August’s last gasp |

August’s last gasp

August draws her last gasp as this issue goes to press, and it’s been a really busy month across Tri-State Country. Since I’ve not found time to congratulate our new Miss Rodeo Wyoming and other winners from that mid-August pageant during the Wyoming State Fair, this is a great time to introduce you to Allie Bass. She represented the Sheridan WYO Rodeo and will wear the 2009 Miss Rodeo Wyoming crown on her hat after her autumn fundraiser coronation in Sheridan.

On her way to the title, Allie impressed judges Sandy Garrett of South Dakota, Rich Lunde of Utah and Lolly Klug of Nebraska enough to defeat six other contestants from across the state in the categories of horsemanship, personality and rodeo knowledge; as well as earning the highest cumulative score. A Casper College engineering student, Allie is the daughter of Bill & Lois Bass of Sheridan. She’s been riding since the age of four and has accumulated many honors and awards through National Honor Society, 4-H, FFA, high school rodeo, soccer and swimming.

Erin Heffron of the Teton County Fair & Rodeo at Jackson was Miss Rodeo Wyoming’s 1st Runner-Up, winning the appearance category and scrapbook award. Emily Delyea, Converse County Cowbelle Queen from Douglas was 2nd Runner-Up and Cheyenne cowgirl Bradi Nelson took the speech and photogenics categories; while Miss Laramie Jubilee Beth Wood was voted Miss Congeniality by the other contestants. We tip our ol’ Tri-State Stetson to all these young ladies and wish them a very special year to come!

Western fashion and style are undoubtedly more important to rodeo queens than the average run of cowboys, but we all appreciate nice Western clothing and want’a look as good as possible. We owe much of that ability to Jack Weil of Denver, Colorado, a major icon credited with the global spread of Western style, who passed from earthly life this month at the active age of 107!

Founder of Rockmount Manufacturing Company, Inc. (where he continued to labor daily almost up to the time of his death) Weil is credited with two major “first’s” in the industry – the “bolo tie” and putting pearl snaps on shirts. Yokes, ‘smile’ pockets and ‘sawtooth’ pockets were also Weil innovations. His grandson Steve Weil, now president of Rockmount, spoke of Jack Weil as being “to Western shirts what Henry Ford was to cars.” He was first involved with the Stockman Farmer Supply Company at Denver, which later became Miller Stockman because Weil wanted to “get rid of the farmer” in the name.

A New York Times article about Weil’s life and death said he worked in the family business almost up to the end, and he “could not understand why people would collect old Western shirts. He was aghast when his grandson Steve excitedly called to say he had found an original Rockmount shirt and that the dealer had accepted two new shirts for it.”

“What?” Jack exclaimed. “You traded two perfectly good new shirts for an old one we sold for three dollars 40 years ago?”

Speaking of Denver, I’m truly sick of politics and suppose many of you are suffering the same malady, so I hate to bring up the subject of rodeo politics. Like our national scene, though, the subject is screaming for attention and – like it or not – we do have a duty to respond in some manner.

You may be exposed to the Professional Rodeo Cowboy’s Association’s press releases and those paid for by big money connections like Las Vegas Events, boasting about how much more money they’ve brought to the sport. For one, they say Las Vegas has provided more than $125 million to “contestants, contractors and contract personnel” since 1985. For another they say, “Prize money for contestants has grown from $1.8 million in 1985 to over $5.6 million this year.”

What they’re not saying is that most of that money has been going into the pockets of a very small percentage of the PRCA membership and rodeo committees – the ‘chosen few’ who are able to participate in all the special tours and circuits and other new PRCA events – but it’s sure not trickling down to the majority of the general membership, who pay the same dues as the golden boys.

In the interest of being completely informed, you need to check out for a response to the position of the PRCA, provided by “a concerned group of current and former PRCA members to keep you up-to-date with important news regarding the PRCA and our battle to re-establish the member’s rights within their own association.”

Just as on our national political stage, there’s a lot of misrepresentation going on – a lot of untruth’s or half-truth’s being peddled. If you’re a PRCA member who loves the sport of rodeo, get informed and let your voice be heard. You do have a vote and you should use it. If we fail to vote, we have no right to complain…

And oh yes, to be “fair and balanced” like FOX News, I’d best tell you the PRCA’s side of the story is available at It’s just like national politics… somebody’s right and somebody’s wrong… and nobody’s perfect.

Amid activist’s howls that rodeo is unfair to animals we keep getting bad news from seriously injured contestants on other side of the chutes. We were unfortunately watching the Cheyenne Frontier Days performance on July 21st when 23-year-old Scenic, South Dakota cowboy Julian Whitcher came off his bronc and landed on his head. Arena action was suspended for a while as medical staff secured him and carried him from the arena on a backboard. We now know he suffered “two fractured cervical vertebrae in addition to a compressed and pinched spinal cord” and was airlifted to Denver Health Medical Center’s Rocky Mountain Regional Trauma Center where he underwent two surgeries to stabilize his spinal cord.

On August 18th Julian was moved to Denver’s Craig Hospital (which specializes in spinal cord and brain injuries), and our prayers continue to be with him and his family as he says, “Right now I have no feeling below my chest, but I can kind of feel twitching in my legs. I can use my arms, but my hands feel numb. My fingers don’t work that well.” Julian says fellow bronc rider from South Dakota Billie Sutton has been encouraging him to “stay positive.”

After his own two-month tour at Craig, following a spinal cord injury in the 2007 Badlands Circuit Finals, Sutton “is continuing his recovery with the aid of a hand-controlled wheel chair.” Whitcher said, “He’s been filling me in on things I can expect and tells me to keep working. That makes you feel good…”

A benefit rodeo is planned for Julian Whitcher on September 6th in Interior, South Dakota. For more information on that event call (605) 993-3015. There’s a fund to help defray Julian’s staggering medical costs in his name at First Western Bank, Box 402, Wall, South Dakota 57790. His personal Web page is

As a good friend of ours so wisely advises, we should “Make time to take the time to be grateful for what we do have and what we don’t have every day.” Deep thoughts to consider as we come to the end of this ol’ lariat rope once more…

© 2008 Rhonda Stearns

Email Rhonda at


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