I had no prior connections to Wyoming before moving here. Other than a family trip to Yellowstone as a child, the state didn’t have much significance to me or my family. Or so I thought. …
I had no prior connections to Wyoming before moving here. Other than a family trip to Yellowstone as a child, the state didn’t have much significance to me or my family. Or so I thought.
While reporting at the Cody Stampede on July 4, I received an unexpected buzz from my phone. It was a text from my father, who provided me with a strange family detail: My uncle was once scheduled to compete in the Cody rodeo.
With several generations of my father’s side of the family all hailing from Texas, my ancestors were brought up in country living. They raised animals on ranches, and my grandfather was a longtime veterinary professor at Texas A&M University.
As a result, my family had great admiration for rodeos. My father even trained to become a barrel racer at one point in his childhood.
But no one in my extended family was as infatuated with them as my uncle, Bob.
During a gap year from his studies at Texas A&M — in 1975-76 — Bob lived in Colorado, working at a ski resort. Colorado, along with its surrounding states, is one of the nation’s key rodeo hotspots.
He decided to become a PRCA member to compete in the Mountain States division as a bareback rider. Bob’s goal was to reach the fabled Cody Stampede and Cheyenne Frontier Days.
Unfortunately, his career came to a screeching halt before he could.
Just a few rodeos in, Bob suffered a serious back injury at a rodeo in Granby, Colorado, and was advised never to ride again. Bob also realized that he’d also have to finish his gig at the ski resort at the end of the season, in favor of returning to Texas for school.
But he didn’t let this fully crush his rodeo dreams. He traveled across the state of Wyoming, attending various rodeos as a spectator.
In Cody, where he was originally supposed to compete, Bob helped his friends maintain their tack ahead of the festivities. He also camped on the rodeo grounds and made friends with locals in attendance.
It was never what Bob hoped it would be. But he found a new way to make lifelong memories in Park County.
And when I heard about this intriguing history, I was in awe. Though in much different circumstances, I was making memories at a place that my uncle still holds in high regard more than 40 years later.
I’m certainly not a cowboy. Between living in Austin and Phoenix for 21 years, I’ve never had much escape from streets, traffic and city life; I’ve never even ridden a horse.
But having the chance to interview riders and shoot photos at this year’s Cody Stampede PRCA Rodeo gave me a sense of fulfillment that I was embracing my passion in the exact same place where my Uncle Bob embraced one of his, more than four decades earlier.