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Hal Burns called Ellensburg three weeks ago just to check in with his long-time friend Frank Beard, a fellow rodeo stock contractor.

Even though they were 1,070 miles apart, he could hear the fatigue in his friend’s voice and he sensed maybe the end was near for a man that participated in the Ellensburg Rodeo for over seven decades, first as a contestant and then as a stock contractor.

Longtime stock contractor Frank Beard, 92, passed away on Monday.

FAMILY VALUES

A guy can’t ask for much more than to die in his own bed, surrounded by family. To a man, friends and colleagues say that Beard was a man of his word, a man of integrity and a man that placed value on the truth. Beard came from that generation where a man’s handshake was every bit as valid as a signature on a contract, Burns said.

“He was a character. Frank was not afraid to be a prankster,” said Burns, who inherited Burns Rodeo Company from his father, Pete, and eventually joined forces with Daniel Beard to form Summit Pro Rodeo.

“Frank was good people. The Beards are all just good people. I’ve known them a long time. Frank was the patriarch in that family and he led by example. He’s one of the last of a generation along with my dad and Harry Vold. I look forward to the time when the COVID-19 lets up and we can celebrate his life well lived.”

GREW UP IN TOPPENISH

Frank’s wife, Charlot, passed in August, so it didn’t take long for him to join her, but if a man’s wealth is measured by good friends, good horses, a good name and a loving family, the Northwest rodeo legend left this world a rich man.

Beard grew up in Toppenish where he developed an early love for horses, buying, trading and even breaking colts. His first job was riding horses for World Champion bronc rider Lee Caldwell, who put the rodeo bug in Frank’s ear. Beard was an all-around talent in bareback, saddle broncs and even did a little bit of calf roping. His greatest success came on the saddle broncs.

“We were trying to count, but I think he broke his left wrist at least seven times,” his son Carey said. “He got bucked off one time and broke it. A pick-up man dropped him one time and ran over him. One time he got in a toboggin accident.

“But he loved horses and he grew up in a family business. My grandfather drove a herd of horses from Toppenish to Fort Smith, Ark., for some Army contract. That’s who he was and what he became.”

ELLENSBURG RODEO

Beard’s first Ellensburg Rodeo was back in 1947 when he drew a bareback horse named “Open Switch.” He was proud of the Ellensburg Rodeo. Needless to say, disappointed when the committee had to cancel the 97th annual rodeo, but extremely proud of the Ellensburg Rodeo’s induction into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame.

“The hall of fame brought a smile to his face,” Carey said. “He was really looking forward to the 100th anniversary (in 2023). But that wasn’t meant to be.”

He helped Molly Morrow get her start in PRCA photography. He bought a lot of Anderson Hay over the years. Frank was truly an Ellensburg guy. In the 1970s, he founded Beard Rodeos, earning a reputation for his award-winning livestock and honesty in dealing with rodeo committees and contestants.

PRCA

His rodeo company joined the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association in 1987. His stock was a solid draw throughout the Northwest, places like Ellensburg, Pendleton (Ore.), Lewiston (Idaho), Sisters (Ore.), and Hermiston (Ore.).

“I drew a Frank Beard bull at a rodeo in Tonasket one time. I ended up getting knocked out and broke my collarbone. But I won the bull riding,” said Corey and Lange Rodeo contractor Mike Corey, who eventually bought and incorporated Frank Beard Rodeo into his operation.

“Frank was very smart about livestock and obviously that’s what he did most of his life. I would think his passion was horses, more his forte, but he was pretty sharp. In today’s world, he would be so different. He was an old cowboy and whatever he said was the way it was and that’s what you always tried to live up to.”

GATHERING PLACE

The Beard ranch was a community gathering place with friends, family and of course horses. Frank and Charlot were active in 4-H and the kids’ school activities. The home was always open and everybody who visited was part of the extended family.

Like he did with his father, Frank’s grandson Daniel Beard followed in his footsteps, building a rodeo stock company with a legacy of fine stock. Daniel remembers his grandparents’ house seemingly like a museum with Native American artifacts and old rodeo memorabilia. But mostly, he remembers a house where there was love, honesty and the integrity that was a family tradition.

EVERYBODY WAS WELCOME

“He loved people. He loved being around people. He joked and was always looking for the best in someone,” Daniel recalls. “When it came to my business, I think he was pretty proud of having the connection to the next generation of rodeo. He came to all the rodeos and later would call after every show and we’d talk about the performances and how it went.

“There were generations of people that were a part of Frank’s (extended) family. Anybody that came through the door had the chance to become family.”

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