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What started as a clueless ride with more questions than answers and adjusting to the learning curve on the fly, turned into a Pro Rodeo Sports News-caliber career, even though his email reads: Jon Guddat, Umpqua Bank home loan officer.

It’s been a good ride for the Daily Record rodeo reporter, who started as a 23-year-old sports editor back in 2000. He eventually gravitated out of the newspaper industry, but kept his foothold in rodeo coverage. Fans and local cowboys are sure glad he did.

When he hits the send button to file his story for the coverage on Championship Monday at the 2021 Ellensburg Rodeo, it will be his last.

The man who writes a weekly column called “Under the Hat,” and wears his passion for rodeo on his sleeve, says it’s time to spend a little more time with family and less out there on the rodeo trail.

“Writing for the Daily Record has been the most fun job I’ll ever have and I truly mean that,” said Guddat, who covered rodeo, more specifically, the Ellensburg Rodeo, for 21 years. “When I first started, I literally didn’t have a clue. But I’ve always been drawn to the stories. Sometimes I’d get so involved in what we were talking about I’d forget to write it.

“Take the other night after the (WestStar) Best of the Best. I had this incredible talk with Colby Lovell. Here he is a world champion that just won the event and we spent more time talking about his wife and family and his faith. That’s what attracts me to rodeo.”

He has spent a lot of time talking to world champions and some guys on their way to the ProRodeo Hall of Fame over the past couple of decades. He’s also had his share of talks with guys on the bubble that didn’t qualify, told the story of disappointment as well as glory, building up a fan base and a following through quality writing, both informative and fun.

One of the greatest compliments a writer can hear is that they made it entertaining for people that know and educational for those who don’t. His work has not gone unnoticed.

Ellensburg Rodeo arena director Rick Cole is the longest standing member on the board of directors and was a finalist for the 2021 John Justin Committeeman of the Year award.

“He keeps the spirit of rodeo alive all year long,” Cole said. “I follow and read all his work. When you read what he writes, you think about the Ellensburg Rodeo and you look forward to what we do here. That’s what he does, he keeps the interest alive.”

Anderson Hay and Grain CEO Mark Anderson is a longtime rodeo sponsor, as well as a roping and rodeo fan.

“What’s fun about Jon is that when he first started, he didn’t know anything about rodeo,” Anderson said. “He made a huge commitment to understand and learn about it. It was always fun to read what he was doing in his travels and read his perspective.

“What’s so great about it is that he knows how to write so it makes sense to anybody. I think that’s what made a lot of his work so attractive.”

Longtime Daily Record writer Mike Johnston would agree. Guddat’s writing style makes it interesting to those who know rodeo and informative to those who might not be familiar with the sport.

“He was always fun to work with. I’m not a big rodeo fan, but I like to know what the big things are,” said Johnston, who is retired after 25 years with the paper. “You could read his work and understand what’s going on.

“Sometimes when you read a rodeo magazine or something, it’s like another world. But Jon would write so that everyone understood. He was helpful to the layman and interesting to the fans that followed him.”

One of the highlights came with his coverage of team ropers Riley and Brady Minor and their journey from Washington high school state champions to the National Finals Rodeo.

The 10-time NFR qualifiers (2008-09, 2011, 2013-19) have danced on the big stage for a decade. Riley finished as high as third in the world (2017) and Brady finished fifth in the world in 2016. They have won NFR rounds. They have won money, and Guddat chronicled it all.

“Man, that’s sad to hear (the 2021 Ellensburg Rodeo will be Guddat’s final rodeo),” said Riley. “Jon has done a great job following rodeo. I always enjoy our visits.”

Brady agreed, “I always enjoyed talking to Jon about rodeo.”

The Minor family was inducted into the Ellensburg Rodeo Hall of Fame in 2007 for their contributions to the sport through seven decades and four generations.

Former rodeo board president Joel Smith likes the way the local rodeo writer follows the careers of the local cowboys and cowgirls.

“We always appreciate Jon’s coverage. He covers the circuit really well and the local contestants,” said Smith, who was on the board that developed the Xtreme Bulls event. “He keeps everybody up to date on the stuff that’s going on.

“When you have a passion about something, you can get pretty good about what you say. He relates to the younger people too when he writes. We’ve always appreciated his work.”

Don’t be surprised to see the man “Under the Hat,” at a rodeo down trail. Once a fan, always a fan.

Rodney Harwood: award-winning journalist and columnist. Lover of golf and the written word. I can be reached at rharwood@kvnews.com

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