ANDOVER — The basement of John McBeth's home is a cowboy museum of its own. Prize saddles dating back to 1966 are on display. Each complements a gallery of photos, spurs and chaps that map out the career of one highly decorated cowboy.
McBeth will be honored today as he is inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame at the Museum of the American Cowboy in Colorado Springs.
The 69-year-old said it is humbling to be an inductee and still remembers how big a deal it was in 1974 when he won the saddle bronc riding championship.
"It was an unusual year. We were off of our status quo quite a bit, because always in the past we would rodeo just to make a living," McBeth said. "Then all of a sudden the whole venue changed and we had a new goal.... Instead of trying to make a living, we were chasing a championship."
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Throughout his career, McBeth qualified for 11 National Finals Rodeos. He was driven by a mentality that would accept nothing less than excellence.
"A world champion in the generation before gave me this advice early in my career," McBeth said. "He told me, 'You just remember that amateurs compete against each other and a true professional competes against only himself.' "
McBeth learned many other life lessons from hall of famer and two-time all-around champion cowboy Gerald Roberts. He said it was advice from an old-timer to a kid. It was advice that should be cherished, because in those days veterans weren't too eager to take younger competitors under their wing.
McBeth made sure to take Roberts' gesture and pass it on. He went on to teach cowboys like Tom Reeves, Robert Etbauer and Billy Etbauer. Each holds at least one NFR title.
"You try to instill some confidence in those young people, and then they have to provide the incentive from that point on," McBeth said. "We were very lucky. We got a lot of good students that listened well and then went on to make something of themselves in this business. It makes me look good, but I didn't really do it all. They did it."
Watching his former students dominate and win titles felt just as important to McBeth as winning his own saddle bronc championship in 1974. He said it felt good to contribute to somebody's life like Roberts did to his.
McBeth's involvement in rodeo wasn't limited to riding broncos. He served as a TV commentator and also a National Finals judge in 1976 and 1979. Saddle bronc riding, however, was his passion and a chief reason for his induction in the ProRodeo Hall of Fame.
"You spend all of your life preparing, trying to be the best you can be at what you do no matter what it is," McBeth said. "The rodeo just happened to be mine — riding broncs."