By Bridget Kirkwood
Just seven of the 316 million people who live in the United States have the name Jana Bean. Only one person has the right to call herself Janna Beam, yet two ladies named Jana Bean and Janna Beam have raced their way to the top of the barrel horse industry ranks. Whether you’re hearing their names out loud or looking at them on paper, it’s easy to mistakenly assume the two names are the same. Those similarities have caused confusion both in and out of the arena for family, fans, the media and for me.
A few years ago, I attributed a quote in a story about bits to Janna Beam even though it was Jana Bean who I’d interviewed over the phone. When Bean called to tell me about the mistake, she also told me stories about how she and Beam have worked together to overcome the clerical mess that sometimes occurs with being Jana Bean and Janna Beam. We caught up with these distinctive ladies to learn a little more about what makes each of them unique.
Name: Jana Bean
Family: My husband is Breck Bean and my son is Jim Breck Bean.
Name: Janna Beam
Family: My mom, Paula Owens; stepdad, Phillip Owens; and my dad, Ed Beam.
Bean: I went to Howard College for two years, Eastern New Mexico State University for a year and finished off my last year at Sul Ross State University. I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education.
Beam: I earned a Bachelors Degree in General Studies from Louisiana State University in Shreveport.
Where do you live?
Bean: I grew up in Crane, Texas, and moved to Fort Hancock, Texas when I got married. Breck and his family have lived on their farm and ranch there his whole life.
Beam: I live in Mt. Pleasant, Texas, but I just moved there from Hallsville, Texas.
How did you get your name?
Bean: My name was Jana Pierce. Jana comes from my aunt—her middle name is Jan. My husband’s last name is Bean so I got that when I got married.
Beam: My mom’s middle name was Jan so that’s where Janna came from. Her childhood friend’s name was Lin, so that’s my middle name and my last name comes from my dad.
Have you ever known anyone with your last name or her last name?
Bean: I rodeoed with my husband’s family, so I’ve known people with the last name of Bean forever.
Beam: No, I don’t ever see anyone with the same last name—Bean or Beam.
When did you become aware of the other Jan(n)a?
Bean: I’ve known ofJanna Beam for a really long time because she rodeoed when she was a kid. It was probably when I was first married, or after I had been married for about a year, when I heard her name. Her name is close to mine, but we never realized it would become such a pain back then because we were different ages so we were in different leagues.
Beam: The first time was in 2006 at the futurity in San Antonio; they got our money mixed up down there. I went in the office and specifically said, ‘Here’s my address and here is the horse I rode,” but they still got it mixed up.
How many times have the mix-ups occurred?
Bean: The mix-ups have been happening since the very first time we were at the same place competing against each other. We were at a futurity in San Antonio; they were calling out Janna Beam and my husband kept saying, ‘You’re up, you’re up.’ I told him it wasn’t me, it was the other girl.
The other day I was at a What-A-Burger in East Texas, which is Janna’s part of the world, and a lady stopped and asked me who I was. She started talking to me like I knew her, but I didn’t know who she was. Another time I was paying my fees in Marshall, Texas, which is pretty much where Janna’s from, too, and the secretary said I’d given her the wrong check. I told her I hadn’t, but she said, ‘You’re Janna Beam from Hallsville, Texas.’ I had to explain that I was Jana Bean from Fort Hancock, Texas. There’s story after story like that.
Beam: Multiple times, the [Women’s Professional Rodeo Association] gets it mixed up, and you’d think they wouldn’t because we have card numbers but I guess they just glance at the name and send things out. Futurities get it mixed up a lot, too.
What has been the biggest mix up that’s occurred?
Bean: The article you did; I wasn’t offended by it, but I was shocked because we’d talked. We were at a rodeo one time when Janna was up and everyone was hollering at me to go. Janna even said it wasn’t her, but I’d looked at the daysheet earlier and told her she was the one who was up—that got a little confusing. Usually, Janna and I can get everything sorted out between us. I have her phone number and she has mine. I’ll send a check to her, and she’ll send my checks to me. The checks always say the correct name, but they get sent to the wrong person.
Beam: It’s not only money getting sent to the wrong place, but I’ve had people come up to me and say, ‘You sold me this horse.’ I won’t have a clue what the horse is or who they are, but they’ll tell me the horse’s name and where they tried it. I won’t know them or their horse because Jana sold it to them, not me. That’s how I met Trip duPerier, whom Jana rides for now. I was working for JB Quarter Horses and was in Gonzales, Texas, at a barrel race when a complete stranger—Trip—walked up to me with a gray horse. He wanted me to ride the horse because he thought he’d bought it from me. This last year in Arizona at the futurities, we were both there and people kept getting us mixed up. I kept saying, ‘She’s with one N and I’m two Ns. I’m a beam of light and she’s a pinto bean.’ It’s funny how that happens.
