It was life-changing checks all around for the happy champs at the 2019 Komatsu Equipment Days of ’47 Cowboy Games & Rodeo. The $1 million event concluded July 24 in Salt Lake City with the medal round, followed by a grand finale fireworks display fitting for a rodeo so rich in contestant paychecks and compelling storylines.
There were world champions and living legends in the mix, some rallying in triumphant returns from recent injuries. Then there was the teen-aged girl who just last week was competing at the National High School Finals Rodeo. It was an eclectic gathering of gold medal winners who took center stage on that podium and rocked the packed rodeo house.
Perhaps the most popular of all was home-state hero Kaycee Feild, who returned to rodeo battle earlier this month after a three-month injury timeout following a very scary March 31st wreck at Rodeo Austin in Texas. The four-time champ of the world is a crowd favorite coast to coast, but rodeo fans in the Beehive State are flat crazy about him.
In Austin, Kaycee hit his head on his horse’s hip, which knocked him loopy and jerked him down. He then hit his face on his bareback riggin’, which broke his eye socket, nasal cavity, upper and lower jaw. The rodeo family held its collective breath as the world standings leader lay motionless in that suddenly silent arena.
“About all I did was sleep for four weeks after the wreck,” said Kaycee, who lives with his wife, Stephanie, and kids, Chaimberlyn, Huxyn and Remi, in Spanish Fork. “If you break an arm or a leg, you can feel it and know when to quit when you’re rehabbing. With a brain injury, you don’t feel that you’ve overdone it until it’s too late. Then it’s back to sleep you go.”
Kaycee’s the youngest son of late ProRodeo Hall of Famer Lewis Feild and Veronica Feild Jackson. Lew and Vee’s baby boy sure leaned on his dad’s wise words when he needed them most.
“The first time I got hurt, my dad told me, ‘When you’re rodeoing hard, you’re going to get hurt,’” Kaycee remembers well. “If you learn to handle being hurt with a positive attitude, understand that God has a plan for you and take advantage of that time at home, you should always come back stronger and better.”
Kaycee got on his first bucking horse back after the injury on July 3 at the rodeo in Mandan, North Dakota, and continues to lead the world bareback riding pack. Feild fought back happy tears on the medal podium, which he shared with Caleb Bennett, who currently lives in Montana, but was actually also born in Utah.
“My dad left quite the legacy behind, so to ride in his name is a very humbling honor,” Kaycee continued. “And this rodeo is amazing. It felt like maybe somebody on the back of the chutes—my dad—was helping me tonight. To win $50,000 for getting on two horses is a dream come true. Seeing the sport going in the right direction makes me really happy. The future of rodeo looks better and better all the time. More cowboys and more big rodeos, where it doesn’t take so much wear and tear on a guy to make a living is positive progress.
“To win something like this in Utah is amazing, it really is. The state of Utah has the best cowboys in the world per capita, and the rodeos from the south border to the north border are packed every night. You’re not going to find better energy anywhere in the world, with the possible exception of Vegas. And that’s because there are 18,000 people at the rodeo every night instead of 10,000.
“It’s great to be back, and really great to get a win like this here at home. When the announcer says you’re from Utah, it gets loud. When the Feild name is mentioned, it gets really loud. My dad impacted so many lives in such a positive way. People find joy in honoring him and maybe see a little bit of my dad in me. To feel that energy and support is awesome. The love and support sent my way when I got hurt was amazing. I’ve never felt more humbled in my life.”
The 10,000 fans sitting in stadium-seating style in Salt Lake’s sellout crowd at the state-of-the-art Days of ’47 Arena at Utah State Fairpark saw the bareback riding gold medal go around Kaycee’s neck, the silver on Bennett’s and the bronze presented to Canadian cowboy Orin Larsen. Feild’s 88.25-point score was barely better than Bennett’s 88 points, which was originally announced.
When a technical error discovered on audit later in the rodeo revealed that Bennett’s score was actually 89 points, the Days of ’47 committee had a decision to make. They went with the WCRA way—The Cowboy Way. In baseball, the tie goes to the runner. When in doubt, the WCRA rules in the cowboys’ favor.
