PHILLIPSBURG — Phillipsburg Rodeo fans probably don’t know her name, and may not have seen her face, but Kansas Biggest Rodeo can’t go on without her.
Vickie Shireman serves as the rodeo secretary and has been in that role since the early 1970s. And before that, she’s been coming to Phillipsburg for the rodeo since she was a kid.
Shireman, a native of Elk City, Okla., is part of the famed Beutler family, known for their bucking horses and bulls. She is the younger sister of Bennie Beutler and Dollie Beutler Riddle, and when her dad, Jiggs, and his dad Elra, first got the contract to provide livestock for the rodeo, she was in tow with her dad and mother, Una.
The Beutler family started their company in 1929. By the time Vickie was nine years old, she, her brother and sister would load up with their parents and grandparents and head to the rodeos during the summer. The girls spent time with their mother as she took entries.
It was in the time before the computerized entry system that the PRCA now uses, Procom, and the rodeo secretary would set up an office in the rodeo town, and man it all day and evening, answering the phone to take entries for that rodeo. Vickie and Dollie were usually with their mother in the office. "That’s how we learned to secretary," she said, "sitting there, watching her, and as we got older, helping her." The girls also sat alongside their mother in the announcer’s stand, stopwatch in hand, "practicing," Vickie said. "That’s what we wanted to be."
By the time she was seventeen, she had her PRCA timer’s card and was working her dad’s rodeos. Vickie worked mostly for her family, but occasionally timed and secretaried other rodeos for stock contractors like world champion bareback, bull rider and all-around hand Jim Shoulders, Billy Minnick, and Mike Cervi.
Her sister Dollie was trick riding, and Vickie trick rode with her occasionally. But Vickie’s main focus was the secretarying.
Her trick riding work ended when Vickie broke her back during a horse accident in Hinton, Okla., but she continued to secretary rodeos. In the summer, when her daddy and Elra had two rodeos a weekend, she worked one of them while her mother worked the other. But her mother was wanting to do less rodeos, and Vickie picked up the ones Una didn’t do.
She married Dennis Shireman in 1975, and the couple had two children: Justin Shireman and Jennie Shireman Murray.
Shireman got her PRCA secretary card in 1971, and has worked the Phillipsburg rodeo nearly every year since, except for a few years when her children were little. In the 1990s, the Beutler crew went from rodeos in Burwell, to Phillipsburg, then on to Loveland and Longmont, Colo. It was too much time to be away from her kids, so Vickie didn’t make that run till the kids were older. She also missed the rodeo in 2009, when she was undergoing breast cancer treatment.
In 1994, she got the job to secretary the college rodeos in the Central Plains Region (the college rodeos in Kansas and Oklahoma.) Her mother had been a college rodeo secretary in the Southwestern Region, and Vickie had helped her mom out, so she had some experience. "Those rodeos are a little bit different than PRCA, so I knew how to work them."
As rodeo secretary, she is responsible for collecting fees from contestants, preparing judges’ sheets with the tag number for the correct steer or calf, turning in judges’ and timers’ sheets to the PRCA, and entering the contestants’ scores and times in the computer program. She often times as well, running the stopwatch and recording times.
She loves what she does. "It’s the people. I love being around the people. It’s the friends you’ve made, all over the country." The job allows her granddaughters to travel with her, and two of them have come to Phillipsburg. "It’s a little vacation for us all. It’s a lot of fun family time. You’re working but it seems like vacation."
When she was young, the Beutler family stayed in the motel behind the Bissell Hotel, on the corner of Fourth Street and State Avenue. She treasures the memories of her parents and grandparents, and now her brother, Bennie, bringing livestock for the rodeo.
And she loves coming to Phillipsburg. "I know a lot of people there," she said. "I like going to rodeos like that, where the people turn out for the hometown rodeo, and how the committee has put everything back into the rodeo grounds, to build a facility like they have."
"It’s pretty cool, to have a lot of memories there."
Kansas Biggest Rodeo is July 30-August 1 and begins at 8 pm each night. Tickets range in price from $16-$19 for adults and $12-$16 for children. For the Thursday, July 30 performance, all children ages ten and under have free admittance with the purchase of an adult ticket. For more information, visit the website at www.KansasBiggestRodeo.com or call 785.543.2448.