By: Kendra Santos
The 2020 Days of ’47 Lewis Feild Bulls and Broncs will light up the Maverik Center in West Valley City, Utah, this Saturday night, February 1. Cowboys in all three roughstock events—bareback riding, saddle bronc riding and bull riding—will compete in this World Champions Rodeo Alliance Semifinals for $137,000 and try to punch their tickets to the WCRA’s $1 million Royal City Roundup, which is coming right up February 28 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City. He with the high-marked ride in the final round of each event also earns advancement into the $1 million 2020 Days of ’47 Cowboy Games and Rodeo in July. As always, cool cowboy connections abound, including to the event namesake and Hall of Famer Lewis Feild himself.
When I was a rookie rodeo reporter right out of college at Cal Poly in 1987, I naturally spent the most time with—and therefore got to know best—the cowboys who won the most. Lewis Feild was the reigning Cowboy King, having just come off of two consecutive seasons in 1985 and ’86, in which he doubled down in the gold buckle department with world all-around and bareback riding championships. Lewis struck again for a third-straight world all-around crown in 1987, the same year fellow late cowboy legend Lane Frost won the world bull riding title. The Feild family will be in the house Saturday cheering everyone on, and also appreciating the remembrance of their patriarch, whose name will be front and center on the Maverik Center marquee.
“When I was a little kid, I had no idea my dad was a five-time world champion,” said four-time World Champion Bareback Rider Kaycee Feild, who shared the devastating loss of his dad at just 59 to pancreatic cancer in 2016 with his mom, Veronica, and brother and sister, Shad and Maclee. “Kids at school would say, ‘Your dad’s famous,’ but that had never occurred to me, because Dad didn’t ever talk about his accomplishments. Dad talked about all the great friends he had across the country and how great the sport of rodeo is. It wasn’t until I started rodeoing that I realized how amazing my dad’s achievements in the arena were.”
The adults—spouses, parents and friends—Kaycee, Shad and Maclee are is a direct testament to Lewis and Veronica, who raised their kids on the virtues of hard work, humility and kindness.
“My dad always told me, ‘Simplify and don’t complicate things,’” Kaycee remembers well. “And always do what’s right. You won’t have any regrets or stress if you do what’s right.
“I really wish his grandkids could have had more time with my dad. I wish so bad that my kids could have felt his work ethic, his way of getting through each day with a positive attitude and making a difference in so many people’s lives every day. I talked to my dad every day, and always also on Sunday nights on my way home from rodeos. I’d be driving into the night, and I’d call him around midnight to break down every one of my rides. He’d say little things, like, ‘If you’re feeling that in your feet and spurs, maybe just move your shoulders back a little bit and maybe not have your free arm so high.’ He watched me from my first-ever ride on, and it was amazing the little things he could tell me to help my riding, like a doctor diagnosing me over the phone. I was spoiled like that.”
The entire Feild family is deeply touched by the name of this event.
“That they named it the Lewis Feild Bulls and Broncs honors us all, for sure,” said Kaycee, who won four-straight gold buckles in his signature event from 2011-14, and also won the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo bareback riding average those same years. “Dad loved Utah, and the reach he had here and the number of people who looked up to him here was pretty amazing. To see his legacy continue—and even grow—is very humbling and special. Dad was always there for his family and friends, and from Heaven he still helps so many people. Having his statue out in front of the state fairgrounds says something special about his legacy and what he left behind.”
Rarified Rodeo Air
King of the Cowboys Trevor Brazile—the winningest rodeo cowboy of all time with an unparalleled collection 25 gold buckles and counting—has shared an era with Kaycee. Trevor came behind Lewis, and from the other end of the arena. Still, there’s a mutual, rare respect among the supreme athletes in any sport.
“I’ve always just wanted to be around guys like Lewis and Kaycee, because I’m intrigued to try and figure out the common thread that runs through champions, regardless of which sport they compete in, or in our case which end of the arena they work,” Trevor said. “I wasn’t there to see Lewis ride in his prime, but I do know firsthand that there’s no three-quarters throttle in Kaycee. He’s just an intense individual, and he came by that honestly. Lewis Feild was a legend when I was a kid, and what I remember is that he could turn on his fierceness for eight seconds at a time, then have his humility take over. That’s what I saw as a fan.
