Empty Saddles

Empty Saddle Nominees

Nicky Wheeler

Nicky started riding bulls when he was 17. He won the first jackpot he entered. He was the Texas High School Champion in 1975. After graduation he hit the rodeo trail. He filled his PRCA permit Quickly. At 18 years old he was on ABC wild world of sports. In 1976 he placed at nearly every major PRCA rodeo. He and Donny Gay shared an airplane so that he could try to make the NFR. He made the NFR in 1977 where he rode 9 out of 10 bulls. That was the only year they did not have an average. Nicky qualified for the Texas Circuit finals in 1978. Other associations he went to were ETRA, CRA, CRRA, and UPRA. He was the ETRA
champion in 1979. Nicky was a PBR judge for several years. He judged the 1999
World Finals in Las Vegas. Nicky had a weekly world famous rodeo during the
summer for several years. At the end of the series he would sell his stock and
contractors from all over would come to buy bulls many making it onto the NFR.
The –W was very well known in his time. Nicky later passed away from a hart
attack on April 15, 2018.




David Curry

David Curry was raised in White Settlement, Texas. In the late fifties and early sixties David started riding bulls and bareback horses. He was a regular at the Kowbell Indoor Rodeo, in Mansfield, and was considered the man to beat. David was one of the founding fathers of the Central Rodeo Association and qualified for their finals every year until he joined the R.C.A.in 1971. David was many times year end champion at Kowbell Indoor Rodeo. He also was C.R.A. Champion Bareback Rider in 1965 and 1969. C.R.A. Champion Bull Rider 1967 and in 1968 the C.R.A. Finals, Average winner in Bull Riding. He was All Around Champion C.R.A. in 1969. David also won the All
Around Champion at the Sulphur Springs Texas Rodeo in 1965. David was also Mesquite year end Champion Bareback Rider in 1972 and 1977 and was All Around Year End Champion 1978. One of David’s greatest accomplishments in Bull Riding was when he rode a bull called Blue Frost at the Fort Worth Stock Show in 1973 and placed in the round and in bareback riding when he marked 91 points at El Paso in 1972.

DAVID WILLIAM CURRY September , 1942 – December 23, 2003


Dennis Gee

Dennis Gee’s love for being a cowboy began with his grandfather, Garvin Gee who was a horse trader and pickup man. Dennis rode horses through the sale barn at Burkburnett, TX at a young age. As a teen, he learned to bulldog with Aubrey Rankin, CR Boucher, Eugene Weakley, and Donnie Bowles. His career started with Red Caffey at amateur rodeos. He trained Bald (bulldogging horse). Shortly after he started rodeoing, he made the IRA finals in 1979. After purchasing his PRCA card, he travelled with Eugene, CR, and the Duval clan where he won money at about all the major rodeos. He rodeoed part-time while raising his family and worked in the oil field with his dad Gene. Even while rodeoing part-time, he was a Texas Circuit Finalist qualifier several times in the 1980s and ended one year 18th in the PRCA standings. His true love was training bulldogging horses and helping aspiring bulldoggers. He was well known for being one of the best hazers in the game and always had a great team of horses on the road. In 2003, he hazed for his son Mickey at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. His hazing skills helped Mickey to win the NFR average that year as well as a number of other rodeos. Dennis was a selfless man of his word and his handshake was better than any legal contract. Although gone much too soon, his memory lives on through many rodeo stories.



