Bailey Pro Rodeo’s rags-to-riches bull proving hard to ride
LAMOURE, N.D. -- Kelly Klein likes to watch cattle sales while he eats dinner. Back in January 2015, he saw some "wild, longhorn-looking cattle, rodeo looking cattle" out of Loup City, Neb.
LAMOURE, N.D. - Kelly Klein likes to watch cattle sales while he eats dinner. Back in January 2015, he saw some "wild, longhorn-looking cattle, rodeo looking cattle" out of Loup City, Neb.
There was something he liked about the red-and-white-paint bull that came through the ring as he watched on his computer screen.
"He looked like he was built right, had a little fire to him. He looked kind of wild," Klein says.
So he bought him.
Klein has been in the stock contracting business about 20 years, ever since he hung up his spurs as a bull rider. In 2015, he and his wife, Tesa, joined up with Shane Gunderson of Baldwin, N.D., Shane Vaira of Richie, Mont., and 5 Star Bucking Bulls of Sanborn, N.D., to form Bailey Pro Rodeo after purchasing a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association card from David Bailey of Fort Gibson, Okla.
Most of the time, the stock contracting group would find bull prospects by going down south and watching them buck. They'd pay $3,500 to $5,000 for a young bull. The paint bull out of Nebraska was a bargain in comparison, at about a third of the price.
That $1,300 investment - market price for a slaughter critter at the time - would pay off. The bull, now called High Maintenance, has gone unridden in PRCA and Professional Bull Riders competition since 2016, has made trips to Las Vegas for the PBR World Finals and the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo and was the riders' unanimous selection for Bucking Bull of the Finals in the Badlands Circuit.
Becoming High Maintenance
That first spring, the Kleins took the new bull out a few times in practice pens and amateur competition. He wasn't fully grown and didn't quite know what he was doing. He also didn't have a name yet, as far as the Kleins knew.
The number "205" is branded on the bull's right hip, so Klein signed him up for his first competition as 205. Gunderson was putting on the event and came up with something better: High Maintenance. Klein questioned where Gunderson got the name.
"'Well, I named him after your wife,' he said," Klein explains.
Tesa Klein was the secretary for the event, and when she got an email with the name in it, she knew right away to what it referred.
"I thought, you've got to be kidding me," she says.
Tesa Klein has a "brother-sister relationship" with Gunderson, and she gets a lot of grief from him and the others in Bailey Pro Rodeo.
"A lot of times I'm the only girl at events," she explains.
So, the joke that she's high maintenance was one she'd heard before, though both she and her husband insist it's not true.
They took High Maintenance to six events that spring, and he got ridden in one. That was the last time anyone has stayed on him for 8 seconds.
By spring 2016, High Maintenance had put on about 400 pounds.
"He was green yet, but we introduced him to the road, and he took to it right away," Klein says. "He was a natural. He likes to buck."
When High Maintenance got picked to go to the PBR World Finals and the WNFR, Klein decided to track down the folks who raised the bull.
The origins of greatness
Kirt Lukasiewicz was in the combine. Last day of harvest, a few hours to finish. The phone rang. It was Klein, delivering news that Lukasiewicz, unknowingly, had accomplished a goal he had no idea was still a possibility.
"The day Kelly called me, I just cried," Lukasiewicz says. "I couldn't have been more happy."
The Farwell, Neb., farmer and rancher started in the rodeo business raising longhorns for roping and team penning, but when they got a little too big and too ornery, he switched to bull riding. Lukasiewicz really hadn't wanted to sell that red and white bull, the one his daughters called Special K - "Because he acts and looks just like you, and you're kind of special," they had told him.
"I could tell you in the pasture where he was dropped as a baby," he says.
But, sold it he had, along with the rest of his rodeo stock, because even when you really hope to have a bull make it to Vegas, there are junior high and high school volleyball games you'll never have another chance to see that are more important.
As the calf grew up, Lukasiewicz bucked him with a dummy on his back and in practice pens. He took him to a competition where he got ridden, and the rider took third with a score in the 80s.
While Lukasiewicz had what he thought were some good bulls in the past, he never had the connections to get his bulls beyond local rodeos. So to find out that Special K - by then known as High Maintenance - was bucking at the highest level was a big moment for Lukasiewicz.
"I always aim pretty high. I always said I wanted to get a bull to Vegas ... In a roundabout way, (the Kleins) gave us that opportunity to have our dreams come true," he says. "That made my day to know that we actually raised one that was going to go to the NFR and the PBR."
Unridden but not unrideable
While some of the partners in Bailey Pro Rodeo have had bulls or broncs make the WNFR, High Maintenance was the first one for the Kleins. Another bull, the now retired I'm Your Huckleberry, previously made the PBR World Finals for them.
"High Maintenance is probably as good if not better" than I'm Your Huckleberry was, Klein says.
If the bull can stay healthy, Klein imagines he could make repeat trips to Vegas. He'll have plenty of opportunities to prove himself: He'll be on the road almost every weekend this summer. The closest rodeos where he might buck include Park Rapids, Minn., on June 30-July 3 and Steele, N.D., on July 8.
"It's really surreal," says Tesa Klein about the bull's success. "It's a dream come true."
The same sentiment holds for Lukasiewicz. The experience has given him motivation to try again with breeding bucking bulls. And this time, his new connection with the Kleins might give him a way to see more bulls hit the big time.
Lukasiewicz finds some of the coincidences in High Maintenance's journey to stardom a bit serendipitous. He thinks it's funny how his daughters named the bull after him and the Kleins' business partner named it after Tesa Klein. And he was excited to learn the Kleins' company is called Bailey Pro Rodeo, because his oldest daughter - his main helper in the bull-raising days - is named Bailey.
Klein doesn't expect the unridden label to stick to High Maintenance forever.
"I told somebody the other day when we were in Florida (for the RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo): He's not an unrideable bull. He's just an unridden bull," he says. "So, eventually the guys will figure him out and come with a game plan and figure out how to get him rode."
Even so, Klein says it won't be easy.
"It'll take a pretty good cowboy and a good game plan," he says. "He has a big heart. He loves what he does. He gets better every time you buck him."