BY: KENDRA SANTOS
Teen tie-down roping phenom Shad Mayfield is on a roll like none we’ve seen—ever—in any era. The reigning National High School Rodeo Association champ, who in December roped at the first Wrangler National Finals Rodeo of his young career, has won over $830,000 already in 2020. And it’s only early March. Money Mayfield rolled into the Royal City Roundup—the $1 million World Champions Rodeo Alliance major in Kansas City held February 28—and two runs later skipped town $100,000 richer.
Mayfield of Clovis, New Mexico, walked out of that Sprint Center arena staring down at all the zeroes on the great, big, cardboard check he held in his hands.
“I don’t know what to say about a check like this,” he said. “It hasn’t really hit me yet. This will help my family so much. I have no clue what I’ll do with this much money, but hopefully I can invest it into something good.”
And there’s so much more where that came from. On Sunday, Mayfield cashed in at The American at AT&T Stadium in Dallas for another $600,000—a staggering sum matched only by saddle bronc rider Wyatt Casper. Including the win at the San Antonio (Texas) Stock Show and Rodeo, Mayfield is currently daylighting the tie-down roping field with $130,701 in Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association earnings. For perspective sake, Tuf Cooper is second so far with $42,535.
So many investment decisions to make after such a dream run of rodeos. But one of the most impressive equations here has to be the $1,198 Shad invested in nominating four rodeos and four jackpots via the WCRA’s Virtual Rodeo Qualifier, which placed him atop the leaderboard and got him his invite to Kansas City. Wall Street wizards talk in terms of ROI (Return on Investment) all the time.
“The WCRA is the best deal there is,” Mayfield said. “Nowhere else can you nominate a few ropings and rodeos right around the corner from the house and give yourself the chance to go win $50,000—or in this case, $100,000. It’s the easiest process there is to get through, so why not do it? And everybody—people with jobs, people with families, kids who aren’t even old enough to join professional associations—can win in the WCRA.”
Here’s another little Mayfield fun fact for you: Shad’s won a check at all but one rodeo he’s roped at in 2020. And he only missed out on money there after a fender bender kept him from running his second one.
“I ran my first calf at the rodeo in Jackson, Mississippi, and was right out of placing in the first round,” he said. “I left there and went to Fort Worth, then when we were heading back to Jackson we got in a wreck. We ran off the road and into the ditch in a traffic jam. Nobody got hurt, but it took awhile to get pulled out. So I had to turn out my second calf there at Jackson. But that’s the only rodeo I haven’t gotten a check at this year so far, so I can’t complain. It’s been great.”
Mayfield made a horse change that he says has been game changing. He bought a 10-year-old sorrel horse from Wyatt Imus by the name of Wichita in October, and things haven’t been quite the same since.
“Wichita has changed everything for me,” Shad said. “It wasn’t perfect at first, but we’ve got each other figured out now, and this horse makes it so easy.”
Shad’s dad, Sylvester, roped calves at the NFR in 1985 and ’87. His mom, JoEllen, is a substitute school teacher in the Clovis School District, who home-schooled Shad his senior year of high school. Sister Shelby, who’s 20, is going to college at Texas Tech in Lubbock, with the goal of one day being a lawyer. Shelby’s been doing some modeling on the side, and can be seen on the cover of the National Ropers Supply spring catalog.
Sylvester, who’s 65 now, was a bad, fleet-footed cat in his day. His cowboy contemporaries called him Silver, and he was famous for wearing a silver jacket around at the rodeos. He was also a first-generation cowboy.
“My dad made $500 a month plowing fields with mules on a farm in Mississippi,” Silver said. “He moved our family to New Mexico, and as a kid I just had a love for horses. We lived right by the train tracks, and after school I’d jump a train, ride it a mile and a half to the stockyards in Clovis and jump off, so I could ride horses. I was 10. I rode those horses bareback with baling wire around their neck.
