looked at me in disbelief.
I, like many riders, understood why he spoke so firmly when it came to how we handled his stock in the chutes. He loved and admired his stock. It was more than his livelihood, it was his life’s work in living form, and he always wanted what he thought was best for his animals.
No matter what Greg said while you were getting ready, whenever your hand was in the riggin’ and you were about to nod he always said, “Now, go out there and win some money.”
He wasn’t a cold man or a mean man. If you saw him with his family you would see he was a caring husband, father and grandfather. The affection in his eyes and the calm in his voice when he spoke to his family told you that that Kesler rodeos weren’t just his show, they were a family production. He had great love and respect for everyone in the family and knew that he couldn’t do it without them. Greg is survived by his wife Judy, son Duane (Margo), daughter Berva Dawn (Roy) and his two grandsons Kurtis and Chase.