In this 10-part series, Julie Mankin profiles the unsung heroes of breakaway roping.

Ryan Bingham, the former bull rider, Grammy-award-winning songwriter and actor on the TV series Yellowstone, worked for Bad Company Rodeo in the 1990s.

“We were always the black sheep of the rodeo world,” he told Texas Monthly last March.

No kidding. Because Mack Altizer’s Bad Company PRCA rodeos in Texas all included breakaway, much to the delight of women ropers.

“I was always trying to do something new and make change, which helps keep rodeo growing,” Altizer says. “It keeps it more exciting when you do new things. More lately, there have been some sponsors putting some pressure in places that help. I just saw where the girls were included at the Roping Fiesta in San Angelo, and the breakaway was one of the best events on TV.”

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Altizer’s penchant for novelty was rewarded recently when the PBR gave him the Jim Shoulders Lifetime Achievement Award for revitalizing bull riding by infusing rodeos with high-energy rock-n-roll and modern marketing techniques. Yes, Altizer was a PRCA Stock Contractor of the Year, but he was also a PWRA Stock Contractor of the Year, bringing breakaway calves.

“I think it helped the women, and most of them brought someone with them to enter another event, so entries went up and purses increased,” says Altizer, who added breakaway to Sonora, Huntsville, Del Rio and many other rodeos. “It was something I always supported, and it was an easy sell to the committees because they already believed in me.”

He likely had a soft spot for calf ropers, being the son of Hall-of-Famer Jim Bob Altizer – considered the greatest match calf roper of all time – and the nephew of Blanche Altizer, who was huge in the early history of the GRA. But the man from Del Rio, who founded Bad Company in 1981, is also in the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame.

“The Western way of life is that somebody shows you the path so that someone else will try it,” he says. “If people have something to refer to, that always helps.”