When Shane Hanchey won the first round of the 2019 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo it was the second buckle that he had been awarded that week.
Last year’s Wrangler NFR started December 5th. The night before the competition, Shane was on the stage at the Contract Awards banquet getting a buckle for accomplishments outside of the rodeo arena. His digital magazine, The Cowboy Journal, received the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s Excellence in Journalism award and Shane got a buckle that will sit on his trophy shelf next to buckles that he has won at Rodeo Houston, Cheyenne Frontier Days and the San Antonio Rodeo.
Shane is an avid sports fan. When he’s not roping, he is paying attention to everything happening in other sports. He rarely misses an episode of SportsCenter, reads constantly and has made friends with professionals in football, basketball, boxing, baseball and more. He also keeps up with collegiate sports and is a huge LSU Tigers fan.
Most importantly though, Shane is a rodeo fan. He pays attention to what is happening in the other events, is engaged to Wrangler NFR barrel racing qualifier Taylor Jacob, and can often be found pulling ropes for bull riders.
So, when he read an article by San Francisco 49ers’ cornerback Richard Sherman on The Players Tribune he started thinking. The Players Tribune was founded by Derek Jeter and features first-person perspectives and gives athletes a platform to tell their own stories. After reading Sherman’s diatribe “Why I hate Thursday Night Football,” Shane started thinking.
“I remember it like it was yesterday,” Shane said. “That story talked about travel, stress, bodies not being ready for a short week. I thought if they really knew what rodeo athletes go through, they’d realize they have it pretty good. Richard Sherman was telling people what they go through and it dawned on me that I have to tell our story.”
Shane’s brain really went to work. It was right after the 2016 Wrangler NFR. He called his younger sister Megan to come over for a visit and the two of them talked for hours about what to do and how they could help tell rodeo’s stories through the contestants. They went in a lot of different directions but finally got the path narrowed and a year later The Cowboy Journal was a reality.
Shane got on the phone and started soliciting help and advice from others. He wanted great photos and got advice and help from Matt Cohen. Matt put him in touch with Logan Ward, the writer that would take these first-person accounts from the mouths of the rodeo contestants to the words read by thousands of fans.
As the platform grew, so did the team. He called Jason Adams, brother of world champion team roping heeler Randon Adams, and founder of Bex Sunglasses. Not only did they become a sponsor, Jason’s entrepreneurial skills were used as an example.
Shane reached out to his sponsors. Cinch Jeans quickly stepped up to the plate. Through the fist three in operation, Best Ever Pads, Platinum Performance, 12 Gauge Ranch, Classic Equine, Boyd Gaming, Outlaw Equine and FloRodeo became involved.
But sadly, it still wasn’t enough. In February, Shane made the difficult decision to discontinue The Cowboy Journal.
“Everywhere I go, I have someone come up to me and tell me how much they enjoy reading the contestants’ stories,” Shane said. “The fans made the decision even harder. The truth is, when I started this platform, I really had no idea what it was going to take.”
From the beginning, Shane was not concerned about making a profit. However, The Cowboy Journal did need to be self-sustaining.
“The flaw in the idea was lack of knowledge on my part.” He added. “I didn’t worry about who was going to write it. I just knew that it had to get out there. I never even considered what it would cost. But if it helped push rodeo, got one more sponsor involved or another fan to start following it, it was all worth it.”
The Cowboy Journal did all of those things and because of that, Shane got to be on stage at the South Point Hotel and Casino getting a buckle that means as much as his go-round buckles from the NFR. He is the only contestant currently competing to get one of the journalism awards.
He’s been to the contract awards ceremonies before when he received the PRCA/AQHA tie-down roping horse of the year award but left soon after receiving the bronze that goes with it. Last year, he and Taylor stayed for the entire program and now want to make it part of their NFR schedule.
“I never even thought it would be possible to get the award. When I got the call, I was practicing for the NFR, so I didn’t answer. I called them back and was caught completely off guard,” he said. “It hit me. All of the work that we have been doing for the past three years as a team has been worth it. It was my idea, but it was the team effort that kept it going.”
“Experiencing that whole banquet with Taylor, seeing the tears on that stage gave me a little more perspective on what it means to the people behind the scenes of rodeo. When they announced timer and secretary of the year, I had tears too because I was so happy for Shawna (Ray—timer) and Brenda (Crowder – secretary). That is the top of the top for the PRCA.”
In the past three years, they have shared stories from rodeo contestants in every discipline. Stories have been raw, gritty, and most importantly heartfelt. The website is still up and the content will always be relevant, because just as their slogan says, at www.thecowboyjournal.com, fans can “Walk a mile in our boots.”
Shane’s full-time focus has always been roping calves. He qualified for his 10th consecutive NFR last year and finished the season as the reserve world champion. He finished the 2013 season as the world champion and got the coveted gold buckle. But his entrepreneurial spirit has him busy preparing for a life after rodeo as well.
Three years ago, he opened up a food trailer in Giddings, Texas. They get crawfish from NFR bareback rider Taylor Broussard’s family and for two months of the year, Shane puts on shorts and a golf shirt and boils crawfish and shrimp. Depending on crawfish season, they open in March or April and can stay busy until June when it is time for him to get ready for summer rodeos.
This year because of COVID-19, he had even more time to focus on the business. They took the trailer to Stephenville and added other menu items. It’s all part of Shane’s long-range plans.
“My whole life and my whole career I wasn’t sure how I would make money or put food on the table. I’ve been blessed to be able to do that with ropes and good horses. It’s what I love, but it will come to an end at some point,” Shane said. “I’ve wanted to rodeo for a living since I was a little kid. People laughed and said, ‘you better have something to fall back on.’ That has always been in the back of my mind so I’m always looking for opportunities.”
An idea turned into an opportunity to share his fellow competitors’ stories with The Cowboy Journal and while it didn’t turn out exactly like he had hoped, he will always be glad he did it. Getting the PRCA’s Excellence in Print Journalism award confirmed that and was a great way for him to start last year’s NFR. That trip to Las Vegas will be one of his most memorable ever. He missed getting the world championship by a mere $1,182. He won all of his money there on a sorrel gelding known as BamBam who suffered a career-ending injury in February.
“Last year’s NFR was very special,” Hanchey said. “Starting with getting our back numbers, then the Contract Awards Banquet and the world title coming down to the last calf. Those are memories that money can’t buy.”