October 18, 1948
He grew up on a Sandhills ranch on the Calamus River 45 miles from Burwell and Ainsworth. The road to town was a sandhills trail with 11 gates each way. When you are a young boy with 3 brothers and a little sister, who cares how many gates there are to get to town. He had everything a young boy could want right on the ranch. There was a fish pond just a few yards from the house, ponies to ride to school, a cabin by the river that was your bedroom all summer long and unlimited hunting and fishing.
Mickey Leroy Phillipps was born in Burwell on October 18, 1948 just prior to the winter of 48-49 to Dale and Elizabeth Belle (Hiser) Phillipps. He has 3 brothers, Bill (Linda) Phillipps, Pat (Stella) Phillipps, Robert Phillipps and a sister, Marie (Lin) Gumb. Since the blizzard had Mick and his parents snowed in on the ranch all winter, Mick’s grandpa, Bum Phillipps, sent a case of Carnation milk, a .22 rifle and a box of .22 shells up with the rescue airplanes. They had a milk cow, chickens and Dale could hunt. Belle would use the .22 to shoot grouse for their meals. Mick’s first trip to town wasn’t until spring when he was 6 months old.
As children, they rode their ponies 4 miles to school carrying their lunch in a crossover bag. Their “job” was to break the ponies so if Dale saw that they caught the same pony too many days in a row, it went to town and a new set of unbroken ponies would show up at the ranch. On one occasion on the ride home from school, Mick and Bill decided to rope a deer. Now roping the deer was easy, the problem was getting the rope off the deer afterward. Losing a rope would have consequences at home, so the rope was not lost but not many deer were roped after that.
Besides participating in all sports, Mick was active in FFA and 4-H. His senior year, he took a market steer from the Brown County Fair all the way to Aksarben. Mick and Bill each took cattle to Aksarben; all the way to Omaha in a farm truck. They had to sleep with their cattle and Dale slept on the seat of the truck. The steer won Reserve Champion at Aksarben but the purchaser took him to Louisiana where a few weeks later, he won the overall market steer at the Louisiana State Fair.
Rodeo was a way of life on the Phillipps’ Calamus River Ranch. Both Mick’s parents were active rodeo and horsemanship people. There wasn’t time for high school rodeos, but at the age of 13, Mick went to work for Larry Hollenbeck in the summer. After the ranch work was finished for the day, there were many practice evenings in the Hollenbeck arena. Larry taught Mick how to bulldog and ride bareback and saddle bronc horses. It wasn’t long before Mick was helping Hollenbeck’s with the rodeos in exchange for entry fees.
After high school, Mick attended McCook Junior College on a wrestling scholarship. An injury forced him to give up his college wrestling career but not before he was All Around Cowboy in 1968 at the Kearney State College Rodeo and the Fort Hays College rodeo. He was an accomplished boxer, winning the District Golden Gloves Championship in 1971 and 1972. He moved back to the Sandhills and worked on several ranches continuing to rodeo in the Nebraska State Rodeo Association where he was All Around Cowboy for 3 consecutive years in the early ‘70’s.
He married Jackie Lutz in 1971. They had 2 boys, Thomas Dale and Jesse Jay. One of his favorite ranches to work was for Delmer and Fona Hall. He tells of cattle drives that lasted several days and of many pasture card games with George Smith. He enjoyed hunting, especially with his coon dogs.
Mick was an active member in Mid-States Rodeo Association in the late 70’s and early 80’s. He was the Steer Wrestling director for several years. He filled in as a bull fighter when needed but his favorite events were saddle bronc and bareback riding. Mick was the year-end association and event champion in Barebacks in 1977 & 1979 and year-end event champion in Saddle broncs in 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979 and 1980. He was awarded the All-Around Champion for the Mid-States Rodeo Association in 1976, 1977 and 1978.
He attended the Calgary Stampede, representing the Mid-States Rodeo Association in 1979. He rode saddle broncs and barebacks in Calgary. Mick’s friend, Larry Ray and the Bandits even wrote a rodeo song about his rodeo days.
In 1983, Mick married Carmen Murphy. They have 2 boys, Gavin Lee and Taylor Roy. Mick continued participating in Mid-States Rodeos and helped contractor Cec Robinson on the rodeo circuit.
Mick worked in several feedlots including Juniata Feedyard and Bonsall Feedlot. He did a lot of team roping and was a member of the Burwell Roping Club for many years. He always had horses, cattle and goats. He won the Old Timer’s Team Roping in Burwell in 1996 with his uncle, Donald Phillipps.
In 1988, he went to work for himself as a fencing contractor. He and Carmen owned the Northside Bar from 1992 to 1996. While running the bar, Mick built a small goat-sized chute and put on “goat ropings” in the beer garden. He traveled with a portable arena and chute and had goat ropings for several locations in central and western Nebraska. These goat ropings were very popular. After selling the bar, he went back to fencing and selling treated cedar fence posts. He retired from fencing in 2015.
He is enjoying retirement on the edge of Burwell. He still has horses, goats, chickens and a few feeder cattle. Though no longer an active rodeo participant, he still enjoys all performances of Nebraska’s Big Rodeo and catching rodeos on the Cowboy Channel.