That's the Spirit: Ben Rasmussen - Nevertire NSW
By day, Ben Rasmussen is a mild-mannered professional who’s embarking on his career as a graduate accountant. Come the weekend, he swaps the suit for the saddle, travelling the length and breadth of the state in pursuit of competitive rodeo. It might sound like an unusual mix, but he’s putting the combination of skills together in support of his much-loved home town of Nevertire, helping to reinvigorate the local rodeo. He’s an ardent fan of life in a small community, where he says there’s opportunity aplenty for those willing to have a crack.
Jen: Have you always lived at Nevertire?
Ben: I’ve lived in regional NSW all my life so far. I was born at Gloucester – most of my family is from that region – but we followed my grandfather out to Nevertire when I was younger, and that’s where I feel most at home. I went to the school there until it shut down, then I went elsewhere for schooling and university, but I would get back there as much as I could during holidays, and now to have had the chance to come back here full time is great.
Jen: Tell me what’s great about Nevertire?
Ben: Knowing everyone. Knowing the area, knowing your place in the community. Feeling that you can be identified in your own community. Everyone knows everyone. It’s hard to explain but there’s a reason everyone travels to Nevertire and has a beer at the pub there or goes to the rodeo. There’s just something about the spirit of the place that gets to everyone. It’s hard to put into words, it’s a feeling.
Jen: You’re a graduate accountant but when you’re not in your suit and tie at the office, you’re an ardent rodeo rider. Tell me how that came to be your chosen sport?
Ben: I guess it sounds like a bit of a funny mix – an accountant who’s a rodeo rider. But I’ve always been around rodeo, my dad was a saddle bronc rider so I s’pose I’m second generation.
Now I’m actually on the committee that runs the rodeo at Nevertire. A mate of mine and I travel together to compete in rodeo most weekends and his father is the president of the “We of the Nevertire” social club.
Ben Rasmussen, Nevertire NSW
Jen: I love the name! So, it’s not specifically a rodeo committee?
Ben: We of the Nevertire is a social committee that holds all different kinds of events for the town and the region – over the years they’ve had gymkhanas, ute shows, a shearing competition. It’s been about holding some kind of social day out in Nevertire over a weekend, for people to come to the town and for locals to get together as well. But there hasn’t been a rodeo in nearly 15 years.
There used to be a very strong rodeo every year around Easter and I remember it very well as a kid but going back even further, Dad competed at Nevertire rodeo every year for the 10 years before our family had anything had to do with the area. They had a strong committee and as a kid that’s where I had my first poddy ride and my first horse ride. It discontinued after a few years but the committee has reformed from scratch to have this social weekend and my mate and I had bit of influence to hold a rodeo again after all these years.
Jen: So, you’ve been instrumental in kicking off the Nevertire rodeo again?
Ben: I think so because a majority of the committee had little experience with rodeo or with running one, and I’d like to think we were trusted to help from our own rodeo experience with input and tips to bring rodeo back to Nevertire.
Everyone was really excited to help run this rodeo. It was great to see those with no experience with the sport keen to have a go and be involved.
Ben Rasmussen at the Coonamble Rodeo in 2019.
Jen: How many rodeos have you held since the committee reformed?
Ben: 2018 was our first rodeo back and we had a great crowd. We were very happy with it, particularly given the rodeo committee had started from scratch. Most of the positions are members who have carried over from the other We of the Nevertire committee.
We were really fortunate to get great sponsorship, particularly because we had no idea how many people were going to turn up on the day. Everyone showed a lot of support and then we were overwhelmed with how many people came through the gate on the day – people came from all over the area and we had around 1000 people. and then on the day we were overwhelmed with the crowd that we got on the day. The place was packed. We raised a lot of money through the bar, that day.
Jen: I can imagine! And 2018 was smack bang in the middle of the drought too, so to get that crowd is even more impressive.
Ben: It was just when the drought had started to really show itself, but even so, sponsorship was strong. I’m not sure why that was, but perhaps it’s because there are not that many events in the area that businesses and organisations have a chance to get behind. It’s the only rodeo in that immediate area. People might say that in the middle of a roaring drought, we took a real punt holding an event like that, but perhaps it was something the district needed. It felt like the community needed the rodeo and the social gathering more in the drought than at any other time. It was their getaway I think. They were really looking forward to having something else to do other than feed cattle and wait for rain. Locals really like to get out for the weekend and they really enjoyed being there.
Jen: What sort of satisfaction do you get from being involved?
Ben: It’s a bit of a rush, just running around on the day and to see all your plans and hopes fall into place and everything come together. When the rodeo finishes that day and you see the big crowd with people really enjoying themselves, that’s really satisfying. It’s also always a relief not to have anything go wrong. We surprised ourselves with how well the first one went (in 2018). Our second one, in 2019, was a bit tougher with the drought biting even harder and crowds were back on numbers a bit. The sponsorship was still strong, which we couldn’t believe. It was still there, they were still supporting us.
This year we’re waiting to see what happens (with the Coronavirus restrictions) and we haven’t actually cancelled the event yet – we are crossing our fingers.
Jen: You’re obviously biased cause you’re involved with the sport, but how important is rodeo, and horse sports in general, for small communities?
Ben: It brings people together, whether they’re competitors or spectators or working as part of the organisation of the day. It’s interesting when you see how a small place like Nevertire can get a committee together, but a bigger place like Dubbo struggles. I think it’s easier in a small place like Nevertire because everyone who lives there wants to be involved. There’s a good sense of community.
Jen: What would you say to other young people who are living and working in small communities and wondering what there is to do?
Ben: Get involved in the community in any way you can. Once you start, it’s a little bit of an addiction, really. Once you feel you’ve helped once, it’s so easy to help again. When you step up and get involved, you really do feel like you’re a part of the community and a part of something bigger.
Jen: What do you think are some of the misconceptions about life in a rural community and what would you say to young people in particular who have the opportunity to move to a small town?
Ben: First thing I’d say is that, despite what people might think, there are a lot of opportunities and there’s a lot happening in those smaller places. I think someone from the outside would think there’s nothing happening there, and the place might be dead, but it’s the exact opposite. Nevertire, for instance, is very vibrant and there are a lot of opportunities out in our region, you just have to stick your nose in and get involved.
Jen: And from a “day job” perspective, you’re a graduate accountant and you’ve chosen to go back and practice in Warren. It might surprise people to know that professional opportunities for young people in the regional areas.
Ben: There are opportunities, definitely. A lot of people can’t believe I have a graduate position and that I live in Nevertire. There are offices all throughout the region and business happening right across the area – not just in my field of accounting, but especially in agronomy and farming and banking. All throughout the region and in the small towns, there are positions and opportunities coming up all the time, so you shouldn’t feel like you need to be in the city to have that same opportunity.
NALAG's 'That's the Spirit' hardcover book features a selection of excerpts from the stories gathered from Western NSW during 2018-2020.
Ben Rasmussen at the Coonamble Rodeo in 2019.