Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Making champions: Sandhills cowboy coaches young rodeo competitors inside and outside of the arena | Rural Life

Bill Manning has mentored many young people into championships in the rodeo arena as well as their chosen walk in life.

Once a young man called and said, “Bill, I’m a failure. I’m no longer rodeoing.”

Manning asked him if he paid taxes, was married and had a family. The young man replied yes to all the questions, and Manning said, “Then you are a success. This is not just about rodeo, but about life.”

We are all given a talent in this world. What we do with that talent is up to us. A real gift is one that you develop and then pass on to the next generation. This is exactly what Manning has done.

Eleven Sandhills residents, past and present, are being honored for their dedication to the …

His gifts of excellence as a horseman, cowman and his rodeo talents have been honed. When he physically couldn’t complete due to a bad shoulder, he passed it on to the next generation.

More than one of his students have done very well at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. When asked which of his young people had gone on to fame, he says they were all champions in his book

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Bill J. Manning was born July 17, 1951, raised in the Sandhills and has been ranching on the same place for 27 years. His parents were Mart and Katherine Manning. He had one brother, Hain, deceased in 1999. He has two sisters, Ann Manning Warren and Kari Manning, both who live in the Sandhills area.

In 1974, Manning married Marjorie Doggett and they have one daughter, Justine Manning Benscoter (and husband Kevin) who has blessed them with four grandchildren, Michael, Anthony, Winter and Cecilia Benscoter. They live on the same ranch and are involved with each other’s lives on a regular basis.

Manning is teaching his granddaughter to haze for the steer wrestlers, and her goal is to replace her grandpa in the arena and be a world class competitor.

Bulldogging started for Manning in the spring of 1967. He went to the Thedford High School Rodeo that year and won it. He went to state finals in Harrison ended up sixth. His sophomore year he went to McCook and won the bulldogging with a 4.5 second run. In those days that was an unheard of time. He got fifth in the calf roping and ended up runner up for all around.

In those days there were only five high school rodeos per year, and he and the guys he traveled with went in style in a straight truck. His senior year he attended six of the eight offered rodeos qualifying for state. He placed first, second or third in every rodeo and was competing on borrowed horses.

Manning contributes his success to Gene Lesher, Byron Eatinger, Glen Nutter and Dale Pound for getting him started.

He attended Lamar College in Lamar, Colorado after working a year on the ranch. He then returned to Nebraska and attended college in North Platte. He competed in college rodeos and nearly made it to the National College Finals, missing it by 22 points on the first bulldogging horse that he had ever trained. That horse, Speck, was a run-away ranch horse that ran through the fence the first time he was ridden in the arena.

After college, Manning came home and started helping high school boys in 1972-1973. He would hit a few amateur rodeos, but mostly he hauled his team of gray horses and a team of black horses to high school rodeos and mounted the boys he taught.

It was also at this time when he met Miles Hare and began bullfighting with Miles.

In 1999 he again ramped up and started helping high school boys. From 1999 through 2005, Bill and his constant companion, Marj took boys to the National High School finals in Springfield, Illinois, Farmington, New Mexico and Gillette Wyoming, twice. The only year they didn’t go was due to the death of Manning’s dad, Mart. Instead they sent a horse to be used by the young people under his tutelage.

In 2010, grandson Michael and his buddy wanted to learn to bulldog. Once again, Manning felt like God blessed him with more awesome horses to teach another set of boys. During 2010-16 they hauled boys, qualifying them and then taking them on to the National Finals in Rock Springs, Wyoming, three years and Gillette, Wyoming, two years. In 2016, three of his boys made the short go with Manning hazing beside them.

Manning I was involved in Mid-States Rodeo for many years serving as a steer wrestling director, vice president and president. The highlight for him was four of his students making the finals and they weren’t even old enough to drink.

The young men that Manning has mounted and helped shape into horsemen, competitors and the successes they are today, are too numerous to mention. The special horses that he has had the privilege to haul, have many times been awarded runner up Bulldogging Horse of the Year in Mid-States Rodeo Association, making many young people champions. One special horse, Spook, took finalists to the college finals four times and qualified six different young men in the steer wrestling.

Manning l continues to help rodeo competitors to this day, but he is especially looking forward to his granddaughter starting her high school rodeo career.

In his travels with rodeo, of all the places he has been, Bill Manning laments that the Sandhills of Nebraska is still the place to be.

The Manning family settled in the Sandhills in 1887, making Bill a fifth generation rancher. Where many ranches fail at keeping their progeny home on the ranch, Bill Manning is working on the seventh generation.

Editor’s note: The Sandhills Cowboy Hall of Fame is inducting 11 new honorees with a ceremony June 11 in Valentine, Nebraska. Each week through mid-June, we’ll meet the inductees.

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