Rodeo’s Dynamic Duo
Colter Harden hung up last July at the CPRA rodeo in Bruce, Alberta. Jason roped the bronc while Jeff swooped in to free the young bareback rider. With one arm, Jeff literally picked up the bronc rider, freeing him from his bareback rigging. However, when Jeff tried to set the now saved cowboy down, he was suspended on the side of Jeff’s horse, comically waving his arms and legs to emphasize he wasn’t hanging on. Jeff realized Colter’s vest had slipped over the saddle horn so once again he had to pick up the cowboy, lifting him high enough to clear the horn. As he set him down the crowd erupted in thunderous applause. In mere seconds, the spectators at Bruce experienced both the horror and humour of rodeo.
“He’s hung-up!” shouted the rodeo announcer. The bareback rider was in a real jam. Not only was he hung up but also his rigging had turned, leaving him dragging under the bronc. The pick-up men were already in action; as one flipped his rope over the bronc’s head and dallied, the other manoeuvred in alongside the panicky horse and dove off his mount and onto the bronc’s head. With the bronc immobilized, other contestants ran in and freed their fallen friend. After the pick-up men had escorted the bronc out of the arena and the shaken cowboy was on his feet wobbling back to the chutes, the announcer boomed, “What about those pick-up men!” The crowd burst into applause as the pair calmly positioned themselves in readiness for the next explosion out of the chute.
Meet Jeff and Jason Resch, rodeo’s twin MVPs. They were raised on a ranch south of Wood Mountain, SK, growing up watching Gary and Wade Rempel ride pick-up at rodeos produced by Don and Brenda Peterson. When Gary moved to Montana, he agreed to return for Peterson’s professional rodeos but they needed someone to work with Wade at amateur rodeos. The Petersons made a gutsy call by hiring Jason – even though he was still in high school. He remembers Wade telling him, “There’s two of us out there, but if we don’t work together then one of us might as well go stand in the corner.”
Jay Phipps, the bareback rider depicted in the upper paragraph was able to continue competing and qualified for the 2005 Canadian Finals Rodeo. In appreciation of the twin’s fast actions, he placed a large ad in Canadian Rodeo News thanking the Resch’s, because, as Jay commented later at the CFR, “If it weren’t for the Resch boys I wouldn’t be here.”
Brenda recalls, “If Jason couldn’t make it, Jeff did and no one noticed the difference.” The twins credit their parents, Lloyd and Jackie, for keeping them well-mounted and providing the transportation to get their teenage sons to the rodeos. Jeff speculates, “I think Dad always wanted to be a pick-up man.” Jason echoes that sentiment saying, “He’s never told us that, but I think so too.” After high school, they enrolled in Vermillion College, Jeff studied Business Administration while Jason took Agricultural Livestock but they both freely admit, “Actually, we majored in Rodeo 101.”
Fast forward a few years and Jason is married into the chuckwagon racing Croteau team. He and Carrie attended the 2001 Calgary Stampede to help her father Bert with chores around his barn. One morning Jason slipped away to watch the Rempels pick up the slack. As fate would have it, Wade was kicked by a bronc and suffered a broken leg. When arena director Winston Bruce asked for suggestions on who could fill in, Gary pointed to Jason and said, “There’s your man.” In approval, Wade added, “He knows my horses better than anyone else.” Suddenly, at twenty-five years of age Jason was picking up at the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.
Jason lives near Dewberry, AB and works on pipelines with BJC Consulting Ltd. He reveals, “When I think about guys like Todd Boggust it makes me realize you have to live each day to its fullest.” Jason has picked up the Western Festival in St. Tite, Quebec for several years. Ironically, Jason’s Quebec connection has set up two journeys for Jeff. The Western Festival folks staged a demonstration rodeo at Reggio Calabria, Italy in 2001. Having an expectant wife, Jason was unable to go, so he recommended his mirror image. It was a ten-day trip for a two-day rodeo but Jeff threw his saddles on a plane, crossed the Atlantic and picked up the rodeo using Italian horses. Then last September he made the trek to La Belle Province while Jason stayed home awaiting the birth of his second child. Charlie Fay Jacqueline is now big brother Cooper’s little sister. Still amused by his good fortune Uncle Jeff says, “Jason needs more kids.”
Jeff, his wife Sandy (Cundliffe) and daughter Megan live on their newly acquired quarter section just out of Big Valley, AB. They share their “make work project” with “a few cows” and their horses. Jeff says the best advice he ever received was when his Dad told him, “There’s no such word as can’t.” He’s proving that, while balancing family life with environmental work for CCS Energy Services and a heavy rodeo schedule.
Smooth moves make the clearing of the rodeo arena pretty to watch. Here, Jason is unbuckling the back cinch on a Franklin bronc at Saskatoon. The Resch brothers signature move is to pass the sheepskin-lined flank strap behind their back to the other brother-without ever looking, perpetuating the seemingly psychic bond between twins. Jeff, in position to aid his brother if the bronc resists, will follow Jason and the bronc to the out gate, then hang the flank strap on the fence.
Constantly on the lookout for good geldings, they agree it only takes one ride to know if a horse will make their pick-up string. Jason says, “It’s horsemanship! If you can put your horse where you want, you’ll be in the right place. There’s no pattern in picking up, it’s all reaction.”
Sometimes twins share more than a birthday. Like the time two bulls jumped out of the holding pens at Czar, AB. The bulls headed around the racetrack in different directions; the twins did too. They each roped a bull then arrived at opposite sides of the arena simultaneously. Once the gates across the racetrack were open, they entered the arena in unison each with a bovine on the end of their lariat, just as if it was pre-planned. Jeff admits, “It wouldn’t be the same without Jason.”
They work about fifty performances annually. Jason says, “Working Calgary really opened doors for me, I owe Wade many thanks for that.” Jeff adds, “Last summer we were thrilled to work Ponoka with Gary and another one of our heroes Blake Schlosser.” Widely travelled bronc riders agree the quality of pick-up men in Canada is second to none, and the twins solidify that theory. In a world where actions speak louder than words, they’ve impressed some rodeo icons.
Each spring Canadian champions Rod and Denny Hay host a bronc-riding match in Mayerthorpe, AB. They hire the twins. Wearing his promoter hat Rod explains why. “It’s all about production; they make the match run smooth. I don’t know how they do it; even with green colts they make it look easy.”
The rising superstars are permanent fixtures at rodeos Shane Franklin produces. He calls them, “Angels from somewhere.” The former CFR pick-up man concedes, “They turned me into a flank man,” then boldly declares, “I’d match them against anybody.”
Jeremy Harden knows them well; the Canadian All Around Champion rode the school bus with the Resch kids. He says, “The only way to explain those two is
C-O-W-B-O-Y. Everything they did or even talked about involved a horse, a cow or both. They never had any desire to be anything but cowboys.”
When the Petersons hired the teenagers, Don told them, “If nobody notices you, you’re doing the job.” That was sage advice for youngsters just starting out and for the most part, they remained invisible for a decade. Not any more, people are watching them now. It’s hard not to notice how smooth they’ve become and in the rodeo world, smooth is pretty.
Two years ago, the Rempels made history when they became the first brothers to pick up at the CFR. Will the Reschs be the first twins accorded the same honour? The answer is yes. It’s only a matter of time and won’t the announcers have fun with that?
Tom Reardon is a working cowboy and the manager of the Meyronne community pasture in southern Saskatchewan.