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Twenty-seven years ago, a first-grader wrote the following on a scrap of now-faded lined notepaper:
“When I grow up I want to be in rodeos all over the world and a mom and Miss America and a wife and a singer and a model and a baby sitter and a farmer and have a ranch and I want to be a veterinarian and an artist.”
Says Amy Wilson, the 33-year-old blonde dynamo who long ago committed those goals to paper, “Back then, I didn’t know there was such a thing as Miss Rodeo America,” she laughs, “or I would have included that, too.” Wilson, who was crowned Miss Rodeo Kansas in 2007, achieved her Miss Rodeo America title in 2008.
Still, her path to where she is currently—as co-host along with Steven Kenyon of Western Sports Round-Up, which airs five days a week on The Cowboy Channel and is simulcast on Sirius XM’s Rural Radio at SMX147, and its primary field reporter and show host for 18-plus Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association rodeo broadcasts and for National Finals Rodeo 2020—predates her Miss Rodeo America reign to her gritty beginnings on her parents’ family cattle ranch in Colby, Kansas.
The second oldest of Lonnie and Lori Wilson’s six children, Amy grew up doing ranch chores, helping to care for her younger siblings, and riding whenever she could. By age 9, she had started working at the sale barn, saving money from that and from her 4-H endeavors to buy her own Black Angus cows. Throughout it all, she continued to ride and rodeo.
“I love competing,” she says, “and still make time to do so today, even with my hectic schedule. I started competing in barrel racing and pole bending as a junior in high school and leveraged that into a rodeo scholarship to Colby Community College, where I earned two associate degrees: one in Agriculture Business and the other in Communications.”
Determined to further her education, she earned a rodeo scholarship to New Mexico Highlands University, where she earned a B.A. in Media Arts, with a focus on graphic design, film, and photography—all while competing in rodeos in Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas. Gradually, her interest in being behind the camera turned to being in front of it, and upon graduation, she created her first on-air talent demo reel to help launch the career she envisioned for herself.
She landed a job with Rural Media Group (the parent company of both RFD-TV and The Cowboy Channel) in 2013, working briefly at its headquarters in Omaha before being transferred to Nashville. After five years there, she’s found a home with The Cowboy Channel in Fort Worth, although she’s frequently on the road.
In fact, she’s on the road as she visits with me—barreling down U.S. 281 en route to reporting “in the dirt” at the San Antonio Rodeo from her home in Bluff Dale, Texas. After that, she’ll reverse course to cover RFD-TV’s The American at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas—one of the biggest events in Western sports.
“Knowing the mechanical and technical aspects of what goes on behind the camera has given me a unique advantage in front of it,” she says. “A majority of the technical staff at The Cowboy Channel doesn’t have a Western background, and we sometimes hire crews on-location that are not well-versed in Western sports, either. Having the knowledge of the sport—plus the knowledge of what they do behind the camera—helps me do my job better in front of the camera.”
“No two days are alike,” she says, obviously thriving in the fast, constantly changing environment in which she works, “and it’s a constant balancing act.”
In fact, a college aptitude test that Amy once took pegged her most suitable career choice as air traffic controller—which she can giggle about now.
“The aviation field held no interest for me,” she says. “First and foremost, I believe you must be passionate about what you do, and for me, that’s rodeo and the Western lifestyle.”
As a hard-driving rodeo competitor herself, and one with a deep knowledge base, Amy builds a quick rapport with her interviewees. “My interview style is reactional and conversational,” she says. “I listen as my guest begins to talk, and then build off that.”
A Mentor Par Excellence
When Amy tells me that Pam has had a profound influence on her career, she adds, “Everyone seems to age in front of the camera … everyone except Pam, that is.”
I know immediately that first-name-only gal to whom she refers is none other than the incomparable Pam Minick: Miss Rodeo America 1973, Women’s World Champion Calf Roper, 11-Time NFR Qualifier, National Cowgirl Museum Hall of Famer, former president of the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association, and for a stretch of 25 years, the marketing director of Billy Bob’s Texas, billed as “The World’s Largest Honky Tonk”—along with a host of other accomplishments and accolades, including being the first woman to emcee a major professional rodeo at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo in 1992. Pam still enjoys an ongoing career as a rodeo commentator, earning her the moniker of “The First Lady of Rodeo Commentary.”