“Everybody knows that Lewis lived by the Cowboy Code, which to me means cowboys helping cowboys, conducting yourself with fairness and sportsmanship no matter how much you want the same thing as the guys you’re competing against, and knowing that nothing is worth sacrificing your character or integrity.”
The entire world is right now grieving the loss of basketball great Kobe Bryant, his young Mambacita daughter, Gianna, and seven friends who also leave behind families and communities mourning their loss. It’s a sadness that’s touched us all, including Trevor, who at 43 was a best-ever cowboy contemporary of 41-year-old Kobe.
“Basketball is the only other sport I ever really played besides rodeo,” said Trevor, who will do tie-down roping battle at the Royal City Roundup by way of the recent WCRA Winter Timed Event Semifinals at the Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Oklahoma. “And if you knew anything at all about basketball you were a Kobe fan. People always like to make comparisons across sports, and it was an obvious compliment when people would say I’m the Tiger Woods or Kobe Bryant of Rodeo. The two things that really stand out to me about what just happened is that no matter how invincible any of us may seem, everybody’s human and life is fragile.
“That doesn’t mean we should play it safe or live in fear. Dribbling a basketball was Kobe’s vehicle to reach people. The harder he worked, the more people he reached. To see the impact Kobe had on his sport—and beyond—has been the coolest thing for me to see come out of this tragedy. Kobe’s work ethic set him apart, and people from all walks of life applied that to their lives in all kinds of ways to try and be their best at whatever it is they do. And for as great as he was on the court, it was obvious that Kobe’s family meant the most to him. He died on his way to coach his daughter’s basketball game. Loving his family more than anything is something that’s easy for most of us to relate to, including me. That’s something every human being can easily understand, regardless of status in any sport.”
Late cowboy legend Lane Frost shared center stage with Lewis Feild when both were crowned world champs in 1987. The Frost family also will be in force at Saturday’s event, as Lane’s second cousin Josh Frost is listed on the Days of ’47 Lewis Feild Bulls and Broncs bull riding lineup. Josh shares more than native Utah status with Lewis Feild, as both Josh and big brother and fellow NFR bull rider Joe Frost have won the coveted Linderman Award for versatility and success at both ends of the rodeo arena. Lewis won the Linderman in 1981, ’88 and ’91; Joe in 2014 and Josh in 2019.
“Lewis Feild will always be a legend in the state of Utah,” Josh said. “As kids growing up in Utah, we listened to every word a guy like Lewis said. Everybody listens to someone that successful, who was one of the all-time greats in and out of the arena. Joe and I both rode bareback horses when we were younger, and when Joe was just getting started, Lewis brought Joe a couple of Kaycee’s old bareback riggings.
“There was a time when Lewis was driving a gravel truck, and he would pull down there into our place to help us get on bareback horses. We were just learning, and Lewis was a really tough guy. I remember Lewis telling Joe one time that if he needed a neck roll, he needed to get tougher. It was pretty cool that a guy as famous as Lewis would stop and take the time to help a couple of kids who were just trying to learn. That was Lewis Feild.”
Josh rides into 2020 coming off of his first NFR qualification in December. There’s no easy way to sugarcoat the disappointment of going 0-for-10 at a guy’s first Finals, but 10 days in Vegas will not be defining Josh Frost and now only serves as additional drive.
“Things didn’t click and it did not go well, but I learned a whole bunch from it and it dang sure motivated me,” said the 24-year-old Frost. “Sometimes things don’t work out as you want them to, but how you look at it affects how it goes from here. Maybe me falling off all 10 one year and riding all 10 the next year will make a good story. It’s a pretty major motivator.”
Brother Joe’s almost healed up from an injury, and is getting ready to ride again. Dad Shane will be attending little brother Jate’s wrestling match on Saturday. But Mom Lisa and little sister Jacelyn will be in the house at the Maverik Center to head up the Josh Frost cheering section.
