The inevitable injuries that come with being in the rodeo business limit the careers of most cowboys – roughstock riders in particular. Then there is Buster Ivory, a champion bronc rider from California whose career as a competitive cowboy spanned more than 30 years.
Ivory started competing in 1938 at the age of 15 and was still going strong throughout the 1960s, retiring after the 1968 season. The Reno rodeo is a perfect illustration of his longevity in the sport. He was all-around champion of the Reno Rodeo in 1945 and won the saddle bronc competition in 1947. Fifteen years later, in 1962, he again won the saddle bronc competition [and the championship saddle that went with it.
“It was a good rodeo,” he said in 1999. “I won a lot of money there. The casinos used to give a lot of money to the rodeo.”
Ivory’s success came despite suffering a broken neck at the Salinas Rodeo in 1948, after which doctors said he would probably never walk again. He was up and walking 90 days later.
Ivory knew every facet of the rodeo business, working with numerous stock contactors and rodeo committees over the years – including the Reno Rodeo with stock contractor Cotton Rosser. He was voted Rodeo Man of the Year in 1978 and is a member of the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame. He was also heavily involved in the early days of the National Finals Rodeo.
Buster served as livestock superintendent at the NFR for a record 26 consecutive years and was chute boss there for three years.
In 1999 he was selected as the recipient of the Ben Johnson Award and was inducted into the Texas Rodeo Hall of Fame in 2001.
Until his passing in March of 2003, Buster and his wife June, traveled to numerous rodeos, including the National Finals in Las Vegas, where they helped organize a cowboy reunion each year.