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  • May 30, 2024 4 min read

    On this episode of the Ol' Boy Podcast, host Chad Ward welcomes four-time world champion saddle bronc rider, Zeke Thurston. The episode delves into a rich discussion covering everything from the intricacies of rodeo payouts to the culinary art of competitive barbecue, alongside personal anecdotes and tales of resilience. 

    The Rodeo Payout Structure 

    Chad Ward opens the conversation by querying Zeke about the payout structures of various rodeos. While large events like the National Finals Rodeo (NFR) and the Calgary Stampede command massive payouts, smaller rodeos have their specific structures too. Zeke offers an insightful breakdown, noting that a $10,000 added rodeo can generate a payout of around $3800-$4000, attracting approximately 60-70 participants. This payout system ensures that even smaller events remain financially viable and competitive for the riders.   

    Drawing Parallels: From Rodeo to Barbecue 

    Chad takes the rodeo payout discussion a step further by likening it to competitive barbecue contests. He mentions how a $10,000 payout has become necessary to attract participants to a barbecue contest. Similar to rodeo events, the barbecue world features divisions ‚ÄĒ backyard and pro ‚ÄĒ with significant variations in participation due to economic factors and rising meat prices. Chad then shares his experiences with major barbecue competitions, such as the Houston Livestock Rodeo and the American Royal Open in Kansas City, fostering a sense of community in these large gatherings.¬†

    Hunting, Fishing, and Family Traditions 

    The conversation naturally transitions into shared stories of hunting and fishing. Zeke recounts shooting his first deer with a bow at the tender age of eleven and praises the skills of Native American hunters who used simple bows. Chad adds a compelling narrative about a young girl excelling in archery, underlining the dedication required for competitive shooting.  

    Zeke touches on his love for freshwater fishing, particularly catching pike with his kids, emphasizing the unparalleled joy of children's first fishing experiences. Both speakers agree on the importance of understanding the meat supply chain, from catch to plate, and the dwindling number of family farms involved in beef production. 

    Community and Camaraderie 

    The heart of the episode lies in the shared values between rodeo and barbecue. Chad and Zeke explore these cultures' sense of community, camaraderie, and mutual admiration. Zeke pays homage to rodeo legend Ty Murray, mindful of the pioneers who sculpted their respective fields. Chad relishes the reciprocal influence of rodeo and barbecue, capturing the essence of both worlds intertwining. 

    The Demands and Rewards of Rodeo 

    Zeke elaborates on the grueling physical and mental demands of rodeo, including the meticulous process of choosing broncs and the toll they take on one‚Äôs body. Yet, these hardships come with incredible rewards ‚ÄĒ the fulfillment of nailing the perfect ride, the vibrancy of rodeo communities, and the pride of passing down these traditions. He also touches on family-friendly rodeos, noting his children's joy in being part of the rodeo scene, aligning family values with the sport's community-driven ethos.¬†¬†

    The Reality of Ranch Life 

    Venture further, and the duo discusses the challenges of ranch life. Zeke sheds light on the unpredictability of income and stringent pricing within the agriculture industry. Chad expresses lament over the conversion of small family farms into sprawling commercial developments, spurring a discussion on corporate farming's rise and its ripple effects on local communities. Zeke explains this shift towards corporate farming as a necessity to sustain a growing population, while also highlighting the pride and continuity in raising cattle and horses. 

    Future Endeavors and Legacy 

    Towards the episode's end, Zeke teases an upcoming extreme bronc event he's poised to host in his hometown. This novel undertaking reflects his commitment to perpetuating the rodeo culture, blending tradition with innovation. Moreover, the discussion touches on the career span differences between bull and bronc riders, with bronc riders potentially enjoying careers spanning up to 20 years due to the nuanced skills required. 


    Zeke’s guest appearance on the Ol' Boy Podcast unveils a tapestry of topics interwoven with shared values, challenges, and triumphs. From rodeo and barbecue to hunting and family traditions, Chad Ward and Zeke Thurston spotlight the rich legacy and enduring spirit that define their lives. Whether you're drawn to the rhythm of the rodeo or the sizzle of a barbecue grill, there’s a comforting sense of community and belonging that resonates through their conversation. 

    As the episode wraps up, both express their gratitude for fans' recognition and the support they receive. The dialogue serves as a reminder of why they love what they do ‚ÄĒ cherishing every moment and every challenge, as careers in their fields are fleeting yet profoundly rewarding.¬†¬†

    Listen Here‚ÄúAnd through rodeo, I've been lucky enough to, you know, buy some land and some different things and kind of set ourselves up. So me and my wife, we actually do kind of the middle phase of the beef program, which is grass yearling."‚ÄĒ Zeke Thurston¬†

    3 Fun Facts About Zeke

    1. Zeke Thurston shot his first deer with a bow at eleven years old and admires the skills of Native American hunters using simple bows.
    1. Chad Ward has participated in massive barbecue competitions, including the Houston Livestock Rodeo with about 280 teams and the American Royal Open in Kansas City with approximately 600 teams.
    1. Zeke and his wife manage a grass yearling program on their ranch and spend winters in south Texas due to Zeke's rodeo commitments. 

    Where to Follow Zeke