Our Town O'Neill: Rodeo

O'NEILL, Neb. -- Brady Wakefield was a talented young up and comer on the pro rodeo circuit when his life came to a tragic end in July of 2015.

This 2013 graduate of O'Neill High School was killed in a pickup accident and life on his parents ranch has become a tribute to their oldest son.

"Behind us is our bunkhouse, we put it up a couple of years ago," said Susan Wakefield.

Jim and Susan Wakefield had talked about putting up a bunkhouse for quite awhile.

"But we lost our son in an accident a couple of years ago and just really wanted to do something in his memory that would help all the kids that we loved to have come over and practice, and so we thought what better place than a gathering place, whether it's meals or just getting together, people can stay there," Susan said.

In Brady's bunkhouse, there are beds, a shower, a kitchen and many precious memories of Brady.

"Brady was afforded the opportunity to go rodeo and the things he talked about, places they could stop and they could lay their horses up. We've got a washer and dryer in there where they can do laundry and we've got people from North Carolina to Montana, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and that's just in the last two weeks," Jim said.

In this bunkhouse, Brady's memory is alive and well.

"It's become a real special place for us. We absolutely love hanging out there and it's just been an awesome memory for our son," Susan said.
"I'm very proud of these young people, we have a lot of them around here, this is kind of our core group that spends quite a bit of time here," Jim added.

And this core group very much appreciates the Wakefield's and their hospitality.

"It just feels like home when I'm up here...you meet new people," Riley Wakefield said. "They're willing to support you no matter what you do. Just develop a lot of friendships just by being around here so."

Riley always feels his big brother's presence in Brady's bunkhouse.

"Oh, it's crazy," he said. "Whenever you walk around here, he's always on our minds cause he used to do the same things with us, I mean we used to laugh and fun in the practice pen."

And speaking of practice, this indoor arena comes in pretty handy throughout the hot summers and cold winters of Nebraska.

Brady's dad if often reminded of his son's perspective on rodeo and life.

"Be the best version of you [that] you can be. And that's something that we really grind into these kids, his big saying is, he said it all the time, he said 'keep grinding' and it's just a daily set of events that lead you toward a goal," Jim said. "When we're out here laughing and roping and getting, better we remember the times that he was out here with us and we cherish those memories and glad they happened."

The Wakefield's say that they have enjoyed hosting a number of rodeo world champions who have come in and spent time teaching the young cowboys and cowgirls that enjoy spending time at the Wakefield ranch arena.