A Diamond in the Rough
Inside a small office that appears the most-used room in the house, I can hear Steve Gilbert approaching from several miles away-the charismatic stock contractor who's served two terms on the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association board of directors has a way of making an entrance. When his helicopter lands in the driveway, it quickly becomes apparent this won't be an average afternoon.
Ten minutes later we're in the air, climbing to a few hundred feet above ground level to take a quick "tour"of the ranch. A wildfire burns in the distance-just over a plateau from the Diamond G Rodeo headquarters in Toquerville, Utah. No matter, Steve's already checked on the situation, and the proper authorities have things under control. Keeping a safe distance so as not to fan the flames, Steve pilots the helicopter like an old pro while scanning the horizon for the company's horses and bulls.
The rodeo livestock is spread across seven ranches that encompass 250,000 acres-some of which is leased from the Bureau of Land Management. Area elevation ranges from 3,400 to 12,000 feet, and the rocky, hilly, Southern Utah terrain is great for keeping bucking horses and bulls in peak rodeo condition.
Steve and his wife, Cyndi, are quick to point out that stock contracting doesn't pay the bills around the Gilbert household. In fact, Steve, an old cowboy, was forced to give up the rodeo lifestyle for two decades while he found other ways to provide for his family. At times, early in his life, Steve could barely make ends meet for his former wife and their two children. Thanks to some old-fashioned hard work and a desire to make his American dream come true, Steve went on to own several successful construction, paving and excavating companies.
"I decided to go out and be successful in life,"Steve says. "And I always knew when I got to that point that I'd come back and be a stock contractor."
Cyndi, a lawyer whose family homesteaded 5,000 acres just west of nearby Cedar City, Utah, speaks up, saying, "You never told me that was the plan all along."
The couple honeymooned at the 1988 National Finals Rodeo-despite the fact Cyndi didn't know what the NFR was at the time.
"Well, you didn't need to know everything,"Steve counters about his stock-contracting plans.
The next year, the couple purchased Ricky, a bull who became the foundation of the Diamond G Rodeo Company. But until 1992, the couple fell more into the category of backyard breeders rather than stock contractors. That year, they purchased a PRCA stock contractor card and capped Steve's two-decade quest to return to the sport he so dearly loved.
For the rest of the story, pick up a copy of the July 2007 issue of Western Horseman.