Happy trails to Pam Minick

Posted Wednesday, Aug. 07, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Pam Minick on RFD-TV Gentle Giants, about draft horse breeds and the people who love them, airs at 6:30 p.m. Mondays and 8:30 a.m. Tuesdays. It’s co-hosted by Pam and fellow horsewoman Kadee Coffman, and also airs on RFD’s sister station FamilyNet at 4 p.m. every Sunday. The American Rancher, hosted by Pam since 2004, is a TV magazine highlighting livestock producers, their ranches, livestock and ranching practices. It airs at 8 p.m. Mondays and 10 a.m. Tuesdays. She also hosts RFD-TV’s take on the Tournament of Roses parade from Pasadena, Calif., and various other specials for the network.

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Western wonder woman Pam Minick took no rides off into the sunset when she retired June 30 from her fast-paced job as marketing director at Billy Bob’s Texas.

She frames the transition as merely moseying off the grid, to the distinctive hilltop home in Argyle she shares with husband Billy Minick.

“It’ll be Pam unplugged,” the former rodeo queen jokes at home, just days after her boots and jeans retirement bash at the club’s adjacent banquet facility.

“It’s not like I’m just going to be sitting by the pool or riding my horse every day, but I can if I want to,” she says. “I’m looking forward, not to inactivity, but to being unplugged.”

The Minicks’ 2,900-square-foot, brick and timber ranch house would seem to be the perfect retirement retreat. It is set back from the front gate and reached by a winding caliche road. Inside, the Western decor has comfortable rustic charm.

“When we moved here 12 years ago, we had two things in mind,” Minick says. “First was a budget, and second was the way we live. We live very simply, but we like to entertain.”

The couple’s extended family includes Billy’s four children and numerous grandchildren.

“At Thanksgiving and Christmas, we can get 30 to 40 people in here,” she says.

Pam Minick even installed a quiet space to paint, a passion she has not been able to fully indulge — until maybe now.

“It is serene out here,” she says. “Cattle on one side and horses on the other, and acres of beautiful trees in between.”

That said, her first week off wasn’t peaceful, or unplugged. Minick pitched in to help organize and work the annual Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic all day and evening in the wide-open area to the east of Billy Bob’s.

The day after the picnic and all that weekend, Minick cleared out the overflow that made it from her work office to her home office.

She took a few private moments to paint on the first Monday of her retirement, getting a handsome portrait of a longhorn steer set in oils — but she didn’t just do it to relax in her free time. The piece was destined for a benefit auction for the Fort Worth Herd, held July 25 at Cowtown Coliseum. (Minick is president of the iconic longhorns’ support group, Friends of the Fort Worth Herd.)

Later that day, she came back into town to tape a segment of one of her two Western lifestyle-themed cable TV shows.

Then on Tuesday it was back to organizing the benefit.

Remarkably, her Billy Bob’s memorabilia was sorted down in one weekend, from two dozen boxes to a couple in her home office and a couple more in a spare bedroom.

“[My sister] made me sit there and throw away all of my stuff,” Minick says, exchanging looks over the breakfast bar with a woman who shares the same blond hair and friendly smile.

Lynn Sanderson of Kamiah, Idaho, just laughs in that mischievous tone that only a sister can.

“I’ve told her it hasn’t been a good retirement since I’ve been here,” says Sanderson, who talks to her sister every day.

There were set lists jotted down for acts that became country legends, promotional items now turned collectibles — 24 years of snippets of everyday life at one of the liveliest and most enduring spots in the country-music universe.

Among the photos, awards and complimentary gold records, Minick found typewritten and hand-scrawled notes she’d made to herself over the years about Billy Bob’s shows.

Her personal favorite: Ticket prices to Garth Brooks’ August 1989 concert were $5 general admission and $7.50 reserved. Other artists who played the club during that time (and who were better-paid) included George Jones, Restless Heart, Earl Thomas Conley, Riders in the Sky and Ray Wylie Hubbard.

Minick has been so successful in her Billy Bob’s career because of her own credibility. Without swagger or loud, overly accented Texas-speak, the real-life ranchwoman sold the club’s persona within the larger context of promoting the Western lifestyle.

During Minick’s tenure, the club has kept its brand and identity, unique in an industry where the average life of a hot spot is rarely longer than a decade. At Billy Bob’s, being tourist- and family-friendly has always trumped the more common club trappings of wet T-shirt contests and drinking games.

