Life has a certain way of rewarding those who put their noses to the grindstone to go after what they want. It also helps when the stars align to deliver the perfect match to a Western life with horses, rodeo, and the opportunity to act as a stunt person in movies and television at a very early age.
Add to this a small-town upbringing on the edge of a very big city, a love for team roping, sports, and motorcycles, and a devoted close-knit family whose advice is not only shared and trusted, but also taken.
These are but a few of the elements that have guided the life and career of Kate Harrison, the daughter of an ardent team roper and professional stunt man, and now a fast-rising star as a CBS Sports reporter for the Professional Bull Riders (PBR).
It all sounds perfect—and it really is!
Kate was raised in and around Agua Dulce, a rural small town just 30 minutes north of Los Angeles. From as early as she can remember, she was atop a horse riding—learning, and competing with the encouragement of her father, Tony Lee Boggs, a dyed-in-the-wool team roper and professional stunt man and coordinator.
Agua Dulce finds itself smack-dab in the middle of the Western movie business due to its proximity to Vasquez Rocks, which fans of classic Westerns will recognize for its craggy features of slanted alluvial rock formations, that look…well—right out of the movies. Agua Dulce is also in close proximity to Gene Autry’s old Melody Ranch, the preeminent movie set where countless Westerns starring the likes of William S. Hart, Gary Cooper, Tom Mix, Roy Rogers, and John Wayne were filmed and where the TV series Westworld is currently being shot.
Agua Dulce is also a bastion of team ropers, stunt work, and rodeo, and a core part of Kate’s life experiences and passions.
COWGIRL caught up with Kate in Agua Dulce where we photographed and interviewed her at the ranch of family friend and legendary stunt coordinator, Walter Scott, who, as a secondary father figure, played a big role in Kate’s adventurous and cultural upbringing.
Horses in her Life
“I grew up in a town that has one stop sign. You can ride your horses down to the market,” says the vibrant young cowgirl. “We’d tie them up and go into the Mexican restaurant to eat. It was that kind of town: Everyone knows everyone. My best friends, ‘till this day, their parents are some of my parent’s best friends.
“Every single day, it was getting up, cleaning horse stalls, feeding horses, going to school, coming home, riding dirt bikes, practicing roping, goat tying, pole bending, and just hanging out outside. I was rarely inside, to the point where my goats used to follow me right up to the back door of the house when I went in for the night.”
Her mom, Sandy, a nurse who worked nights, put Kate and her sister in the nurturing hands of their dad during the day.
“My dad would put us in the back of the bed of his old Ford truck, and we’d just watch him rope from the time we were just babies,” Kate reminisces. “My first memories on a horse were before I even had a saddle.”
Kate was seven when she started junior rodeo, taking on every event they would let her compete in. She rodeod all the way through high school, where she made it to state all four years in multiple events, and to the national finals three of those years.
“My first year at high school national finals, I had to compete in a full cast because I had broke my leg at state,” Kate remembers. “But I wasn’t missing it. I still qualified for nationals and finished top ten in the world.”
Although Kate had aspirations of taking the path to a rodeo college, her dad advised otherwise. “Dad always said do this for fun because, when you have to do it for a paycheck, when you’re living paycheck to paycheck, it’s not the same.” She applied and was accepted to the University of Southern California where she studied journalism and covered college football games on Saturdays, and still came back to rope with her dad and friends on Sundays.
There was another major aspect of Kate’s upbringing that comes into play. Kate’s dad and his best friend and roping buddy, stunt coordinator Walter Scott, hooked Kate into the movie business. She got her first stunt job at age seven doubling as a little boy in the TV series, The Magnificent Seven. She was to be saved from being run over by a team of running horses and covered wagon.
“My dad and Walter say, run out there and stop, and don’t move, and I promise someone’s going to come and save you,” Kate fondly remembers. “That’s exactly what happened. The next thing I know, I got tackled, and we did that three or four times. It just kind of took off from there.”
Kate continued doing stunt work with her dad and Scott leading to riding stunts and horse falls.
