All Bryn ever wanted to be was a cowgirl. And so she was! At age 2, wearing her brother's cowboy hat and boots, she would ride a wooden bench for a horse with a mop for a tail. Soon after she was "thrown" from her bucking bronco rocking chair and split open her eyebrow. By age 7 she was outfitted in makeshift cowboy gear every Sunday night, ready for action with Bonanza's Cartwrights: Hoss, Ben, and Little Joe.
Bryn was born and raised in Rochester, Minnesota. She loved animals. Most pictures of her as a youngster show her hugging an animal of some sort. She would spend time at her uncle's farm riding their burro or at friends, riding their Shetland pony. She was enrolled in a summer camp when she was 12, so that she could learn to ride and care for horses. The following year her Dad bought her a $50 horse and she spent many summer hours on "Rex", riding the hilly suburban back roads of southwest Rochester. Bryn and Rex also served as the Spartan mascot for her high school football team.
Bryn was a gifted student and athlete: an honor roll student and member of the National Honor Society. She loved sports, but in the 1960's, Minnesota high school athletic programs for girls were extremely limited. At the age of 13, she was the youngest player in her hometown women's softball league. Bryn was named to a number of regional all-tournament teams, including 1970 All-State Outfielder. Her coach stated in a news interview that "Bryn was the best woman softball player ever to play in Rochester." In October 2010, Bryn was inducted into Minnesota's Softball Hall of Fame.
Bryn not only played softball, but she led her basketball and volleyball teams to league titles. However the sport she excelled in at a very high level was track and field. She was named the outstanding female athlete at several regional AAU (Amateur Athletic Union).events, and entertained hopes of trying out for the Olympics.
In 1970, she participated in an Olympic qualifying meet, and the records she established in the 100 and 200 yard dashes remain unbroken in today's Minnesota high school Records. She didn't qualify for the Olympics, but it helped in her struggle to decide between the two sports she loved. In the end she followed what she enjoyed most - softball.
Bryn began her 25-year career with United Parcel Service as a delivery driver in Rochester, and from there she worked her way up through the ranks in Minneapolis, New Hampshire, Indiana and Nebraska's regional facility. She ended her career as the West Region Logistics Manager. While living in Nebraska she discovered rodeo, and the cowgirl came out at last!
While still working at UPS, Bryn showed up at work with a black eye. Of course, her boss inquired what had happened, and she explained it was a rodeo accident. He than asked: "Why can't you just play golf like the rest of us? " Bryn smiled and walked away. Months later she left the corporate life to follow her dream of ranching, owning horses, and being a cowgirl.
Her IGRA career started at the age of 45 when she attended her first rodeo in Tucson and decided to try Chute Dogging. She had no idea how to compete so she watched the mens' event and asked one of the cowboys for help. That cowboy was Brian Helander and not only did he give her a few tips and coached her through her first attempt, but was also with her through her first finals. In her first attempt, not only did she "dog" her steer, but was the only woman to do so. When a cowgirl came up to congratulate her on winning all the money for the day, Bryn responded with a blank stare. "What Money?" She thought it was all done for the fun of it!
Four months later, Bryn won her first buckle in Nebraska and she was hooked! The following year, Bryn started competing in speed events, roping, and camp events. She purchased her first rodeo horse, a blue eyed Paint named Crystal. Crystal was best known for her antics in flag racing, the event she loved! During the race she would twitch her ears listening for applause. If she heard it, the ears would go up and she would prance out of the arena. However if Bryn missed the bucket, Crystal would put her ears back and stomp out. Bryn won her first flag racing buckle on Crystal later that year.
Bryn's other rodeo horse, Red, was with her during her last 6 years of competition. She finally had a horse that could run with the best on the circuit. This team captured 28 buckles in barrels and poles. Both Crystal and Red were with Bryn when she retired from rodeo. In the course of her 14 year rodeo career; Bryn won 112 buckles, which includes 12 All-Around Cowgirl titles and 5 International titles.
Bryn's contributions to IGRA are many: three years as President of HGRA, working with 2004 IGRA Finals held in Omaha, she served three years as an IGRA Trustee, was Chairperson for several IGRA Committees, and worked to define IGRA Animal issues in developing its brochure.
Bryn has traveled in support of new rodeos, has continued to support the smaller rodeos within IGRA and has assisted with clinics for new contestants. Bryn has always been willing to lend a helping hand - in and out of the arena. Her example and encouraging others has resulted in the participation of more female rodeo contestants.
For more than five years Bryn's tireless efforts played a significant role in raising more than $70,000 for HGRA's Charity Partners, and more than $120,000 in support of rodeo operations. Her enthusiasm and hard work convinced others that anything was possible and she had an immeasurable influence in staging successful rodeos in the Heartland. Bryn said "the Heartland Rodeo was my passion; I believed that if we put on a first class Rodeo, we would put more fannies in the stands and we would be able to raise more money for our Charity Partners".
Bryn felt very strongly about her involvement with Heartland Rodeo Charities. She contributed to the efforts of Omaha's Youth Emergency Services and during December, she could be found at Omaha's Child Saving Institute working in their Substitute Santa program. Since her involvement, both organizations have expanded their programs to address GLBT issues, including focus groups aimed at helping high-risk teens. "It's all about helping," said Bryn, "this is what we're all about. Our contributions have given these kids hope!"
Christmas 2003 is one she will never forget. A family who had been affected by AIDS had only one Christmas wish: a microwave and a few small gifts for the children. On very short notice, Bryn organized local entertainers and hosted a benefit show.
By the end of the night, the family got their microwave, and over $1000 in proceeds from the show "We were able to give that family a great Christmas".
One of her proudest, most honored moments was when she received the 2003 International City of Hope Benevolence Buckle which recognizes individuals for their community outreach for charities within the rodeo community. To quote Bryn: "I want to express my appreciation to Tamara Marks, my extraordinary partner of eleven years, for teaching me that rodeo is more than competing in an arena. It's about making a difference." Her partner, Tamara, had received the International City of Hope Benevolence award in 2002. The couple continue their dedication to charitable causes and are still invited to entertain at fund-raising functions.
Bryn's other awards and honors include: the IGRA's Trustees Award for excellence in sportsmanship and ethics; IGRA's Directors' Award for her contributions to the organization; and Grand Marshall of the 2006 Heartland Rodeo.
Bryn concludes: "What has been most memorable for me are the people associated with IGRA. We have been with two of them since the very beginning. Char and Jo have been our traveling companions and we've shared many memories and laughter over thousands of miles en route to rodeos and fundraising functions. A special thanks to them, and to all the others who have touched my life. Rodeo is not about winning or losing, it's about having fun and meeting new friends along the way. It's been a wonderful and rewarding journey."