From milking cows to bucking bulls, Williams’ J Bar W Ranch living large
UNION BRIDGE, Md. — The saying, “like father like son” holds true at J Bar W Ranch, where Johnny and Sonny Williams have made careers in the rodeo industry.
Johnny’s daughters Lisa and Regina are highly involved on the farm as well.
After graduating high school in 1968, Johnny Williams bought a dairy farm two years later.
When he first bought the farm, the only thing there was the brick house. In the 1980s, he decided to stop milking cows. He sold half the land he owned and considered selling the rest before focusing on beef cattle and then on rodeo bulls.
In 1989, with Sonny wanting to try bullriding, Johnny bought a bull for $2,000 and built two bucking chutes for Sonny and his friends at J Bar W Ranch, and the father and son agreed they’d stumbled on something they liked.
The shows at their ranch started with some team penning activities “just for fun” where teams of riders on horseback work to sort livestock from a group in the least amount of time.
“Dad announced that we’re going to buck some bulls at the next team penning and about 500 people showed up,” Sonny told The Delmarva Farmer in 2015. “So then we thought we should get some bleachers here and see what we could do.”
In the 1990s, they built their own arena with help from the community and their neighbors.
“We have had amazing support over the years.” said Johnny. He said they sold some of their beef cattle and bought rodeo herd cows and bulls to help start their rodeo venture.
From that time, until the economic crash in 2008, Johnny said they were selling rodeo cows and bulls in 14 states.
“There are good days and bad days but I believe that the good man upstairs is watching out for us,” said Johnny.
Now said they raise about 75 to 100 new bucking bulls each year and begin bucking the bulls at 3 years old, to judge how well and quick they can toss a rider.
“We’ve raised several bulls that went on to the PBR finals,” Sonny said.
Not every bull is destined for the main stage but for those that make it, it’s a special treat for the owners.
“It’s a long process,” Sonny said. “But it’s almost like Christmas once you buck them to see what you’ve got.”
The journey to how the ranch came to life goes back to a 16-year-old Johnny, just old enough to drive and started going to rodeos by himself.
“My parents never allowed me to go to rodeos when I was a kid because they thought they were too dangerous.” said Johnny, “But, I love bull riding and how the cowboys handle the bulls. It is so fascinating to me.”
Then, when Johnny’s son Sonny turned 12, they started traveling to the Cowtown Rodeo in New Jersey where he participated in the junior bull riding, steer wrestling, and even won the Cowtown Finals Circuit.
Over the years, technology has changed, and so have some ways of farming, but Johnny still makes it work with many of the old ways.
“I don’t even know how to text,” says Johnny. “That is how much I know about technology. I believe that if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”
Those who travel to a rodeo at J Bar W Ranch know that they try to keep it simple and focus on having a family atmosphere.
This year, Johnny says they are doing a small facelift at the rodeo by upgrading the announcer’s stand.
With their rodeos starting for another season on June 2nd and running every other weekend until September, the future of J Bar W Ranch looks bright, he said.
“Faith, Friends, and Family have made it work,” says Johnny.
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P.O. Box 2026 Easton, MD 21601-8925