The name may not have been familiar to some but the big smile certainly was recognizable to people who have followed bull riding over the years. Robert Mims was the 2014 and 2015, Senior Pro Rodeo bull riding champion. Mims rode in Darby over the weekend at the Senior Pro Rodeo.
The almost 55-year-old athlete – his birthday is in two weeks – has been riding bulls for about 45 years. He began when he was just a boy in Texas, sneaking out with his brothers and riding the neighbor’s cattle. One day, he decided to own up to riding the neighbor’s cows. The neighbor put him to work and said he would help him. But Mims had help at home, too. His father and grandfather both rode bulls in their day.
“My daddy didn’t like me doing it,” said Mims. “He said it would be tough.”
Mims, who is African American, acknowledges it was tough. He said there were a lot of times he felt he should have won but finished second. “I just kept riding, that’s all I wanted to do.”
Mims has always concentrated on riding bulls. He rode in local rodeos in Texas and then moved on to the PRCA, Bull Riders only, and then the PBR (Professional Bull Riders association). He had successful runs in each of the associations but he was getting older.
In the mid 1990’s, he moved to Billings and continued riding bulls. With his ready smile and quick wit, he became a favorite on the circuit with other cowboys and the fans. Mims was the subject of a recent documentary, “Robert Mims, the Texas Bull Rider.” The film aired at the prestigious Big Sky Documentary Film Festival in February. In it, he relates his life as a bull rider across the states and touches briefly on his experiences as a black man in the arena.
But once behind the chutes he was, and is, all business. Mims says that he concentrates on the bulls and how they are moving so it is easier to get in time with them once they buck out. He watches them in the pens behind the chutes and as they move into the chutes, assesses how they are moving.
Mims said he doesn’t really have a physical fitness regimen. He eats what he wants most of the time. As for training, he plays with kids. He has nine grandchildren and says he loves to get them outside, running around and playing. When he says this, a huge grin breaks out and you wonder who has the most fun. Mims also has two stepsons who are in high school. One plays football so Mims plays with him at home. The other is a hunter and so Mims follows, or leads, the boy up and down hills and mountains. In fact, the morning of the Senior Pro Rodeo in Darby, Mims said he went up and down the hills behind Darby several times to get ready for the ride that night.
Mims has not hit the rodeo trail as hard this year. For the first time in his life, he said, he has an actual job. He’s working on the pipelines and so is only hitting a few rodeos and working towards the finals. In order to qualify for the Senior Pro National Finals, rough stock riders must enter in at least seven rodeos. Cowboys in the roping events must enter 10 rodeos. The National Senior Pro Rodeo Finals will be in Duncan, Oklahoma, this year. The World Champions are determined by combining the contestant’s points coming into the finals plus the points won during the finals.
Year end champions on the Senior Pro Circuit are determined by whomever has the highest adjusted world standing points in each event in each age group. Senior Pro contestants are grouped by age and event. Rough stock cowboys are in the 40 to 50 age group or 50 and over. Most timed events are 40-50, 50-60, 60 plus. There is even a 68 and over calf roping age group and men’s breakaway which is 65 plus. Women barrel racers and breakaway roping have the same age groups as the ropers.
Although the Darby Senior Pro Rodeo was over the weekend, there were actually two different rodeos, one Friday and one Saturday. Bull riders can actually ride two bulls in each rodeo.
Friday night, Mims got on two bulls. The first one bucked him off, but the second one Mims rode and won the event. Saturday night, his luck ran out and he was bucked off both bulls. But he was still smiling. And, according to the NSPRA website, he’s in fifth place in the world. Not bad for an almost 55 year old fellow.