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Elk City veterinarian scheduled to be honored by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association

Veterinarian J. Fred Rule 
Photo provided by The Elk City Daily News
Veterinarian J. Fred Rule Photo provided by The Elk City Daily News

The earnings that are most important to veterinarian J. Fred Rule are not preceded by a dollar sign.

Rule, 74, of Elk City, has been chosen as the Zoetis Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Veterinarian of the Year and will receive the award in December in Las Vegas.

Rule, who has been the veterinarian for the Elk City PRCA rodeo for 40 years, will be recognized at the PRCA Awards Banquet Dec. 4 and in the arena Dec. 6 during the 56th annual Wrangler National Finals Rodeo at the Thomas & Mack Center.

“I've always told young people that you earn true friendship,” Rule said. “I hope I have done that.

“The number one thing that I really cherish is the super number of truly good friends I have been fortunate to accumulate.”

The award in a way is the sum of all parts of Rule’s life: horse, rodeo and a commitment to serving as a veterinarian. Those facets of his life have intermingled in a way that have benefited friends and animals.

“I’ve got acres of great friends from my years in rodeo,” he said. “The rodeo and ranching way of life is the best and needs to be preserved. When I was young I competed as a bulldogger. Sometimes they even let me win a little money. I always told people competing in rodeo was my avocation and being a veterinarian was my vocation.

“I loved it then and I love it now.”

The path

Out of high school in Herington, Kan., Rule received a football scholarship to Kansas State University. He’d had a few other offers, but since eighth grade Rule had intended to pursue veterinary medicine as a vocation.

Rule didn’t compete at many rodeos while in veterinary school because spare time and cash were both hard to come by.

However while in college, Rule did manage to put together enough money to buy his first horse, a registered American Quarter Horse gelding named Dawson Paul.

“I broke him myself and he had to be a natural because I eventually used him in any event I wanted to compete in,” Rule said. “He died in my veterinary hospital when he was 25 years old. He was a close descendant of Oklahoma Star Jr. and Bert. Both blood lines were very popular in rodeo at that time.

“I’ve had a lot of horses since then, but he remains special.”

Moving to Oklahoma

Rule moved his family to Elk City in late 1965.

“A classmate of mine at KSU, Garland Hinkle, was involved in a veterinary practice there and they were needing another practitioner,” he said. “I joined the practice and eventually another classmate of ours, Gail Anspaugh, joined our practice. As of right now, we are on our 51st year as practicing veterinarians.”

After getting settled in his business, Rule started entering rodeo. The young cowboy got acquainted with several accomplished rodeo hands. But he was also “fortunate to have Beutler Brothers, Beutler and Son, Charlie Plummer Rodeos as clients.”

“It was and is wonderful,” Rule said. “Elra, Jake, and Lynn were a team. Elra was the true cowboy, Lynn was the consummate businessman, Jake was in the middle.”

Lynn Beutler was definitely someone who made Rule earn his respect. Beutler had a sorrel bucking horse that he’d paid a lot for and the animal started to colic. The prognosis didn’t look good and Rule told Beutler that.

“Lynn didn’t like that, asked if I couldn’t do anything else,” Rule said.

So Rule performed surgery on the horse and located a large obstruction in the animal’s intestine. That obstruction was removed.

“We had good luck and the horse lived,” Rule said. “From that day on, until Lynn passed away, he always called me ‘Dr. Rule.’”

The business has continued on through the generations with the Beutlers. Rule worked with Elra’s son, Jiggs, and today with grandson Bennie and great-grandson Rhett.

“Jake, Rhett’s son, is just a few years away from making it five generations,” Rule said. “I have had the opportunity to provide veterinary service to them all. The best part is that they are my good friends.”

Rule also had the great horseman Walter Merrick, of Sayre, as a client for about 40 years.

“Walter was one of the premier horsemen in the quarter horse industry,” he said. “Walter bred, raised, trained some of the very best in quarter racing history. Besides his accomplishments as a horseman, Walter was a cowboy. He had a lot of ranches and cattle, and I got to be very involved in it all.”

In the arena

While competing, Rule went to many Beutler rodeos on the weekends. As a contestant, he also went to Cheyenne, Wyo., Albuquerque, N.M., Fort Worth, Texas, Kansas City, Mo., and others.

“I have been fortunate to attend 99 percent of the Elk City Rodeo of Champions since the middle ’60s,” he said. “At that time a veterinarian in attendance was not mandatory. However, Beutlers had the rodeo so I wanted to be on hand should I be needed, and I entered the bulldogging.

“I have furnished my services to a number of rodeos because I was there. I have done my best to be assistance to my fellow cowboys and cowgirls any time the opportunity arose.”

The award Rule will receive in Las Vegas brings many aspects of his life together.

The Zoetis PRCA Veterinarian of the Year award was created in 2010 to recognize the dedication of veterinarians across the country to the health and welfare of rodeo livestock. Nominations are submitted by PRCA members and rodeo committees.

“For me, the Zoetis PRCA Veterinarian of the Year sums up my life as a veterinarian and a rodeo cowboy,” Rule said.

I always told people competing in rodeo was my avocation and being a veterinarian was my vocation. I loved it then and I love it now.”

J. Fred Rule,

Bryan Painter

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