Because it was too close call and to clear up any confusion in everyone’s best interest, the committee opted to step up and name Feild and Bennett co-gold medalists and cut them each a $50,000 check. The tie between Larsen and fellow Canada native Clint Laye, who now makes his home in Idaho, was broken for the bronze based on Larsen having the higher medal-round spur-ride score.
Like Feild in the bareback riding, bulldogging gold medalist Matt Reeves is marching on after a steer wrestling scare earlier this month up at the Calgary Stampede. Riding his bulldogging horse Roy, and with 2017 World Champion Steer Wrestler Tyler Pearson on Reeves’ hazing horse Beamer over on the other side with the assist, the happy champ felt beyond blessed to be back in action and $50,000 richer to boot.
“I had a steer stop in the fourth round at Calgary and got hit in the head real bad,” said six-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo steer wrestler Reeves, who lives in Pampa, Texas, with his wife, Savanah, and little boys, Carson, 3, and Hudson, 1. “It almost shoved my mouthpiece through my top lip. There’s a good chance I have a broken bone in my face. We’re still not sure what all is wrong, and won’t know until we get home. But it was pretty scary.”
Reeves, who was 3.92 to grab the gold, has been working on buying some adjoining property back home in Pampa.
“I have more cows than I had before The American and Calgary last year,” he said. “And we need a disc plow to get some work done to get ready to plant wheat. It’s not the stuff I would have bought with a $50,000 check when I was 20, I promise. But the difference between 21 and 41 will change your priorities a little bit, and we need this stuff now.
“It’s a good day when you win $50,000. That’s a salary in one night. An event like this, where they give us a chance to make a living, and get in and out of here is progress. It’s hard to get a lump sum of money like this. These big ones change people’s lives. Since Calgary last year, Carson’s been wanting me to win another trophy. He gets a medal this time.”
Reeves was last seen being double dog dared by his bulldogging buddies to get a gold chain and sport the gold medal “Alfalfa Feddersen style.” For those of you who might be new to the game, Feddersen was the flamboyant hazing owner of the world-famous steer wrestling horse Catfish, and his fashion sense included a couple extra buttons undone on his shirt and a constant John Wayne cuff on his jeans.
Reigning World Champion Barrel Racer Hailey Kinsel of Cotulla, Texas, rode her blonde bomber and partner in paycheck crime, Sister, to the gold medal in her specialty event in 16.794 seconds. The Sister Act set not only the new arena record with that run, but became the first winners of three gold medals at the Days of ’47 Cowboy Games & Rodeo.
“It is definitely all Sister,” said the beaming barrel racing superstar. “I am so proud of this horse. She tries so hard. Every time I ask her to throw down in a pressure run, she does.”
Days of ’47 team roping titlists Ty Blasingame of Casper, Wyoming, and Kyle Lockett of Visalia, California, took advantage of roping last on an unusually wild night of roping bloopers, complete with misses, broken barriers, legs and lost ropes ahead of them. In fact, there wasn’t a clean run until the last three teams backed in the box.
Cory Clark fished on a half head to stop the clock with Douglas Rich in 8.69 for the bronze. Then Tanner Tomlinson and Will Woodfin were 5.98 right ahead of Blaster and Lockett, who earlier this year won $55,750 a man for the W at RodeoHouston and ran the same steer they ran the night before to sneak into the medal round as a wild-card team with an 8-second run. This time, they ran him down in 5.35 to grab the gold.
“All we had to do last night was just catch, and now here we were again in the same situation tonight,” said Blaster, who looks to be headed to the second NFR of his career and the first since 2010 in 2019. “Kyle and I have roped together at two rodeos now, and we’re batting a thousand. He pulled off another awesome shot. That’s just what that guy does. To have a chance to win $50,000 on a Wednesday night is life-changing money for me.”
Blaster rode his old faithful head horse, Blacky, who’s 20 now. He was actually thinking about selling him last winter to “a lady, a kid or a circuit cowboy,” just because he’s done his time on the full-time rodeo trail. He’s ridden and relied on Blacky at every rodeo since Reno last month, and he delivered yet again with flying colors, just like he did at Houston.
