Luke McKay rides a bucking horse during a saddle bronc riding event. McKay is set to compete at the Vale 4th of July Rodeo. (submitted photo)
JUNTURA – Luke McKay is a cowboy and there is no doubt about it – from the way he dresses to the way he talks to what he does for work in his spare time, to the sport that he loves and works at perfecting.
McKay is among the local cowboys participating in next week’s Vale 4th of July Rodeo.
For a quintessential cowboy, McKay has unusual roots. He was born in Haiti, not in the U.S. His parents adopted him and five other children, all of them within three years of the same age, from Haiti because they could not have children of their own.
Agile and tough, the Juntura resident was raised on a ranch of more than a thousand acres, working with beef cattle, horses, dogs, sheep, and chickens. As a kid, he and his siblings used to ride sheep, steers and rodeo animals.
The work was never-ending, said McKay, now 25.
“I did everything from riding horses to moving cows, roping, branding, irrigating and shoeing horses,” he said.
Instead of playing football and baseball like a lot of kids, McKay and his siblings were active in rodeo sports.
“We grew up competing in Vale junior rodeo,” McKay said. “We’d ride in the mutton busting and steer riding events.”
McKay transitioned to bronc riding when he was a senior in high school. He said his friends goaded him to ride a bucking bronco, and he’s been “hooked” ever since.
“I really enjoy the adrenaline rush,” McKay said. “It’s a lot of fun.”
However, it wasn’t until he was 20 that he became a serious bronc rider.
McKay briefly took a break from the saddle when he moved to Eugene after high school to attend Lane Community College on a track and field scholarship. After two years, he transferred to Treasure Valley Community College and joined the Chukars’ rodeo team.
“Once I transferred to TVCC, I started riding saddle bronc and team roping,” McKay said.
A couple of his proudest moments include qualifying for the College National Finals and competing at the PRCA Columbia River Circuit Finals.
Today, McKay is still working hard to get better at his sport. He has worked to make himself a better cowboy by the things that he does in his spare time.
“Me and my brothers get really competitive with rodeo,” he said. “Each year, we try to figure out who had the best winnings. We try to go to as many rodeos as we can around the area.”
Last year, McKay competed at 75 rodeos. It’s been a great opportunity to get out and see the world, he said.
Whether he’ll compete in so many rodeos this year is an unknown. McKay said he might slow down since he’s a father now. His wife, Emilee, recently gave birth to a baby boy.
For now, he’s focused on his next stop: Vale.
McKay will compete in the saddle bronc riding event at the Vale rodeo.
See the Vale 4th of July Rodeo and Oregon Trail Days schedule on Page 10.
Reporter Kristine de Leon: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.
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