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Emporia native Rex Bugbee of Medicine Lodge has posthumously been honored as pro rodeo’s Pickup Man of the year.
“He has the best seat in the house.”
More than once last Wednesday the nostalgic expression was heard from bowed heads with tears being wiped away.
Each was so sad yet very graciously pleased at the same time.
Their hero, everybody’s friend, “the true cowboy’s cowboy,” Rex Bugbee was posthumously honored as rodeo’s Pickup Man of the Year.
During the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) Banquet in Fort Worth Texas, the Kansas cowboy was acknowledged for his service.
“Bugs,” as many friends knew him, was honored during ceremonies prior to the 2020 National Finals Rodeo in Arlington, Texas,
From Medicine Lodge, Bugbee passed away August 25, this year, just 65-years-old. He was fatally injured serving as pickup man during a bronc riding match in Guymon, Oklahoma, August 20.
Confident “Bugs” was grinning from ear to ear as he’s best remembered worldwide friends felt the humble pickup man’s presence.
Looking down from Heaven Bugbee’s pleasure was sensed being recognized for what he enjoyed more than anything in earthly life.
“I love my job. I love everything about being a rodeo pickup man,” Bugbee insisted just a few months earlier.
His professional arena duties were likewise personally appreciated as “Bugs” had affirmed. “I have the best seat in the house. I’m close up for the rodeo action of the livestock and the cowboys.”
This year’s view of the National Finals Rodeo had to be the best ever for Bugbee.
The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association last week in Fort Worth, Texas, posthumously honored Kansas cowboy Rex Bugbee as their Pickup Man of the Year.
General consensus is “The selection committee couldn’t have picked a better one for this important honor.”
“Being a pickup man is the best job in rodeo,” Bugbee had surmised.
“It’s bittersweet said Rex’s wife, Teri, who accepted the award on Bugbee’s behalf.
“I would much rather Rex was here to accept it in person but that didn’t happen. Rex would have really been proud that he was nominated by his peers,” she appreciated
Growing up at Emporia, Bugbee had said, “The Flint Hills cowboys were my heroes. I wanted to be like them.”
Of the more than 100 rodeo performances which Rex Bugbee picked up at annually, the Medicine Lodge cowboy is shown doing his job at RFD-TV’s The American in Arlington, Texas.
He became friends with renowned rodeo contractor Emmett Roberts, father of rodeo world champions.
“Mr. Roberts was an outstanding pickup man and inspired me to be a pickup man,” Bugbee said earlier.
Riding in Lyon County and regional horse activities as a youngster, Bugbee started rodeo bull riding as a teenager.
“I won some at rodeos, but most importantly, I started picking up for rodeo contractor Jimmy Crowther,” Bugs said.
“I owe a lot to Jimmy for helping me get started as a pickup man and working major rodeos,” Bugbee credited.
Following his cowboy profession, Bugbee moved to Medicine Lodge in 1977 working for area ranches more than 30 years.
Bugbee and wife Teri have two grown sons, Josh and Jay, and granddaughter Ila and grandson Tripp. “They’ve been supportive in all of my cowboy endeavors; especially when being gone so much to rodeos,” Bugbee had recognized.
From picking up for Crowther’s JC Rodeos, then New Frontier Rodeo, Bugbee had recently worked mostly for Frontier Rodeo Company.
Seemingly appropriate, Frontier Rodeo Company was again honored as the PRCA Stock Contractor of the Year during the evening’s presentations.
Not nearly every cowboy has the desire or abilities to be a rodeo pickup man. “It’s not as easy as others might think,” Bugbee had confirmed. “You have to be on the ball all the time.
“Picking up is a two cowboy job. You can’t do it alone. Fortunately, I’ve worked with several top pickup men,” Bugbee credited. He was obviously pleased working with two-time National Finals Rodeo pickup man Shawn “Too Tall” Calhoun at his last job.
“It takes a special horse. Many horses just don’t make it.” Bugbee had insisted. “I’ve been through a lot of the horses over the years and fortunately ridden several outstanding pickup horses.”
Rodeo wasn’t just a lifestyle for Rex Bugbee. It was a part of his life. From riding 4-H steers to saving cowboys as a pickup man in arenas across the country.
“I think winning this award was because what a great guy he was. Rex always gave everyone his time and recognized everyone,” Teri said.
Bugbee was selected to pick up at many major events including Cheyenne, Wyoming, Frontier Days twice and RFD-TV’s The American in Arlington, Texas. He also worked the Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo multiple times.
“Rex just loved what he did and loved going to the rodeos and seeing all the committeemen. He looked forward to every rodeo,” Teri said.
“Rex had a big impact on rodeo. Everyone loved him and he loved them. Rex was always glad to get back home to his ranch family, but he loved what he did.”
Abbyville native Justin Rumford, now of Ponca City, Oklahoma, was also honored that evening as the Clown of the Year.