ELKO - Nevada native Ira Slagowski, after six years trying as a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association member, has qualified for the National Finals Rodeo next month in Las Vegas.
Slagowski has met a personal goal and is one of the top 10 saddle bronc riders in the United States, Canada and the world.
Ira's parents are Billie Sue and Dave Slagowski of Pine Valley. His sister Marva, aunt and uncle Carl and Sharon, and grandparents Floyd and Charlene live where Ira grew up on the family ranch.
He spent his childhood working as a cowboy for his family, rode a few bareback broncs in high school, but long ago decided that he "liked to have something on their heads," so since 1994, when he was 17 years old, he has concentrated on saddle broncs.
Last Oct. 18, he married Jaime Casper, Miss Rodeo Utah 2001-02. They met at the Wilderness Circuit Finals in 2000 and are living in Plain City, Utah, close to Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, where Jaime attends college.
"I cussed rodeo queens my whole life before I met Jaime," he said, "but I noticed that she can ride better than most of them and she 'savvies' the livestock business, too."
Jaime Slagowski will graduate next year with a major in communications, but Ira plans to continue on the rodeo circuit for another couple of years before he returns to Nevada.
Jaime has been riding with her brother-in-law, Lawson Hadlock, a professional cutting horse trainer in Ogden; so Ira has been working there, too, "riding colts, cleaning stalls" and helping at cutting contests, he says, but he also has to spend a lot of time on the road, traveling from rodeo to rodeo, sometimes with Matt Marvel of Battle Mountain and more recently with Bill Forbes of Kaycee, Wyo.
It is not easy to become one of the top 10 qualifiers in any NFR event, but Nevada has sent a few saddle bronc riders, including Ned Londo in 1966 and 1977.
He was followed by Mike Marvel of Battle Mountain in 1974 and 1975 and his brother, Joe, who was World Champion Saddle Bronc Rider in 1974. Joe, who ranches now in Lamoille and Fallon, continued to qualify in 1975, 1976, 1978 and 1979. Dan Filippini from Winnemucca qualified in 1979 and Charlie Gardner of Ruby Valley qualified in 1999 and 2002.
Mike Marvel's son, Matt, finished 16th in the nation this year. He will try again in 2004 for a slot among the top 10.
The NFR starts Dec. 5 in Las Vegas this year and will run for 10 days. Besides saddle broncs, events include bareback broncs, bull riding, calf roping, steer wrestling, team roping and barrel racing. It's an extravaganza that includes wonderful entertainment and an extensive trade and gift show.