Phil Brewer

Phil Brewer was born in 1946 in Gorman, Tx. He was raised there, till the family moved to San Angelo, Tx. and finally to Graham, Tx. where he still lives today.
Phil started riding steers at an early age when he visited his uncles in the summer. After moving to Graham, he went to his first high school rodeo in 1963. He and three friends went together and bought three practice bulls. They kept these bulls at Runt Sloan’s place Newcastle, Tx. Lots of good practice, good times, bad wrecks and lots of stories. Phil graduated high school in 1964 and won his first amateur rodeo that summer at Seymour, Tx. In the fall he enrolled at South Plains College at Levelland, Tx. He attended South Plains College for two years and was on the rodeo team there. He later transferred to Texas Tech and then to Sul Ross University in Alpine, Tx. He was on the rodeo teams of these two schools, rodeoing in the southwest region of the NIRA. He won the bull riding at New Mexico State University, Hardin Simmons, Texas Tech and Sul Ross rodeos during this time.
Phil filled his RCA permit in 1968 winning Jackson, MS and then Kissimmee, Fla. two weeks later.
He competed in 66 rodeos that year from Spokane, WA. To Montgomery, Ala. winning Coffeyville, KS and placing enough to keep going.
In 1969 Phil married Karen Blackwell from Hereford, Tx. and they have been married 49 years.
Then, Uncle Sam stepped in and invited him to do a little tour for him. He did his training in Texas and Georgia and then shipped to Germany, far far away from the world of bullriding.
Karen was able to live in Germany with him. He was honorably discharged in December 1970.
They returned to the states in December of 1970.
Phil started back bullriding in 1971. He competed thru 1980, competing and placing in rodeos from Canada to Texas. He won Crossett, Ark., Mineral Wells and Weatherford, Tx., Burnett, TX (first PRCA rodeo for them), Yorktown, Sask. and some he can’t remember.
Phil and Karen started a hay hauling business. She drove, he loaded. Moved on to cutting and baling hay. She ran the swather and he ran the baler. Enough of that hay business. Phil bought his first big truck in 1978 and has been hauling cattle since then. He runs two trucks and leases 7 of his trailers. He and Karen run as a team now. Times change as you get older. Most of the cattle hauled are in the southwest and southeast or anywhere else there is a call.
They have raised two boys. Todd is a professional photographer. He was the official photographer for Championship Bull Riding 2009 through 2018. He takes rodeo, bullriding and bullfighting pictures. Jay is married and has two children (which are the light of Phil and Karen’s life.) Jay is the General Manager at the Wildcatter Ranch & Resort in Graham. Jay was a pro bullfighter for 8 years and has the repaired bones and ligaments to attest to that.
Phil is known for his honesty and solid friendships. He remains an avid fan of rodeo and especially bullriding. He and Karen are members of the Texas Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame.
Phil says ” The best part of rodeoing were the friends you made.”


Ronnie Helton

Ronnie was born December 2, 1942 and he passed away March 27, 2022. When Ronnie was 2 years of age, he moved in and lived with his uncle, the rodeo clown, Jazbo Fulkerson. Jazbo took Ronnie too many big rodeos such as Madison Square Garden and Boston along with many others. It was from that point on that all Ronnie wanted to be was a cowboy. As a teenager, Ronnie attended many junior rodeos where he competed in the calf roping. In 1961, Ronnie graduated from Keller High School in Keller, Texas. He then attended college at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas. In 1964, Ronnie joined the RCA, (Rodeo Cowboys Association) where he competed in calf roping and steer wrestling at most of the indoor rodeos. In 1965, Ronnie joined the IRA (International Rodeo Association) where he was very successful. In 1970, the IRA had their first finals in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Ronnie won the All Around Finals Champion. The next few years Ronnie made the IRA Finals in calf roping and steer wrestling. He was awarded the Reserve Champion two times in the steer wrestling. In 1973, he purchased his RCA card once again. He rode his great steer wrestling horse, Cowboy and his calf roping horse Big Meat. In 1975, Cowboy injured himself And Big Meat passed away. That same year Ronnie was in Mercedes, Texas and hurt his knee. Ronnie turned in his RCA card, rehabilitated his knee, and joined the IRA once again. Ronnie continued to rope calves and steer wrestle. In 1976, he made the IRA finals in the calf roping and in 1977; he made the finals in the steer wrestling. Ronnie served as Calf Roping Director for four years in the IRA. In 1979, Walt Garrison and The United States Tabacco Company hired Ronnie to attend college rodeos and promote the brand. In 1981, Ronnie joined the RCA again and competed in the calf roping where he made the Texas Circuit Finals in 1981 and 1982. After 1982, Ronnie continued to compete at a few rodeos. Ronnie entered and competed at his last rodeo when he was 60 years old. Ronnie will always be remembered as a cowboy! His family would like to say thank you for the nomination. Ronnie would be so honored.