“From there it went to wire work, to stuff with fire and car chases, a lot of aerial work and acrobatic stuff,” Kate says. “It was the best way to grow up. As a kid to be able to go out during the day and have fun riding horses and doing flips and getting pulled on wires like you’re flying and then to come home, where you still had chores–you had to take care of the horses, rope, and go compete on the weekends.”
Stunt Men in her Life
“Walter Scott is my dad’s best friend. He’s the kind of guy that would never tell you how cool he is, but if there’s a big Western that’s out there, he’s probably the guy behind it,” Kate explains as tears well up in her eyes. “He’s someone my dad’s always looked up to, and it’s always been cool to see their relationship together. But this is where my childhood was. After school every day, we would come over here. We’d team rope and practice for hours.
“This is the place where I learned the true Western lifestyle. It’s based on a whole lot of hard work, but a whole lot of fun. You couldn’t ask for a better way to grow up.
“My sister was a cheerleader. I was dad’s ranch hand. He just had two girls. He didn’t have any boys, so he would leave for a couple months at a time to work on a movie, and it was up to me to take care of the place. It was up to me to get up every day and feed the horses, take care of them, keep them legged up. I was driving the truck and trailer to come over here and practice. I had to learn to drive the tractor—learn to do it all. I remember those days when he would leave and say, “You got this? Can you take care of everything?” I said, ‘I got this, dad.’ He left it up to me.”
A Broadcast Career
Kate credits her upbringing in the world of rodeo and the movie stunt business for her desire to be a journalist, and to write and tell stories.
“I didn’t grow up with girls, really,” says Kate. “I grew up with the guys outside, throwing the football on the movie sets. They’d bring all the stunt pads out, and we’d play around. We’d jump off the air rams, and we’d do flips. That’s just what I knew. I knew football, and I knew racing motorcycles. Since I love storytelling and I love sports, it just kind of naturally came together.
“My job with the PBR is not just sports reporting. It’s not just talking about what’s happening. My job is to get America—your general sports fans—to see these guys and see what athletes they are. A lot of people that might see bull riding or rodeo for the first time, they don’t understand that it’s true athletes out there doing this.
“I take special pride in bringing that aspect to the sport and being able to share these stories because every single guy that gets on the back of a bull has a unique story. They all fought to get there. You don’t just get handed bull riding. You’ve got to figure it out, and you’ve got to fight to do it.”
Riding with the PBR
Right out of college, where she graduated top of her class, Kate began covering college football, college basketball, water polo, and soccer. “If there was a sport out there, you name it, I figured out the sport even if I’ve never played it before, and I knew it like the back of my hand so that I could cover it.”
Then about four years ago Kate’s sister introduced her to Randy Bernard, a behind-the-scenes rodeo sports entrepreneur, who was instrumental in the success of the PBR and of The American, the world’s richest one-day rodeo.
“He said you actually know this rodeo stuff?” I said, ‘Know it? This is my life. I don’t just know it; this is all I’ve ever done,’” says Kate. “He brought me out to cover The American.”
It was at The American that Kate’s big break was to come.
“Justin McBride, a two-time PBR world champ, was one of the commentators and he pulls me aside after we get done covering the semi-finals, and he says, ‘Hey, you actually sound like you know about this stuff. I think I need to introduce you to someone.’”
After a meeting with the heads of production for the PBR, Kate’s dream became a reality. She was hired to cover pre-show events and eventually brought on full-time as a sideline reporter where she has excelled ever since.
Life on the Road
Kate’s life on the road is hectic. She travels extensively to cover the frequent televised PBR events across the country. Married two years ago to long-time sweetheart, Daniel Harrison, who travels by her side to most events, the busy life suits the couple well.
“I think my childhood really built me up for what I do now because it’s in me,” says Kate. “I tell a lot of people that I’m so thankful to have a husband that’s built for it. Some people need to be 9 to 5 and need to have more of a normal schedule. We look at ourselves all the time, and I’ll laugh with him, say isn’t this crazy life the best? I wouldn’t trade it for the world. What better way to do it than to be on the road with my best friend, week in and week out, covering the sport I love the most? Then it’s just kind of the cherry on top that I know it makes my mom and my dad so proud. I might be almost 30, but, man, it means a lot to me to make them proud.”
Kate’s hair & makeup by Julie Koeth.