She came into her job at a difficult and pivotal time for the institution. After a period of over-the-top excess by former owners in the late 1980s, Billy Bob’s Texas had been closed for the entire year of 1988. It was a blow to the Stockyards and to the country music industry. Few venues come back after that.

Billy Bob’s not only survived, but also thrived.

Minick helped lure the top stars back for concerts. Movie shoots including George Strait’s Pure Country, Garth Brooks and Chris Ledoux record release parties, and showcases like the one that introduced both Toby Keith and Shania Twain on the same night helped solidify Billy Bob’s reputation.

In a way, Minick now says, she is uncomfortable with the word retirement. The sisters’ father, a doorman for Caesars Palace in their hometown of Las Vegas, died of complications from elective surgery not long after he quit working and moved to Oregon. Their mother died of cancer at age 60.

“That’s why I’m pretty emphatic about not being retired,” Minick says.

That R-word aside, Minick’s most immediate goal is not extravagant — she simply wants to get a look at Mount Rushmore.

“Billy has worked hard all his life, and he always said there are certain things we’d really want to do, and one of them is travel around the U.S.,” says Minick, who has worn out more than one horse trailer and pickup during her rodeo and broadcasting career. Billy Minick has logged plenty of miles himself as a rodeo producer.

“But you’re in town to work; you’re not seeing the sights, the historical places,” Pam Minick says. “As people who traveled so long, it’s all about being able to travel at our own schedule and own pace this time.”

“For the first time in 24 years, when I leave, I won’t be tied down to a deadline for radio or newspaper copy, won’t be tied down by managers trying to sell their last-minute tickets for artists,” Minick says of her vacation plans after the herd fundraiser.

The Minicks have taken four actual vacations: to Hawaii, Ireland, Pebble Beach and Colorado.

“But always, we were answering emails and hoping to stay within cellphone and Internet range,” she says.

She is also looking forward to riding considerably more than she has been doing. The Minicks have six horses in a barn near the house, and plenty of pasture for them.

“There was a time when I was extremely competitive in team roping, and I considered myself one of the top riders in the country,” Minick says. “My skill level has really declined because I haven’t been able to devote the time to practice.”

She speaks from a professional athlete’s perspective. Minick is a former Miss Rodeo America and a former Womens’ World Championship calf roper and has competed in the Womens’ National Finals Rodeo as a team roper.

She has been inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame and the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame and is a recipient of the Tad Lucas Award from the National Cowboy Hall of Fame. She was the first woman to announce a major pro rodeo, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

One reason Minick stepped back from the Billy Bob’s job, she says, is that it had become a job, with many more duties than when she began in 1989.

“I’d never looked at it as being a job, but it turned into that,” she says. “Social media is tedious if you do it right, and what was once a fax once a week is now an email four times a day from an agent.

“You’d think computers would make our lives easier, but not really.”

After all, we are talking about Billy Bob’s Texas, the 3-acre club billed as the World’s Largest Honky Tonk since it opened in 1981.

“That Billy Bob’s schedule — I don’t think there’s any venue or club that books the amount of talent we do and has the deadline and promotional schedule that it does,” says Minick, who, with her husband, has an ownership stake in the club.

Minick and her handful of helpers did everything from writing promotional copy to producing the video spots to making sure the artists were on TV or radio. Her replacement has yet to be announced.

“Not any one day was like the next,” she says of her favorite aspect of her job at Billy Bob’s. “You don’t even advertise on the same radio stations all the time. There’s always a constant change to everything we do on a daily basis.”

Minick added a personal touch to public and private events that gave both guests and entertainers a warm feeling, more like one ranch family being neighborly to another down the road instead of a club’s promotional campaign.

She is enthusiastic about being able to focus fully on her RFD-TV cable television features now. Minick is a natural interviewer and obviously has a passion for her subjects — and the horses they ride in on.

“I can’t wait to go to Pennsylvania to do a story on a farm where they raise these beautiful Percherons,” she says of an upcoming Gentle Giants shoot.

One breeder she knows is an emergency-room trauma surgeon by day, and another family raises all their own hay for their horses.

It’s likely that Minick is on a first-name basis with most of the ranchers and horse breeders nationwide.

Friends and fans can stay tuned for more heartfelt tales from her about the enduring rural lifestyles that still abide where tall grass meets empty roadways.

“The next chapter of my life will be just as interesting as the past,” Minick says.

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