Sep 30, 2021
What’s in a name
There is no doubt that most of today’s rodeo contestants are not just highly skilled in the arena, they are athletes who work out, practice, prepare and think about their competition as a sport. The argument that rodeo is a sport is pretty heavily weighted by that.
On the flip side, it is a lifestyle. If you doubt that, close your eyes, and think about the names of our athletes a bit. I’ve been around for a while and I think that our sport’s uniqueness is reflected in the names of the competitors.
Some of my favorite names come from the legendary Myers family. Father, Butch, was the 1980 world champion steer wrestler. His three children, Rope, Tygh and Cash are carrying on the legacy. Cash will be competing at this year’s National Finals Steer Roping for the first time since 2009. He has been to the National Finals Rodeo in the steer wrestling and tie-down roping multiple times and was there in 2001 when older brother Rope won the gold buckle in the family’s signature event of steer wrestling. The next generation of Myers also carries names that have a rodeo/western flair. Cash has four children, Strait, Ketch, Westi and Marli Ann. Tygh’s son Quade Hiatt finished 31st in the tie-down roping world standings this year.
As rodeo has evolved it has become a generational sport. Nowhere is that more evident than in the Cooper family. Dale “Tuffy” Cooper, competed in all three roping events. He helped found the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association and most importantly was a father (he passed away in 2014) to Roy, Clay Tom and Betty Gayle who all had success in the arena. Roy, whose middle name is Dale after his father, earn eight gold buckles using a rope. Roy’s boys, Clint, Clif and Tuf have all been to the NFR in the tie-down roping.
Clif carries the name of his maternal grandfather, Clifton Smith, who competed at the NFR twice. Smith is also the father of world champion tie-down roper Stran Smith, brother of Clif and Tuf’s mom, Shari.
Tuf, is named after his paternal grandfather, and for him it is an honor and part of a legacy. Tuf has four gold buckles to his credit and is headed to his 14th NFR.
“My grandad was a great person,” Tuf said. “I’m grateful to my parents for naming me after him. He wanted me to be the best that I could be and he reminded me of that often. It’s something I will continue working for no matter what I am doing.”
The new dynasty of rodeo is in it’s second generation of NFR qualifiers in the saddle bronc riding and while every fan knows who the Wrights from Utah are, there’s always the untold story surrounding them. Cody Wright was the first one to rodeo professionally, first to compete at the NFR and win a world title. He set the path for the rest of the family.
Cody’s journey into the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association started like most competitors working through the ranks. He started competing in high school events in his home state of Utah. Cody watched every event at those high school rodeos, critiqued the competitors and used those critiques to improve his own skills. One of the competitors that he never missed watching was Rusty Allen who is two years older than Cody.
“Rusty was a real standout in my mind,” Cody said. “He wasn’t very big, but he was a good roper and could spur a bareback horse or a saddle bronc. He was really a cowboy. I admired that and thought he had a cool “cowboy” sounding name. When ShaRee and I had our first son, I wanted to name him Rusty because of Rusty Allen.”
Rusty Wright’s middle name is Scott for his maternal grandfather. ShaRee got to pick names for the next three children. Her inspiration for Ryder came from the daytime drama “As the World Turns.”
“There was this guy on a soap opera named Ryder,” she explained. “He was a good-looking character and I liked the Western feel of the name Ryder.” So, their second born became Ryder Cody Wright. Then came Stetson Dell (which is Cody’s middle name and grandpa Bill’s too) and then Statler Ray. Statler who just celebrated his 18th birthday, got his middle name from his maternal grandfather. Expect to see his name on the contestant roster soon.
Cody and ShaRee’s family was completed with the birth of their daughter Lily Jo. “Her name was supposed to be River,” ShaRee said. “But Cody insisted that since we finally got a girl, she should have a girly name, so Lily it is.” Lily’s middle name, Jo, is the same as Sharee’s mom and sister.
Barrel racer Stevi Hillman wasn’t born into a rodeo family, and if she would have followed her namesake into a career, we’d see her in leather and stiletto’s blasting a tune out to sold-out arena’s around the world. Her parents were big Stevie Nicks fans and when their baby girl was born Stevi seemed to be an appropriate name. It probably helped that her father’s name is Steve. And, a few year’s ago when Stevie Nicks was playing in Dallas on her birthday, her husband, Ty Hillman made sure she got to spend that evening at her namesake’s concert.
Paden Bray, who is headed to his second NFR in the heeling was named after a character in the movie Silverado which is one of his dad, Ken Bray’s all-time favorites. When your heroes are team ropers, Jake Barnes and Clay O’Brien Cooper of course you name your boys after them. The Smiths did that with Clay who has won two world championships in the heading and Jake who finished inside the top 30 in the world standings. They also have a younger brother Britt after Britt Bockius. Clay is carrying on the tradition. His son is Jade O’Brien Smith named after his current roping partner Jade Corkill and Clay O’Brien Cooper.
Sage Steele Kimzey carries his paternal grandfather’s name proudly. This year there will be two Sage’s competing at the NFR with Sage Newman on the saddle bronc roster. When most of us think of the word sage, it conjures up visions of hardy plants that tolerate drought, wind and all of the elements. The plants stand the test of time and are pretty symbolic of the west. There has been one football player named Sage in the NFL whose parents were looking through the dictionary for names and they liked how it sounded and what it meant. I’m pretty sure that they were referring to the sage of wisdom and knowledge when they named their son Sage Rosenfels.
I’ll be looking forward to a future of names in rodeo. Shane Proctor and his wife Hailey have a daughter named Coulee, a name that honors the Grand Coulee, Washington area where he grew up. Two-time tie-down roping world champion Caleb Smidt and his wife Brenna have a son, Cru Tatum and daughter Myla Pearl. The list goes on. Whether names reflect family history, places (Dakota and Kaycee), I for one am proud to be affiliated with a group of people that embrace the Western Lifestyle through and through.