Originally published in Hill Country Community Journal – April 1, 2019
Nikki Nix of Kerr Country is 18 now and the only child of retired bull-rider and current livestock contractor J.D. Nix. And her father and Nix herself came by their profession the family way.
Her grandfather was a stock contractor, too.
“I was born into it,” she said.
Nix said the family has a ranch about six miles outside Kerrville and she grew up here. She attended Kerrville schools through middle school at Hal Peterson Middle School.
“I was in barrel racing myself when I was three or four years old. I was in BT Wilson in sixth grade when I began to get more interested in doing this,” Nix said. “We had people working for us, but I also helped my dad. And when we didn’t have extra help, I started doing more. I got more interested in the training and taking the bulls to rodeos,” she said.
“It was partly a gradual decision. The more I did it, the more I fell in love with it.”
But she started her own livestock contractor business at age 12, and all the traveling interfered with schooling, by the end of middle school.
Now she “attends” an online high school called “Texas Virtual Academy at Hallsville.”
It’s not “home-schooling” but a curriculum with teachers providing online lessons she can access by video, no matter where she is, or what time of day or night she has time to study.
With their Kerr County ranch as headquarters for breeding, buying and training bulls to be rodeo stock, she said her current herd at home stands at 25-30 and they have others at a feed lot to gain weight or out in other pastures.
“We take in outside bulls, too, for training and competitions,” Nix said.
Now that she’s started on this business path, she also said she has met a few other young people doing this work, especially at “Junior Futurities.”
“Now there’s a Women’s Futurity, too. And there’s a whole different variety of people at each one.”
Her young age in this work has not made it harder to get older clients to trust her judgment about the bulls, she said.
“We practice at the house since I started, and I’m still learning and practicing,” she said. “We know this business and we participate in ‘Professional Bull Riding’ but not in the PRCA, because we don’t have competition horses.”
Her clients have included a wide range of bull-riding and rodeo events, including the local Kerr County Fair last year, providing the bucking bulls for the rodeo activity at that annual event.
She also has provided bucking bulls for events in San Antonio, Austin and for an “Iron Cowboy” event at the AT&T Center.
While she continues to deal with her own clients and arrange to fill their orders for bulls at rodeo events, Nix called their work “one big team.”
“Me and my mom and dad all have a part in what we do. My mom videos everything, and my dad and I work with the calves and bulls and training,” she said.
When they are traveling to events with the agreed livestock, it’s usually multiple bulls at a time, and often long distances to get to their destinations.
Rest stops have to planned carefully for both the bulls and the human team.
The family owns three livestock trailers of 18, 32 and 34 feet in length. Which one they pull, traveling, depends on how many bulls they are transporting and where.
Nix said they learn from experience where to find hotels that also have livestock pens nearby.
And the livestock gets taken care of first, bedded down, fed, watered and checked over, before Nix and her father and whoever else is traveling with the team gets to go to a restaurant and to a hotel as close as possible to the livestock pens.
“People think the bucking bulls are treated badly. They aren’t. They are treated like royalty. They eat first and sleep first, before us humans,” Nix said.
“The hardest part of the job is when you lose an animal, because you develop a connection with each one,” Nix said. “And the easiest part is watching them grow up from calves and mature.”
Yes, they have names as well as entry numbers at events, and differing personalities. But they are not treated as pets, like people do for dogs and cats.
They’re too big, for one thing, compared to their human handlers; and they have to stay in training to continue to perform.
She said the early training includes working with young bulls in an arena, and strapping onto each one either a box that simulates the weight of a rider, or a specially made dummy. Then the bull is observed for its bucking patterns and energy.
The whole point of training bucking bulls is that they have to perform as hard as possible in a rodeo ring trying to throw off the riders.
In the rodeo contests, the four or five judges are working with a maximum of 50 points each for the rider and for the bull.
“Usually a bull and a rider get between 1 and 25 points each from each of the judges. And their scores are averaged together. A score of 89 is really great; and the rider is scored separately from the bull.”
As the stock contractor providing some of the bulls, Nix said at Professional Bull Riding events, she also has won a buckle or $1,000 cash when one of her bulls performs exceptionally well.
“When the bulls get older, we eventually retire them from rodeos and then we can breed them. Calves go to the Futurities,” she said, “And they can have prominent blood lines that can be followed later for breeding – like in horses when you know one is related to Secretariat.”
She said she has not had any boyfriends so far.
“And the boys I know aren’t intimidated by what I do, as a business. We have a lot of good friends all over this sport and the country,” Nix said. “This is all a big family sport. We could go to California tomorrow and know we need to stay in Glendale, for instance, and be there with friends.”
Now she’s seeing high school graduation in her near future and has some plans that will keep her fairly near the family’s home ranch.
“I plan to go to Alamo Colleges first and get some of the basics done, and then I want to go to Schreiner University for their nursing program,” Nix said.
For more information on Texas Virtual Academy, visit https://tvah.k12.com/