Is it difficult having a similar name?
Bean: I laugh at it, but I feel sorry for her because I’m so much older than her. I’m sure she doesn’t appreciate people mixing her up with me because of that. She’s such a good person and good hand with a horse, so when they call me her I always feel like it’s a compliment because she is a very, very good hand. She’s a very good person, and if I have to be mistaken for somebody then she’s a good one to be mistaken for.
Beam: People mistaking us for each other is the funniest thing to me. She’s a good person and people respect her, so it’s fine when they mix us up. I’m just glad that she’s a respected person in the industry and I try my hardest to be the same way, so I’m glad we’re on the same page as far as that goes. Another good thing is she’s a really good rider, and I have met people and had conversations start with people because we have similar names—it’s always nice to meet new people.
What’s been your greatest achievement in barrel racing so far?
Bean: Making the National Finals Rodeo and the fact that my family has supported me and been behind me 100 percent. Dash Ta Freedom has been one my best horses, and I rode him as a derby horse and then started rodeoing on him. He’s one I’m running now with Heza Bug Leo, and they’re both owned by Trip duPerier.
Beam: Winning the slot race at the Better Barrel Races World Finals in 2014 on a futurity colt, Rips Famous Fame. He was my main horse for 2014 and was owned by James David and Renee Cain but was sold in October to Shelby Duckett. As far as rodeos go, I won the circuit finals but I haven’t been to rodeos much since 2010 when my horse Perks Advantage got hurt. One thing I’d like to do is to say congratulations to Jana for qualifying for her first NFR this year (2014). I’ve had some people Facebook me saying congratulations, so I’ve had to tell them they had the wrong person.
Which do you like better, futurities or rodeos?
Bean: I love the challenge of futurities, but the rodeos are more my deal. I like the atmosphere. I’ve always been a rodeo person.
Beam: It’s hard to say, but to me running futurity colts is more of a challenge than running a finished rodeo horse because you’re not on old faithful. With futurity horses, you have to make sure you have all your ducks in a row. Even though we trained Perks Advantage and I had a lot of success on him at the rodeos, the futurities are a bigger deal to me now because that’s what I do.
Why did you become a professional barrel racer?
Bean: My parents. They started us rodeoing when we were itty-bitty. I was probably 3 when I ran barrels for the very first time. I mainly roped and tied goats. In college I didn’t run barrels because I really didn’t have a good barrel horse. When I married my husband (who made the Texas Circuit Finals, won the Reno Rodeo and placed at the Bob Feist Invitational), he was going to the pro rodeos. I didn’t want to just go watch and video, I wanted to participate but at the pro rodeos they don’t have breakaway roping or goat tying, so I told him I wanted to run barrels. I sold all my rope horses and started to train barrel horses so I could get to where I could compete. It took several years, lots of patience and lots of tears but we made it. I go to futurities, too, and early on I did more of them. I never went to all of them because I was raising my son and he did junior rodeo, high school rodeo and stock shows, but when he wasn’t participating, I went and competed so I probably went to four or five futurities every year.
Beam: My mother went to the pro rodeos when I was growing up. I went to high school and college rodeos, and like a lot of girls wanted to fill my permit and get my WPRA card. I did that while I was in college, but I didn’t rodeo a lot. The first futurity colt my mom and I trained, Perks Advantage, became a really good horse. He never won first, but he placed at almost every futurity he went to. He was a good solid horse and won about $40,000 his futurity year. After that is when I started to rodeo a lot and he was the same there; he didn’t win first very often, but he won checks at most of the rodeos we went to. I had a lot of success on him rodeoing for two or three years, and the year I wanted to try to make the Finals he got hurt and I ended up 26th, which was good considering how much time he was out. He’s what started my business as far as taking in outside horses. I’d always had a few horses with me, but after he got hurt I started training horses full time. I then decided to concentrate on futurity colts. For me that works out better than rodeoing because financially it’s not such a huge risk.
Do you ride similar styles of horses? Does the type of horses you ride contribute to people getting the two of you mixed up?
Bean: I would say our horses are similar. Horse-wise and with us physically, I can see how when we’re running in the arena people could sure get us mixed up.
Beam: She rides a lot of nice horses and does a great job with them! She’s got some really big horses and I have some smaller ones. If we were both on a horse walking away from somebody, we’d kind of look alike. We’re both smaller, shorter and have blonde hair but if we turn around you’d see the difference.
Bridget Kirkwood is an avid horse person and regular contributor to Barrel Horse News. Email comments on this article to [email protected]