Lusk, Wyoming cowboys, girls rope in memory of Waldon York
Waldon York was a treasured member of the Niobrara County Roping Club and a loved member of the Lusk, Wyoming, community. He passed away in fall 2015 to pancreatic cancer.
Friends and fellow lovers of the loop hosted a roping day in memory of York Sept. 24, at the roping grounds west of Lusk.
Ty Thompson of Lusk planned the memorial event to include several roping competitions accessible to all ages and levels of ropers.
“Waldon was all about kids and young people getting chances to rope,” York’s widow Buttons said. “Probably the best tribute to him was my daughters and I standing at the door and greeting people who came to his funeral. When people came through the door, the one common thread everybody said is, ‘When I was a kid learning to rope, Waldon York was about the only adult who would rope with me. I could hardly shake a loop out, but he would sacrifice his money and rope with me.’ Person after person said that.”
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Youth and inexperienced ropers started the event by ranch-roping at a slower pace. Buttons’ three-year-old granddaughter, Lainey Wurdemann, was able to move cows around with the help of her mom Elly.
“The coolest thing was Ty let the younger kids and inexperienced do a pre-roping,” Elly said. “He would have loved that aspect of things. It was very cool that Ty went through all the work to put it on in honor of Waldon; it honored him very well.”
“The ropings very much honored who Waldon was as a person. There are a lot of accomplished ropers in the county that remember Waldon being their first partner and willing to rope with them in the money ropings, not just the practice pen,” said longtime family friend Riki Kremers, of Lance Creek, Wyoming. “For me it meant a lot when Ty Thompson invited [my daughter] Royal to come rope in the beginner roping and he made sure that every beginner had their fill of partners.”
A 110-age scramble followed the youth roping. This ranch-roping style event, Buttons said, was designed to pull together Waldon’s older roping friends from the days of his roping club presidency. The ropers’ combined ages must be around 110, or one roper must be a female, for them to team up. Pairs were required to sort a steer from the bunch of muley and horned cattle, head, then heel it.
“The day was not just about straight team roping. The 110 roping was great because it honored both sides of Waldon. He was a pretty wolfy team roper, but he was also a very good hand in the pasture, so that roping allowed the ranchers to come in and celebrate in a roping fashion too,” Kremers said.
Waldon’s memorial roping ended with team roping, won by his stepdaughter Megan Franzen and partner Ryan Rochlitz. The pair earned a buckle each emblazoned with Waldon’s name, most of which were funded by Thompson. Megan’s husband Josh placed second, earning a breast collar made by local leather shop Cow Camp Saddlery.
“Megan can hardly talk about winning that buckle; she was in tears when she won it. Josh won a really nice breast collar. I guess it was special that the family did so well,” Buttons, Megan’s mom, said. “For Waldon, there were a lot of things that he did that he didn’t give a damn about being recognized for. He didn’t care if anyone knew or anyone thanked him, but the memorial roping was about him. Ty did a very skilled job at having it be something that Waldon would have really approved of. It was about bringing your family and having some fun.”
Buttons described Waldon as truly “one of the good ones.” As president of the roping club for approximately two decades, Waldon dedicated hours of his time preparing the roping grounds and grooming the arena for upcoming events and was the one tirelessly cleaning up the grounds after ropings.
He received a bronze star for his efforts in the Vietnam War, which, Buttons said, was ultimately responsible for taking his life in the end. Agent Orange was likely the reason for his cancer. He passed away Nov. 21, 2015.
“I am so blessed to have had him in my life. I’m not happy he’s gone, but I’m extremely happy I had him,” Buttons said. “He was one of the very rare good, good men. Waldon sure roped competitively and did well, but he didn’t care the most about that. He didn’t care that anyone knew he roped tough on both ends; he was very humble. If he was your friend, he would be there, though he might be quiet about being there. There was nothing he loved better than some little kids on horses with dirt all over their faces, roping each other.”
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