Familiar faces return for Cowboy Church
Christian and country music artist Susie McEntire-Eaton and her husband Mark Eaton will hold Cowboy Church at the Black Hills Stock Show in Rapid City on January 27, at 9 am.
Susie has been bringing her music to Black Hills Stock Show attendees for years, and for the last nine years, with her husband, Mark Eaton, who presents the message.
Rodeo and the western crowds are familiar to Susie.
The daughter of Clark McEntire, a three-time world champion steer roper and his wife Jacqueline, she grew up in the rodeo world, singing with her older siblings Pake and Reba in the back of the car as the family traveled to rodeos.
To keep the “chatter” down in the back seat as the family traveled, Jacqueline taught the kids three-part harmony. Brother Pake took the lead as his sisters Reba and Susie added the harmony. Clark couldn’t sing; when asked if he could sing, he laughed and said, “yes, I can play the linoleum.” The kids’ musical ability came from their mother.
After college, Susie worked with Reba and her blossoming music career, both in the office and as a backup singer. When she married in 1981, and her first child was born, she got off the road.
In 1984, Susie began singing Christian music, traveling the rodeo circuit with her first husband, Paul Luchsinger. At first, she didn’t want to sing without a backup band, having been in Reba’s band. But later, she started singing with tracked music, realizing how easy and inexpensive it was.
She and Luchsinger divorced in 2008 after a tumultuous marriage and abuse by Luchsinger.
Eighteen months later, she married Mark Eaton, a native of Seattle and a stranger to the rodeo and ranch world. She and Mark joke during their shows that he didn’t know the difference between a Hereford and a heifer. But the western world has embraced him. “One thing he has been very appreciative of is how the rodeo and ranching world has accepted him,” Susie said. “People not only accepted him but love him and respect him from what he says and how he treats them.”
Eaton is an outdoor person, loving everything to do outside. He is a whitewater and Alpine mountaineering guide and a former Judo player and wrestler. He and Susie partner for their Cowboy Church services: she sings and Eaton gives the message. He has a master’s degree in theology and is “very studious,” Susie said. “When he hears or studies something, it’s pretty well in his brain.” He’s also a gifted communicator, she said. “When he’s visiting with people, he’s very insightful to what they need and what’s going on with them. He always knows how to ask the right question. It amazes me.”
The couple holds cowboy church at the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo in Denver, Cheyenne Frontier Days, the Timed Event Championship in Guthrie, Okla., the Texas Ranch Rodeo in Wichita Falls, Texas, the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, the American Rodeo in Dallas, and at the Black Hills Stock Show and Rodeo Rapid City. Attendees at the Cowboy Church in Rapid City will be given the opportunity to donate to Mark and Susie’s non-profit organization Eaton Leadership Foundation.
Susie also sings at western events and benefits. Susie never tires of the work. “I really never get bored doing what I do because it’s always different. I love it.”
She loves the western crowd as well. “It’s so familiar to me. I’m comfortable in this setting. I usually can find someone I know. Sometimes it’s grandkids of someone that my daddy rodeoed with, or the kids that my kids rodeoed with, in high school or college. The people have the same values, and they know what you’re talking about when you’re visiting. It’s just family.”
She also is co-host of Cowboy Church TV with Russ Weaver, on RFD-TV, The Cowboy Channel, and Rural Radio on Sirius/XM Channel 147.
She and Mark each have three children from previous marriages; together they have twelve grandchildren. Susie’s sons, E.P. and Samuel, and daughter Lucchese, live near her and Mark, in Atoka, Oklahoma, where they share the responsibility of running the family ranch.