It was Pam who first connected Amy with Rural Media Group’s CEO, Randy Bernard.
“When I found out that RFD-TV was going to broadcast part of the 2012 Miss Rodeo America pageant in Las Vegas,” says Amy, “I asked him to give me a chance. I knew that it would be a good opportunity for me to get some real television experience, covering an event that I knew all about, since I was a former Miss Rodeo America.”
Amy, who was working multiple jobs at the time, got an email from Bernard late one night while she was waiting tables at a country club, saying that he could meet with her the following day in Kansas City.
“One of my other jobs was processing cattle at feedlots, so the next morning, I got up at 5 a.m., processed about 500 head of cattle, and then headed to Kansas City which is the opposite side of Kansas from Colby. Patrick Gottsch, the president and founder of Rural Media Group, was there, too. They agreed to have me work for them in Vegas, and then while I was in Vegas, Patrick offered me a fulltime position with RMG.”
“Amy’s the real deal,” says Pam. “If I had to describe her in one word, it would be ‘authentic.’ I first met her when she became Miss Rodeo America—it’s quite a small sorority, really, even though there’s 35 years between my title and hers. I made suggestions on her broadcast reel as she was determined to work in the rodeo commentary field and there’s so much behind the scenes to learn. We stayed in touch from there and our friendship has grown.
“When I came up in the rodeo commentary industry,” Pam continues, “no woman had ever done it before. I had to wait for the door to open a crack, then pry it open myself. Now, I find great joy in being a woman who helps other women succeed. Amy is an example of the diversified and well-balanced life that’s at the foundation of what Miss Rodeo America exemplifies—the ability to muck out stalls one minute, and dress for a gala the next.”
Amy says that her nomadic and hectic life is very different from that of the rest of her family’s. “My parents and all of my siblings are still in Kansas,” says Amy. “I love to visit when I can, as I have 12 nieces and nephews under 10 years old.”
When a challenge occurs—such as moving herself, two dogs, and five horses from Nashville to Texas a year ago—count on Amy to double down—and to make the necessary sacrifices for her animals and for saving money for a place of her own.
“I have a 10-foot, short-wall, living quarters Platinum horse trailer that I had bought before I moved to Nashville,” she says, “and I’ve lived in it most of the past five years.”
Her primary concern was for her horses and dogs, so she posted a call-out to her 2,000-plus Facebook followers, expressing her need for good pasture and her willingness to live in her trailer. Thankfully, one of her friends with whom she hauled to rodeos in the East had a friend near Fort Worth who had room for her horses.
“I really want to invest in a place here in Texas, so I’ve tried to save everything I can. I feel so blessed and I’m extremely grateful for everyone who has helped me along the way. Since moving here, I’ve met other friends—such as barrel-racer Danyelle Campbell who let me stay at her place for a while—and now I live at the Cameron’s Double Horn Ranch … there really are lots of great people in this world!”
She currently keeps six horses at the Double Horn, roughly 60 miles southwest of Fort Worth in Bluff Dale. “I’m a breakaway fan from way back,” she says, “and use my mare Brandi—that I’ve had since college—for breakaway. My two barrel horses are Flapper (Amy and Flapper took first place in an American barrel-racing qualifier in 2019) and my roan mare Bailey—by CS Flashlight and out of StreakinFrenchBailey, a Frenchmans Guy granddaughter—that’s incredibly fast. I’m training with both Futurity Trainer Ryann Pedone and Barrel Racing Clinician Ashley Schafer, and am so excited to be learning from the very best.” Amy also has two mares out of Brandi—one’s four and the other a yearling.
She recently purchased Big Mike, her rope horse. Her boyfriend, Cole Cameron, is working with Big Mike in his colt-starting program. And should Cole’s name sound familiar, he’s a Road to the Horse 2020 Wild Card, a champion steer wrestler, an accomplished team roper, a model for Panhandle Slim, and the son of clinician Craig Cameron, with whom he partners in the father/son enterprise Ride Smart Horsemanship and in the operation of Double Horn Ranch.
It’s a busy life, indeed; but one in which Amy thrives.
And what does she think today about that long-ago list she penned as a first-grader?
“I’ve learned to make my goals attainable and realistic,” she says. “Most of all, I want to be successful at whatever I choose to do.”