On the ranch, at the rodeo ‘Real, true cowboys’

Array Published Aug 10, 2008 at 05:00AM

From two bulls to 22, the Brown sisters have carved their own place in the rodeo business. With their bulls in tow, the young Powell Butte women travel to bull-riding events around the West Coast. The Bulletin followed them for a few weeks this summer as they prepared for the Linn County Fair in July.

POWELL BUTTE — Some teenagers reject their parents’ advice by staying out too late, cutting classes or driving too fast. Others get a tattoo or spend too much time with the wrong crowd.

Kyley and Lindsy Brown bought two $2,000 bucking bulls and went into business.

The soft-spoken identical twins, then 14-year-old Crook County High School sophomores, were no strangers to animals or ranch work. They’d grown up spending days outside doing chores on their family’s 400-acre Powell Butte ranch, taken ag classes and joined their school’s FFA club. But this proposal — to pool their hard-earned money to form a stock rodeo company before they’d even earned their driver’s licenses — stopped Kyley and Lindsy’s parents in their tracks.

Mike and Julie Brown warned their daughters that they were too young to spend so much money on bulls. But it was already too late.

“Too bad — we just bought two,” Lindsy told her parents.

More than four years later, the Browns have come around to the idea of two headstrong teenage girls finding success in a tough, male-dominated industry.

And they have good reason — though Kyley and Lindsy are just 19, they’ve turned their company, 2 Bucks Rodeo, into a regular fixture on the Northwest rodeo circuit.

Through breeding and careful purchases, they’ve expanded their stock to 22 bulls and purchased a portable rodeo arena to broaden the company’s reach. And within the next few years, the Browns hope to own enough animals to put on a rodeo of their own.

Breaking into the business

With their mud-caked leather boots, well-worn blue jeans and seemingly endless knowledge about the ins and outs of bucking bulls, the sisters appear every inch authentic cowgirls. But breaking into the business hasn’t been easy. Especially in the beginning, they were laughed at and ignored, dismissed by some longtime bull riders as too young — and too female — to possibly know what they were doing.

“There are guys who would put down your bulls just because they can’t ride them,” Lindsy said. “They didn’t trust us, thought we were crazy, that we didn’t know what we were doing.”

After so much hard work, the criticism was hard to handle, and both girls remember thinking about throwing in the towel on the entire venture.

Neither of the sisters, however, was ready to quit. They attended rodeo after rodeo, and began to gain a small following of cowboys and rodeo organizers who were more interested in the company’s stock than its owners.

“All the guys, now, treat us just like another guy, which sounds really funny,” Kyley said.

Among their biggest fans was Nick Kallsen, a longtime Colorado-based bull dealer who said he was initially surprised when he sold several bulls in a TV auction, and the petite twins turned up to collect their purchase. Once they started talking, however, Kallsen, 66, said he was won over by the girls’ professionalism.

“They keep their nose to the grindstone. … They’re not doing it for a game — they’re serious,” he said.

And instead of being content with the respect of their peers and their modest financial success, Kyley and Lindsy kept looking for room to grow. They purchased cows so they could breed their own stock of bucking bulls and invested in a trailer, a forklift and a portable rodeo arena, which includes gates and other equipment required to set up a rodeo. And they learned to grow after a few rookie mistakes, like bidding too much for bulls or buying them only for their looks.

“Look at bulls before you buy them,” Kyley said, laughing. “Sight unseen is not good.”

After more than four years in the business, Kyley and Lindsy now know exactly what they’re looking for when they decide to add to their stock. They talk about their bulls as if they were professional athletes, praising their spirit and character as much as performance in the arena. A good bull, Lindsy said, “loves what he does and is athletic. He has to have the heart to do it — you know when they love their job.”

Though the Browns have other professional interests — both sisters are studying interior design online, and Lindsy is interested in a career as an ultrasound technician — they plan to keep 2 Bucks Rodeo Co. running for several years. Lindsy wants to stay in Powell Butte — “as long as it doesn’t get bigger,” but Kyley thinks she might want to move to Colo-rado someday.

In the meantime, however, Kyley and Lindsy said they’re glad they live at home on their childhood ranch with their parents, who help out with the animals — and with plenty of advice. Looking back, the girls’ father, Mike Brown, said he always knew his daughters could be successful.

“I thought it would work — just maybe not as quickly as they wanted,” he said.

And while the sisters have grown into successful businesswomen in their own right, Kallsen, the bull dealer, said their most notable quality is their character. When an injury took him away from his animals last year, Kallsen thought he was out of luck — until Kyley turned up in Colorado to help. She fed the animals, watched over the irrigation systems and did it all without complaint.

“(Kyley and Lindsy) are way more than just stock contractors out to make a dollar,” he said. “They are real, true-blue cowboys.”

The Browns are modest about their success, but when they talk about their company’s growth and their plans for the future, it’s clear that they’re proud of the work they’ve done. Both said they hope 2 Bucks Rodeo Co. inspires other young people to take a chance on their own dreams.

“I want the kids out there to have people they can look up to,” Lindsy said. “I would want to be that role model.”

Friday Night Blues, a 6-year-old bull owned by the Brown twins, propels Myrtle Point bull rider John Houston, 32, to the arena floor at the Linn County Fair. The sisters entered six bulls in the competition.
Yee-haw!Chase Skidgel, 20, of Redmond, holds on to Undertaker, a 3-year-old 2 Bucks Rodeo bull, for just over 8 seconds — enough to win the Bull Bash.
In mid-July, the Brown sisters hit the “Tough Enough to Wear Pink Bull Bash” at the Linn County Fair in Albany.Getting the bulls ready The sisters’ 6-year-old bull, Hair of the Dog, jumps out of its trailer at the Linn County fairgrounds. He was one of six bulls they entered in the fair’s Bull Bash.
Testing the bulls Kyley studies the style of one of her bulls, while Mike Ludwig, 30, of Powell Butte, does his best to stay on during a practice bull bucking. A good bull, Lindsy says, “loves what he does and is athletic. He has to have the heart to do it.
Feeding timeKyley Brown, left, and her twin sister, Lindsy, throw hay out to their bulls during the early-morning feeding at their Powell Butte ranch.
Lindsy and Kyley do their hair in their hotel room before the Bull Bash. Once chided as too feminine for their line of work, the young women saw attitudes change when their success was noticed.
They didn’t trust us, thought we were crazy, that we didn’t know what we were doing.”— Lindsy Brown, 19“All the guys, now, treat us just like another guy.”— Kyley Brown, 19
2 Bucks Rodeo Co. owners Lindsy Brown, left, and twin sister Kyley share a laugh just before the start of the Linn County Fair in Albany in mid-July. The 19-year-old Powell Butte residents now own 22 bulls — quite a growth in their rodeo business from roughly five years ago, when they owned two.