Gary Rempel – Background
Born Sept. 5, 1951 in Elrose, Saskatchewan. He was raised on the Matador Ranch near Kyle, Saskatchewan, one of the largest ranches in Canada. At it’s inception in 1905, the Matador Land and Cattle Company was six townships (140,000 acres) and was a part of the Matador holdings that stretched south to Texas. In 1923 the lease was taken over by the Saskatchewan dept. of Agriculture to establish the first government-supervised community pasture in western Canada. John Rempel, Gary’s father, started riding on the Matador in 1943 and was appointed manager in 1962, and was there until his retirement in 1984. Gary grew up on the back of a horse doing everything you do on a ranch. Cowboying was all that he ever wanted to do.
His father John worked occasionally as a pickup man for the late Jerry Meyers, of the Bar T Rodeo in Saskatchewan. Gary competed in calf roping and team roping but always wanted to pick up. Gary got his opportunity when Jerry had 2 rodeos on the same weekend, so Gary’s official debut was in Hallonquist, Sask., working with Pete Aksomitis. Mostly self-taught, Gary learned the finer points of picking up when he went to Calgary and worked with Wayne Vold. Wayne taught him a lot about doing things right the first time, and how to turn horses back when they buck, to make them buck better and earn more points.
He worked his first amateur finals (The Canadian Cowboys Association) in 1984, and the following year (1985) he was asked to work at the Calgary Stampede. He has been a pickup man at the Calgary Stampede every year since then and was honored in 2009 for 25 consecutive years of service with a bronze and a presentation during the Stampede.
He has been selected by a vote of the Cowboys to work the Canadian Finals a record-setting 21 times: ’86, ’87, ’99, ’01, ’02, ’03, ’04, ’05, ’06, ’07, ’08, ’09, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018, and 2019. Wayne Vold held the previous record at 11 times.
At the 2009 Canadian Finals Rodeo, Gary was awarded the honor of “2009 Canadian Cowboy of the Year.” This annual award is presented by Douglas Lake Ranch to the cowboy judged best in ability, sportsmanship, appearance, personality, and who has contributed most to the betterment of rodeo. Gary received a $2,000 cash award and a bronze trophy by Ross Contway, as well as a leather-bound bible from the Fellowship of Christian Cowboys.
In 2010, Gary received international recognition when a bull jumped out of the arena and into the stands at the 2010 Canadian Finals Rodeo. Gary had roped the bull just prior to his jump into the stands and although there were a few injuries, Gary is credited with minimizing potential injuries and mayhem.
He moved to the State of Montana in 1992 and has worked the Montana Circut Finals Rodeo a total of eight times: ’00, ’01, ’02, ’03, ’04, ’05, and ’07, ’08. He also worked the Columbia River Circuit Finals twice.
He achieved his ultimate goal of being voted by the cowboys to pick up at the National Finals Rodeo for the first time in 1998 and has gone back in 2000, 2001, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2013, and 2014. He holds the record for the most trips to the National Finals Rodeo (9x) by a pickup man since they began being selected by a vote of the Cowboys in 1990. He is only the second Canadian to work as a pickup man at the National Finals Rodeo. The other was Wayne Vold.
He has also worked the RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo three times: in 2003 (with Jeff Shearer), 2005 (with Scott McClain), and 2009 (with Sonny Hanson - a substitute for Billy Ward, who was selected but unable to come).
The PRCA started awarding a “Pickup Man of the Year” in 2015, which is selected by a vote of the entire PRCA Membership. Gary has been nominated in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018; he awarded the honor in 2017.
Gary is a gold card member of both the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association and the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
In 2013, Gary was inducted into the Ellensburg Rodeo Hall of Fame, along with the Calgary Stampede, the bucking horse Grated Coconut, and Buz Peth. At the induction ceremony, Gary noted how very special it was to be on the list along with many of his heroes, and that he remembered when one of his heroes, Jim Shoulders, was inducted, he borrowed one of Gary’s pickup horses to ride into the arena.
In 2014, Gary worked RFD’s inaugural rodeo, “The American” – touted as the richest one-day rodeo in the world, in Dallas, TX at AT&T Stadium, and again worked the rodeo in 2015 and 2016.
Gary’s first Pendleton Roundup was in 1991, an opportunity that came about through the invitation from Pendleton for Calgary Stampede to bring their bucking horses to Pendleton. Calgary hauled horses down for the first time in 1990, and after experiencing the unique arena, then rodeo manager Winston Bruce wanted a Calgary Stampede pickup man to be in the arena. Gary has picked up at Pendleton every year since then and has worked with other notable pickup men there with many credits to their names including Kenny Carpenter, Pat Beard, Lloyd Faria, Del Northcott, Bobby Marriott, and Billy Ward. Pendleton remains one of his all-time favorite rodeos. He also served the bull roper for the Pendleton PBR Classic from its inception up until 2016. He was honored to be inducted into the Pendleton Roundup and Happy Canyon Hall of Fame in 2014, along with Clint Corey, Robin Fletcher, and Fritz Hill.
In 2018 he was inducted into the Montana Pro Rodeo Hall and Wall of Fame.
He has been fortunate in that he’s remained relatively injury-free during his career; he broke his leg in 1985 and once was drug by two horses with a lariat rope wrapped around his legs just below the knees during a freak hailstorm at a rodeo in Saskatchewan in 2000, just one day after the Calgary Stampede. Miraculously, he sustained only minor injuries and a concussion. He was kicked by a bronc in the catch pen and suffered a compound fracture of his tibia during the first performance of the 2018 Canadian Finals Rodeo in Red Deer, Alberta. He was back in action at the Denver Stock Show less than 12 weeks following his injury.
His horses are very important to him, and Gary’s always been known to have some outstanding horses. He has had a few special ones, but the one “standout” would have to be Rainbow, a red roan that was his main pickup horse for more than 20 years. He purchased Rainbow, the “ranch bronc” from the Broken O Ranch (MT) in 1993, where he was working at the time. He turned out to be a natural, and in his career never sustained any injuries. He was retired in 2013 at the age of 24 but brought out of retirement as a “spare spare” for the WNFR in 2016, and true to form loved the extra attention and got to have a short stint in the arena. Rainbow was laid to rest in 2018.
Gary and his wife Jody live on 140 acres in Fort Shaw, Montana. Jody, a former Miss Rodeo Washington, works as an advertising representative for the local CBS & NBC Television affiliates in Great Falls and was named the 2012 Montana Broadcaster’s Association Television Salesperson of the Year. Gary has two children, Kevin and Shelley, and three grandchildren, Ryan, Samantha, and Riley.