Jim Shoulders was a giant in and out of the arena, winning 16 world titles and becoming a household name in the process. He is one of many whose efforts have built the PBR into a global phenomenon. Sharon Shoulders’ tireless support of her husband enabled him to bring bull riding to millions. Both Jim and Sharon have PBR awards in their names, which are given every year at the PBR’s Heroes & Legends Ceremony.
Jim and I got married on a Tuesday before we went to New York City for a bull riding. Of course, we hit some rodeos along the way; my whole life revolved around rodeos. He told me before we left that he had just enough money to get us there. I married him anyway! It’s a good thing he asked me to marry him though, because I would have lived in sin with him! If he would have asked me to go with him, I would have just went! I was so crazy about him.
I was 17 and Jim was 19.
Jim and Sharon on their wedding day.
He told me that whatever happens to him in the arena, I was never to scream and never come into the arena, no matter if they’re hauling him off. A lot of times I would be sitting there watching him – but I would never scream.
He got knocked out at Madison Square Garden, the first big event since we had been married, and at that time, they didn’t have the medical attention that they do now. So the boys helped him back to the hotel and we go back to the room and went to sleep. The next morning we woke up and he looked at me and asked, “What the hell are you doing in my bed?”
I was 17, in New York City, I had never been there. I jumped up and I was terrified and sat in a chair in the corner of the room. It took a little bit but he finally looked at me and said, “I know who you are.”
Now, Jim didn’t remember what the hell had happened. They guys told him that he was chasing the maid and the elevator doors opened and he fell down the elevator shaft. And he said, “The hell I did!” Not surprised that he would have been chasing the maid.
It has been 8 years since Jim has passed and I was just as crazy about him when he died. If I wasn’t with Jim I was wallpaper, no one knew who I was. I am 85 years old and have been so blessed. I wouldn’t have changed a thing.
I have been involved with the PBR since the very first bull riding. It has been a phenomenal thing to see these guys have the access to make more money. Jim was always really good at trying to tell the guys how to run their business. He and Randy [Bernard] would sit at those early bull ridings and Jim would tell him what he ought to do. In the beginning, the venues would be much smaller and you would go and you would look around and wonder how many people would show up. For many years Jim and I went to every PBR event; he was great with the young bull riders. As the PBR began to grow, he would critique and yell at the young riders and tell them what they should and shouldn’t be doing. It was an exciting time for the sport.
I think the PBR cowboys in general have been elevated now. They make a lot of money. In our day, they were referred to as ‘rodeo folks,’ who would travel around without a job. The misconception was that they were uneducated and when I married into the rodeo way, I think I felt that way myself. I was never going to marry a cowboy, oh my heaven’s no! And I didn’t, I married this cute basketball player who happened to be a cowboy.
Then when I did marry into it, I met a lot of elegant and educated wives and they would go to the play and I thought to myself, if I could only be like them. There are a lot of people that don’t like it because they just don’t understand, and not all of the cowboys live on ranches. Times have changed. I don’t know whether it’s good or bad they things have changed.
Jim always thought that if you were a cowboy, you needed to look like it because you were promoting your sport. He hated that they would call it a show, because it is a sport. Despite all of this major production side of it now, with the fireworks and flames, it is still a sport.
10 years down the road I expect the PBR to have champions from China and who knows what other parts of the world! I see it expanding all over the world and continuing to get bigger and better. It has grown so fast just for me; I have seen so many things. You better just hang in there!
© 2017 PBR Inc. All rights reserved.