On any given weekend, for example, you might find Bruce competing against cowboys decades his junior in reined cow horse and roping. “My horse has the legs, so I don’t have to worry about running,” he laughs. “But there’s always a bit of luck involved: working with a cow, a horse, and a human, you got three things that could go wrong.”
Aside from competing in roping, training horses, or hunting elk in the high country, the former hedge fund manager volunteers for the La Plata County Search and Rescue, has held leadership positions with local organizations, and six years ago founded the nonprofit Hal Coker Memorial Buckaroo Benefit Fund named after a late friend and roping partner. The fund helps working cowboys and cowgirls, and working ranch families experiencing health and accident-related emergencies.
“We’ve helped an awful lot of folks who were going to be forced into bankruptcy. Our average grant is between $5,000 and $20,000, and we help roughly five to 10 families a year,” he says. Examples of support include funeral and transitional living expenses for widows; funds for cowboys whose work is suspended after they suffer broken bones; and wheelchair and access needs for a young ranch hand diagnosed with ALS.
The fund started with a memorial roping event to benefit Coker’s widow. So many members of the cowboy community came to offer their support that Bruce and his wife, Sandy, had the idea of creating a nonprofit organization to help families moving forward. To date, their efforts have provided more than $300,000 in aid to 24 cowboys and families in 11 western states; the fund has a current endowment exceeding $400,000.
“The cowboy’s emphasis on self-reliance and independence can often lead to a reluctance to ask for help, hence our theme: ‘Cowboys Helping Cowboys.’”
“The fund became a passion for us after many ranch families welcomed us into their homes and included me in spring brandings,” Bruce says. “Being a part of the working ranch community, it was apparent that not only was the work dangerous, but most families had little or no medical insurance. The cowboy’s emphasis on self-reliance and independence can often lead to a reluctance to ask for help, hence our theme: ‘Cowboys Helping Cowboys.’”
Read about other alumni who are making an impact in their professions and communities around the world.
Since graduating from Hamilton, Bruce has remained close with his alma mater, first serving on the Board of Trustees and later funding the climbing wall in Blood Fitness Center. “Hamilton has been near and dear to my heart for years,” he says. Though much has changed since his time on the Hill, he remains in touch with the place he once called home.
These days, the Bruces “live our lives in a very western kind of way … I wake up every morning at 5 o’clock, feed horses and cattle, move irrigation equipment around, and then come back to the house to have some breakfast and make a few calls to the East Coast.”
Being in a small community where they could make an impact was always important to the Bruces, and Durango has allowed them to do just that — while enjoying the peace and beauty of life in Colorado.