“It’s always exciting to ride close to home,” Josh said. “Utah cowboys get a lot of energy going in that building, because everybody’s cheering for you whether they know you or not.
“As for being Lane’s (second) cousin (Josh’s dad, Shane, is the son of the late, original Joe Frost, who was Lane’s dad Clyde’s brother; Lane and Shane were first cousins), I’m definitely proud of that. Lane was my hero just like everybody else’s, so it’s something special to be related to him. I’ll be on an airplane with Lane’s LF brand and LaneFrost.com on my shirt, and someone always asks me about him. So like Lewis, Lane’s still bringing people to our sport.”
Ties That Bind
Nine contestants in each event will compete at the Royal City Roundup on February 28. Eight bareback and bronc riders will advance from Saturday’s Days of ’47 Lewis Feild Bulls and Broncs, in addition to the WCRA leaderboard front-runner with the most Virtual Rodeo Qualifier (VRQ) points. Four bull riders from this weekend will move on to Kansas City, and will join the leaderboard #1 and also the four Professional Bull Riders cowboys who advanced by way of the recent PBR stop in Oklahoma City.
Cowboy camaraderie is second to none, and two of this weekend’s Days of ’47 Lewis Feild Bulls and Broncs saddle bronc riders are striving to join their WCRA leaderboard #1 traveling partner Brody Cress at the Royal City Roundup. South Dakota’s Shorty Garrett and Texan Isaac Diaz are ready to make headlines at the Maverik Center.
“Brody’s already in, so now Isaac and I need to get to Kansas City so we can try to beat him,” grinned Garrett, who’s become something of a WCRA staple. “It’s fun rodeoing with and against your traveling partners. We feed off of each other and try to outdo each other, which brings us all up and helps us all out. It doesn’t matter what order we end up. As long as we’re all in on the money we’re happy.”
Like Frost, Garrett is a rodeo royal. His mom, Johnilyn, is the sister of late NFR saddle bronc rider T.C. Holloway, and the great niece of cowboy icon Casey Tibbs, which makes Tibbs Shorty’s great great uncle. On the Garrett side, Shorty’s dad, Juan, is the brother of World Champion Bareback Riders and ProRodeo Hall of Famers Marvin and Mark Garrett, who followed the likes of Lewis Feild with five gold buckles between them.
“Marvin and Mark have talked quite a bit about Lewis, what a great guy he was and getting to be around him at the rodeos,” said Shorty, who’s currently ranked in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Top 15 in the world alongside both of his traveling partners. “They always speak very highly of him, and took Lewis’s passing pretty tough.”
The contestant with this weekend’s high-marked ride in each event in the finals will automatically advance to the $1 million Days of ’47 Cowboy Games and Rodeo this July. When fans and the cowboy and cowgirl contingents get to the Days of ‘47 Arena at Utah State Fairpark, they’ll be welcomed by a hero-sized bronze of Beehive State Cowboy Icon Lewis Feild—The Last Ride by Utah artist Tom Martin.
It’ll be one of countless reminders that the legend of cowboy great Lewis Feild lives on, and will continue to positively impact the careers and lives of cowboys for generations to come.
“Lewis was a big influence on me,” said four-time World Champion Bareback Rider and WCRA President Bobby Mote, who like Lewis goes out of his road every day to work to improve rodeo for all of the contestants and fans that follow. “Once I met him, Lewis went out of his way to call me out of the blue to encourage me. I remember one time in 2001 he called me mid-summer, and told me that it was my breakout year. He told me I was going to make the NFR that year. That’s when I made my first Finals, and hearing that from Lewis Feild meant a lot and was a huge confidence booster.”
The Days of ’47 Lewis Feild Bulls and Broncs will be broadcast live Saturday at 7:30 p.m. MT on RidePass. Visit RidePass.com for details. Tickets are on sale at the Maverik Center Box Office, Smiths Tix outlets, by phone at 801-467-8499 and online at smithstix.com.