National Day of the Cowboy |

National Day of the Cowboy

Happy National Day of the Cowboy! I hope you’re doing something fitting to celebrate this very special holiday – riding, roping, rodeoing – or at least observing some of the above events. All the Western states seem to have activities scheduled in honor of the day.

Here in Wyoming, Cheyenne Frontier Days (CFD) will be ongoing, and you couldn’t dream up a better way to pay homage to cowboys. Actually, it’s no wonder they call it “The Daddy of ‘Em All!” CFD is a great rodeo in anybody’s book; and we were privileged to take in part of it last week. A festive air permeates the entire community and there are smiling faces everywhere you turn.

Wyoming has her Sunday clothes on this year, thanks to the good rains, and it was great to see green grass everywhere as we drove to Cheyenne and back. I’m sure that “green-ness” made the Hawaiian delegation feel more at home; and they seemed to be truly enjoying their celebration of the 100th anniversary of paniolo winning major events at CFD. Whenever we had opportunity to visit with them we found them very enthusiastic; apparently loving every minute of their Wyoming experience.

Not everyone was ecstatic about the rodeo, however. Some animal rights groups were out to stir up trouble, protesting especially against the roping events. They received a good deal of press, which of course only serves to encourage them.

Like all real cowboys, I am a firm believer in taking care of livestock in every situation, and never, never abusing them or using them badly. That’s why I’m so glad the PRCA and other rodeo organizations today have stringent rules to ensure the safety of all animals involved.

Fact is, just this year the Wyoming Horse Council lobbied the Legislature in support of a new, stricter Animal Welfare Bill; and saw it pass “overwhelmingly.”

If people who have so much money to spend promoting the welfare of horses and cattle in ridiculous ways would dedicate their resources and time to medical research, development of vaccines against bovine and equine maladies, and restrictions to protect the health of the animal population of this nation, they’d be doing a lot more good.

Why not keep moving to prevent Hoof & Mouth Disease coming back here? Let’s try to find a sure-fire vaccine against equine influenza. Let’s put up every barrier possible to prevent the spread of African Horse Sickness. Let’s fund more studies into the prevention and treatment of Equine Multinodular Pulmonary Fibrosis (EMPF), which may be triggered or exacerbated by exposure to the equine herpesvirus known as EHV-5.

Current data shows up to 80 percent of the horses in California are infected with EHV-5. It’s also been found in Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Scientists and researchers in horse health tell us “the prognosis for horses with EMPF is guarded.”

Another equine health issue plaguing equines in California these days is a progressive, debilitating and ultimately fatal bone disease called bone fragility syndrome (BFS). This disease affects bones like the scapula, shoulders or pelvis, located in the upper portion of the limbs; as well as ribs and vertebral spine. Researchers at the J.D. Wheat Veterinary Orthopedic Research Laboratory at the University of California in Davis are currently conducting studies on BFS. Its cause is unknown.

It’s possible it shares a common cause with pulmonary disease. Some known affected horses have pulmonary disease as well as bone disease, but there’s no direct evidence for the relationship. To learn more you can contact Dr. Mandy Murray at or Dr. Susan Stover at

County fair time is here, and we’ll be hoping none of the communicable diseases pop up to plague fair promoters and the hardworking people who’ve prepared their livestock to show. If you haven’t discovered the charm of county fairs, make this your year to do so! Get out and support your community, your neighbors, and your hometown kids as they keep a very important rural tradition alive!

The end of our ol’ lariat rope was tearstained last week. This time the whole thing is plumb soakin’ wet from tears over the unexpected, sudden and premature passing of one of my very closest friends – Marilyn Prokop at Kadoka, SD. As I write this I feel like team of a mules had kicked me in the stomach and then drug the wagon over me…

Having been in Cheyenne for three days – and being a stubborn old mossyhorn who does not own a cell phone – I did not learn of her passing until late Tuesday night. Less than 12 hours later we attended her funeral in Wall, SD, followed by interment at the Black Hills National Cemetery Wednesday, July 23rd.

Six of her barrel racing girlfriends, wearing boots, Wranglers, cowboy shirts and hats, served as pallbearers. It was a perfect cowgirl sendoff for one who literally grew up on horseback and was a top hand on the ranch, in the arena, breaking and training horses, roping, doctoring, branding, or mentoring others into her chosen lifestyle. From South Dakota High School championships to a barrel full of trophies and buckles won since she became what they call a “senior citizen,” Marilyn Prokop was a winner from the inside out. She was never without a big smile, never too busy to help someone else. What an inspiration she was – what a legacy she left.

Don’t worry if you see a big dust way up in the sky; it’ll just be Marilyn gatherin’ the cavvy, or trainin’ a new horse, or burnin’ around those barrels for a hew Heavenly record. We miss you, my friend… and our hearts and prayers are with Veryl, Tammie and Charlie.

© 2008 Rhonda Stearns

Email Rhonda at

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