BILLINGS — Beau Hill says this is it.
“I would call it retired,” he said.
“That’s not to say I won’t jump in the practice pen one day and get on a little spinner,” Hill added.
When Hill climbs aboard his bull at the Chase Hawks Roughstock Rodeo Saturday night, it could be the last of his storied career.
“I’m kind of leaning that way,” said Hill.
The annual rodeo begins at 7 p.m. at Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark. It features 20 bareback riders, 20 saddle bronc riders and 20 bull riders from around the region on some of the best bucking stock.
The bareback field includes four-time world champion Kaycee Feild, while there are five world champions entered in saddle bronc — including 19-year-old Ryder Wright, who won the 2017 world title exactly a week ago in Las Vegas. Ryder Wright is one of six from the Wright family entered. Bull riding includes 2011 world champion Shane Proctor.
And while he might not have ever won a world title, not many can match Hill’s bull riding resume.
The Columbia Falls cowboy is believed to be the only bull rider to have competed at the College National Finals Rodeo, the National Finals Rodeo, the PBR World Finals and the Elite Rodeo Association Finals.
“I’ve been to a lot of finals,” said the 39-year-old Hill, respected nationwide in all organizations. “Chase Hawks is such a good event, so I talked to Scott Chesarek (one of the organizers) about riding.
“I figured I would go to Billings and do it one more time. I’ve never won one of those (Chase Hawks) buckles. To go in and win one wouldn’t be so bad.”
Hill is a three-time NFR qualifier and four-time qualifier for the PBR World Finals.
He initially announced his retirement at the PRCA Northwest Fair and Rodeo in Kalispell on Aug. 19.
“I did,” Hill acknowledged. “I retired from pro riding. I’m not going to take a run at anything anymore.”
A week later, he was riding a bull in Australia at an event to honor Canadian Ty Pozzobon, who had died earlier this year. Hill and Pozzobon traveled together occasionally to rodeos and PBR events.
Hill cited a couple of reasons why he is walking away from a sport he fell in love with at the age of 14 during a summer series rodeo in East Glacier.
“My left wrist,” he said of a burst tendon in his riding hand. “It’s been killing me. It hurts even to resin my rope. Even when I make a good ride, it’s not fun.”
During his career, Hill also suffered a broken sternum, broken foot, separated shoulder, a torn ACL and MCL, broken ribs and concussions.
But a more important reason has been emerging in the past few years.
Daughter LaKia is a freshman point guard for the Columbia Falls girls basketball team, while son Jace is in sixth grade and son Jory in third. Hill and his wife Keri planned to be in Ronan Friday night for LaKia’s game, then drive to Billings.
“I get more nervous for my kids activities now than getting on a bull,” he said. “The family, kids, have their own stuff now. That becomes more important. It was like pulling teeth to get me to the car when it was time to leave for a rodeo.”
Originally from West Glacier, Hill got his PRCA card at the age of 18 and competed for Miles Community College.
In 2002, he, Keri and LaKia, who was just a few months old, drove from Montana to Dallas for the Texas Stampede. They camped along the way to save money. Hill was 19th in the world standings in the late-season event. He won and vaulted to fourth to qualify for his first NFR.
“That is definitely one of my better memories,” Hill said. “The first time I qualified for the NFR that was a huge deal. When I got there (Dallas), I didn’t know what valet parking was.
“I still like self-parking,” he finished with a good laugh.
A 90-point ride at Canby, Oregon, early in his career also gets a mention.
“I met Scott Breding there,” said Hill. “After the 90-point ride he was introducing me around to everybody. Scott was bragging me up to people. What a great guy. He’s what a Montana guy should be.
“I’ll never forget that.”
Hill was also within two-tenths of a second of willing the PBR event in Billings in 2007. He led going into the championship round but was bucked off late. J.W. Hart hit the challenge button to help Hill because the Montana bull rider was so close.
Along with being with family, Hill has spent 2017 building his own house and houses in the Columbia Falls area with a cousin. Hill has a degree in construction technology from MCC. He also did some guided hunts in the fall.
“I never won a world championship and that’s what everybody wants to do when they start out,” Hill said. “But I’m OK with that. It’s been an awesome career.
“I’ve been around for a while, hopefully Saturday will feel like just another rodeo. But maybe when I actually get there, it will feel a little different. I’m kind of leaning that way, to retirement. I’d say I’m 95 percent done.
“But I could come back.”