It’s been 35 years since Don Gay snared a record breaking eighth world bull riding title on the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association circuit.
In 1984, the North Texas cowboy broke Jim Shoulders’ then record of seven world titles that was set in 1959, the same year that the National Finals Rodeo was founded.
Today, Gay, 65, who lives near Terrell in the Dallas area, is the general manager of the award winning Frontier Rodeo Co. The company served as the primary livestock producer for the May 3-5 Guymon (Okla.) Pioneer Days Rodeo.
Gay grew up as the son of stock contractor Neal Gay who produced the renowned Mesquite Championship Rodeo in the Dallas suburb of Mesquite that ran on weekly basis during the spring and summer months for many years.
He was pro rodeo’s bull riding kingpin from the mid-1970s through the mid-1980s. After retiring from bull riding in 1989, he became a TV color commentator as bull riding thrived as a stand alone sport.
Today Gay is riding high in the stock contacting field. The Frontier Rodeo Co., which is owned by Jerry Nelson, has won the PRCA’s Stock Contractor of the Year award the past four years.
Gay said one reason the Frontier Rodeo Co. (which is based in Freedom, Okla., in Northwestern Oklahoma, and Winnie in South Texas) is successful is because it has an outstanding bucking stock breeding program. Frontier Rodeo Co. owns high-profile animals such as Medicine Woman, a four-time PRCA Saddle Bronc Horse of the Year (2011, 2014, 2015 and 2016) and Full Baggage, a two-time PRCA Bareback Bronc Horse of the Year (2011 and 2013). Gay also said the company also provides great timed event cattle.
“Our breeding program is second to none,” Gay said. “The difference in our company from any other company that produces rodeos is we are so deep in every event. We don’t just do riding events. We have our own roping calves and we lease high quality steer wrestling and team roping steers. We try to put on a first class rodeo.”
Gay also is flying high these days as an airline pilot. He is the pilot for Nelson who also is in the oilfield business.
Gay recently became a licensed jet pilot within the Cessna Citation 500 Series. Nelson recently purchased a Cessna Citation V (Model 560). Gay, who has been a pilot of smaller planes since 1974 when he traveled to rodeos, recently became licensed to fly Nelson’s recently purchased jet.
Gay snared world bull riding titles in 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1979, 1980, 1981 and 1984. His record of eight titles still stands today.
“I didn’t start out to be the eight-time world champion bull rider,” Gay said. “I started out to be the world champion bull rider.”
But as Gay snared multiple world titles, he set out to break Shoulders’ record.
He said he realized it was attainable after he made a memorable clutch ride on a bovine named Red One at the 1976 NFR, which helped him clinch a third consecutive world title.
“That’s when I knew if I wanted to break Jim’s record that I had what it takes physically and the knowledge to do it,” he said.
During his reign, Gay conquered the sport’s tougher bulls.
He said his top three rides of all time were a 95-point effort on a bovine named Red One (owned by the Kelsey Rodeo Co.) at the 1976 National Finals in Oklahoma City, a 94-point effort on Tiger (Billy Minick) at the 1974 NFR in Oklahoma City and a 97-pointer on Oscar (RSC Rodeo Co.) at the 1977 Grand National Rodeo in San Francisco.