“He’s unreal,” said Blaster, who’s 35 now. “We raised him, and he’s just a winner. When the pressure’s on, call on old Blacky. You won’t be sorry. He always comes through.”
So does Kyle Lockett, who roped at the last of his so-far seven NFRs 14 years ago in 2005.
“Roping last is obviously the best spot, but it’s kind of nerve-wracking when it’s miss after miss ahead of you,” said the man they call Meat, who’s 41 and rode his sorrel steed Stinky to the gold medal. “I’d just as soon try to be 5 flat as 8 flat. We were last out last night, too, and had the same steer. A clean catch got us back. We were 8.3 in a 5.3 setup. Lots of teams that roped before us had troubles tonight. I was wanting some guys to start catching to get a little roll going.
“We didn’t make a textbook run, by any means. Ty roped a neck, and I took kind of a wild shot—about like Houston—and had to reach further than a guy would want to. But it was either throw right there or not at all, so I had to let it fly. It’s pretty cool that we’re two-for-two together. It’s hard to even wrap my fingers around what’s been happening this year. It’s nuts.”
Roff, Oklahoma, bull rider Trevor Kastner, who earned $58,500 for his 2019 RodeoHouston win, is saying something similar. He drew Matt Scharping’s Bad Beagle last night in Salt Lake, and 87.25 points later had a gold medal hanging around his neck. Bad Beagle bucked Kastner off in the short round at the rodeo in Logandale, Nevada, this spring, so Kastner made the most of the much-anticipated rematch.
“It’s been a great year—first winning Houston and now this,” said four-time National Finalist Kastner, who’s sitting second only to five-time Champ of the World Sage Kimzey in the world bull riding standings right now. “Any night you can add $50 grand to your bank account rates up there pretty high. It’s great to get to show up with a chance to win big money like this.”
To see Big Valley, Alberta, cowboy Zeke Thurston take the saddle bronc riding victory lap came as no surprise to anyone. The 2016 world champion saddle bronc rider—who like Kaycee Feild following Lewis’ lead is following in his NFR dad Skeeter’s footsteps—rode Bar T Rodeo’s Son of Sadie for 89 points and the top spot on the Salt Lake medal podium.
“I’ve been really lucky to win some big rodeos of this caliber with huge amounts of money on the line like this one, Calgary and Houston,” Thurston said. “I have no words for it, really. It’s crazy. I’d seen this horse lots, but had never been on her. She’s been rodeoing way longer than I have, and they’ve won a lot of rounds on her at the NFR. She was on my bucket list, for sure. I’m just glad I got my chance.
“I’ve been to a couple of WCRA rodeos now, and I like the format. Everybody has a chance. And the clean slate at the end causes everybody to let their hair down and throw caution to the wind, which makes for a great show.”
After the capacity crowd watched Texan Ty Harris take the tie-down roping title (to be totally transparent, which is the WCRA way, a flagging error cost reigning World Champ Caleb Smidt the gold in that event), it was time to bring on the breakaway ropers. Sixteen-year-old Jordi Edens of Gatesville, Texas, turned out to be the show stopper.
The National High School Rodeo Association reserve national champ in both 2017 and ’19—who’ll be a high school senior at White Horse Christian Academy in Stephenville this fall—won it all with a 2.58-second run to edge silver medalist Jackie Crawford’s 2.76. Edens grabbed her gold from the back of her horse Honey, who at 11 is just five years her junior.
“This is definitely the biggest day of my life,” beamed the elated blonde teen. “We bought Honey from Jackie after she trained her. And Jackie and I practice together a lot. So to stand on that podium next to her was pretty special.
“I’ve never roped for anything like this. This is the best time ever for breakaway ropers, and for a 16-year-old kid to win $50,000 is unheard of. The WCRA has opened so many doors, and I’m excited to be a part of it.”
On Sunday, July 28 fans will be able to tune into the Days of ’47 Cowboy Games and Rodeo Gold Medal Round on a CBS network broadcast at Noon E.T.