More than ever before, here on the Wild Side, we are traveling outside the box to find friends who are face to face with adventures we have not yet explored.
We had hoped, and now we have found, that the age old, time tested, and true way of working cattle is not just confined to the Wild West.
Here in Tennessee, on any given day, you can find actual cowboys crisscrossing thousands of acres on their trusted steeds and literally living their dreams.
Dennis Morris doesn’t just round up cowboys for cattle drives he also operates two very successful rodeos. One is held in Mayfield, Kentucky in May and one in Springfield, Tennessee in July.
Some dreams start early. For Dennis Morris, that dream was becoming a stock contractor. He has vivid memories of a childhood spent on the farm, playing in the dirt with toy trucks, trailers and livestock, building pens out of sticks and various other stock contractor-related duties.
“I don’t ever remember not wanting to do it,” Dennis explains. He even settled on the name of Rafter M Rodeo Company in those early days.
Rodeo and bull riding in particular held a spell over Dennis. He has qualified for the International Finals Rodeo multiple times and holds four world championship titles as a bull rider.
But beyond rodeo and bull riding, it was simply the cowboy lifestyle Dennis was always drawn to.
“I was always really obsessed with the cowboy life in general,” he says. Dennis grew up breaking horses and tending cattle. Today he has a fulltime job tending hundreds of head on multiple properties in addition to putting on his own rodeos.
When Dennis started putting on rodeos with Rafter M, he was able to embrace a new role as pickup man, an essential duty that is the definition of a cowboy to Dennis.
“Even back when I was riding bulls I used to really watch the pickup men, because most good pickup men were good cowboys. You could always just tell they were real life cowboys not just rodeo hands, so I was always fascinated by them,” Dennis says.
He’s since been a pickup man at the IFR six times, an honor he says was perhaps more exciting than his own world titles. “When I got voted to pick up at the IFR the first year, I was more excited than when I was riding bulls,” he laughs.
It was a job only sweetened by Dennis being able to raise and train his own horses he used for the important task of the rescue riders.
“The first year I picked up there I told my wife, ‘one of these days I’m going to own every horse that we bring out,” and he has over the years since.
“That meant as much to me as getting the job. We take a lot of pride in our horses and animals,” Dennis says and adds of his life working the ranches and raising his great niece alongside wife, Jill.
“We break all of our horses, and we use them on the place every day, so it’s a cool deal. I’m probably one of the luckiest men in the world. When my wife was 9 years old she told her mom she was going to marry me. I was cool because I was the bull rider, I was a little older than her,” he laughs and adds gratefully, “We’ve got it a lot better than most I can tell you.”
This summer look for Rafter M at their hometown rodeo Gupton Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram Ram Tough Rodeo in Springfield, Tennessee or along the rodeo road.
Way Out West Rodeo Photography