Cowboy identity theft |

Cowboy identity theft

The real Willie Cowan rides Sorrel Top in San Angelo in 1957. Photo courtesy Cowan family

How many of us scold our children and grandchildren to not post anything on the internet that might embarrass them later in life? With all the various social media sites and the threat of hackers, one cannot be too careful. We also find ourselves using the age-old saying, “What goes around comes around,” but who would think that a little incident that happened involving a well-known South Dakota cowboy 60 years ago, would come full circle just this past December? It all happened when Lori (Cowan) Conroy, a Pierre native now living in North Dakota and working as a criminal prosecutor, was looking at photos of the latest western fashions being worn during the 2016 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. She happened onto a photo of a lovely model wearing a t-shirt bearing an excellent bronc ride photo. The photo looked like the exact same picture hanging on the wall in her spare bedroom…a picture of her dad, Willie Cowan, spurring the hide off a rank horse at the San Angelo ’57 Rodeo. After comparing the photos with her siblings, they all agreed that it had to be their father who was being featured on the shirt. After contacting a representative from the t-shirt company, Lori learned that it was believed that the rider is a Jim Daughtry, and confusion was the next order on the agenda. Consulting other siblings, all were in agreement that the chew in the bottom lip and the form in which Willie rode broncs was a tell-tale sign that it was indeed “Willie Cowan riding Sorrel Top, San Angelo ’57 @ DeVere Helfrich” as indicated on the bedroom wall photo in Lori’s home. Meanwhile, correspondence exchanged between Lori and the company rep, revealed that the photo was obtained and selected from a stack of old rodeo photos held by a relative of the stock contractor who owned Sorrel Top, however, there was this mysterious name discrepancy. Perhaps her legal training led the Cowan daughter to investigate this matter further in hopes of reaching a conclusion as to the true identity of the cowboy in the photograph. She decided to call her parents under the guise of trying to remember the history of the photo. As luck would happen, her father was in a story-telling mood and proceeded to explain, “I was in college but I got entered in a pro rodeo. I did not have a pro card but I used a card of a guy by the name of Jim Daughtry from Corpus Cristi, Texas. He roped calves, he didn’t ride broncs, and he did not even enter that rodeo. Nowadays with computers you wouldn’t be able to do that but there was quite a lot of that at that time. We went to college together.” Now the cat was out of the bag, so to speak, and perhaps this early-day form of identity theft proves that you should always use your own name because someday it might make you famous, or at least become part of a fashion trend.

The mystery has now been solved; the t-shirt company reports that it is a very popular item and the new shipment will reveal the true identity of the cowboy in the photo; and to finalize this story, Willie Cowan further explained, “that horse was bad to tip over in the chute. Buddy Heaton was a rodeo clown and had a trick so he wouldn’t tip over backwards…he held the tail up over the horse’s back. I got by him in the chute and rode him about seven seconds until he bucked me off and I landed and broke my pocket watch, but before he did the picture was taken.” Now you know the rest of the story

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