Once a bronc rider, always…

<p>Contributed photo</p> <p>John Day's Gary Gregg, top row, left, was National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association saddle bronc champion in 1959, when he was a student at Oregon Technical College. At a recent reunion, he is pictured with other past champions in the same event. To the right of Gregg are Ned Londo (national champion in 1964), David Dahl (in 1967) and Jock McDowell (in 1972 and 1973). Front row from left, Bob Schild (1954), Bill Duffy (1957) and Don Lee Smith (1958).</p>

CASPER, Wyo. - Gary Gregg of John Day was honored June 16-18 at the National Intercollege Rodeo Alumni Association's 2011 reunion.

Gregg, a longtime resident of John Day, was the 1959 champion in saddle bronc riding while he was a student at Oregon Technical College (now known as Oregon Institute of Technology).

The June event, dubbed "The Gathering of Champions," was definitely a reunion, he said, as some of the honorees were his former competitors.

Also attending was another name known locally: Ned Londo, formerly of Dayville, who was champ in the same event in 1964. Londo works in real estate in the Milton-Freewater area.

For Gregg, rodeo's in his blood.

Gregg said he and his buddies would enter a rodeo "just blind." Opting for bull riding and saddle bronc riding, "I toughed it out. I got lucky," he said.

Son of Hap and Dorothy Gregg, he grew up in the Monument area. He said he left Monument High School early and enlisted in the Navy "to keep from getting drafted."

After serving four years in the military, Gregg returned home, took his GED, then applied to study diesel technology at OTC. OTC had the best rodeo team in the nation at that time.

On July 4, 1959, Gregg went up against the best saddle bronc riders in the country's four regions. With three complete go-arounds at the top, he took the championship by six points.

"They don't give it to you - you've gotta earn it," he said, of the challenging event.

Gregg has good memories of rodeo. "I met an awful lot of good people, good friends," he said.

Many were the guys he got to hang out again with recently when he went to Wyoming.

The champs received the VIP treatment, getting ushered from the airport to the convention via limousine. Everywhere, it seemed, there were cameras.

Gregg isn't the only family member who's into the sport. His brother, Gibb, six years younger, also competed.

Gibb and his wife Glee have four children. Their son Guy excelled at team roping, and Guy's son Taylor, is now taking up the sport.

Of the three kids that Gregg and his wife LoLieta have, their son Mitch also competed in college, and is now a professional saddle bronc rider.

In addition to rodeo, Gregg also put his college years' experience to work.

Now retired, he was a logger and employee of a log truck company, then owning and operating his own trucking outfit from 1970 to 1999. With his diesel mechanic background, he saved a lot of money doing much of the maintenance and repairs himself. "I wore three trucks out, and rebuilt them. I did my own brakes, welding, day to day and weekly maintenance. It saved me a few dollars."

Gregg, who turns 80 on Sept. 5, still works part time, delivering the Blue Mountain Eagle around John Day every week.

He's still got rodeo at heart. Gregg helps Jim Jensen build horse-drawn carriages, and seven years ago, Gregg and John Aasness established the Grant County Ranch and Rodeo Museum in John Day.


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