“The old man who owned the horses caught me one day, and scared the hell out of me. He finally told me if I was going to ride his horses, I was going to have to feed them and help take care of them. That old man ended up being pretty good to me. When I was 12, he bought me a steer to ride. When I was 13, he bought me two calves to rope and I chased them down the alley on those horses.
“I kept working for that old man, and it took me a year to make enough money to buy a horse from him for $350. The horse was 2 when I bought her. Her name was Sara Barb. When she was 5, the old men around Clovis matched me at Roy Cooper (Clint, Clif and Tuf’s eight-time Champ of the World and Super Looper dad) on 10 calves. The other horse I rode was an Appaloosa called App that I doctored on in the wheat pastures.”
Silver says the young-guns match went down on fresh Hereford calves with the momma cows bellering at the back end of the arena in Melrose, New Mexico, about 25 miles from Clovis.
“I rode App on the first five calves, and Sara Barb on the second five,” Sylvester remembers. “I was 111 seconds on 10, and beat Roy by five seconds. Roy and I were both 16. At that time, I hadn’t rodeoed yet. I didn’t know about scoring, so that old man told me, ‘When I say go, you go. Then go rope the calf and get him tied as fast as you can.’”
Those of you who may have heard Shad’s answer to a question last week about how he handles pressure probably got a kick out of his answer: “My dad put more pressure on me than that in the practice pen.” Shad wasn’t being a smarty pants, and was more than half serious about that answer.
“Shad had a better teacher than I did,” Silver smiled. “I had to learn everything on my own and make my own horses. Best thing I had going for me being a kid in New Mexico was having Glen Franklin as my cowboy idol. I walk around with a stopwatch, and put the clock on every move Shad makes. I keep time on everything he does. How many swings. How long it takes him to run down the rope. He’s got it mastered, because we break down every move.
“I also taught Shad how to handle pressure. And how to win. The best advice I’ve given him is to always go at it 100 percent and never back down. Always run at it. And no matter how fast you are, never be satisfied with a run. That’s why when he has 14 seconds to win it, you’ll see him be 7 anyway. I’ve taught him to rope like that—always be on the barrier and never back down.”
Family friend Carole Holyan had no idea when she painted a rope can for 12-year-old Shad and put Money Mayfield on it that the nickname would stick. Shad was running one on his signature childhood buckskin stick by the name of Reno on that rope can. Reno’s the horse Shad was riding when he won the ribbon roping at the 2013 National Junior High Finals Rodeo with Shelby.
It’s hard to put into words just how spectacular Shad’s 2020 season has been so far. Joe Beaver is an eight-time world champion cowboy, and he won his first two gold buckles in the tie-down roping in 1985 and ’87—where he roped alongside Sylvester Mayfield at the NFR.
“I think Shad’s the best young kid that I’ve seen come along in at least 20 years, in part because he never lets any little mistake rattle him,” Joe B. said. “He just keeps moving forward, so he can win. In my eyes, there are two things that make Shad Mayfield hard to handle. He’s the first guy I’ve seen since Cody (Ohl), Fred (Whitfield) and me who can handle his long rope like he can. How he handles that long rope lets him reach with ease.
“This is a timed event, so the faster you get your hands on them, the faster you can be. I’ve seen Shad barely get one flanked, bobble the legs and bobble his string, and still win first. That’s because he gets it on them faster with that long rope than anybody else. They try to make this so complicated. But bottom line, it’s still just breakaway roping plus flanking and tying from the post. If you can make a fast breakaway run, and flank and tie from the post fast, you’re going to win in the tie-down.
“Never, ever have I seen a guy be on this kind of a roll and not mess it up. Shad’s had so many big-money chances here lately, and he just keeps capitalizing on them. This kid does not drop the ball when he has a chance to win. That’s how you put money in your pocket.”
It’d be impossible for a 19-year-old kid to have enough worldly perspective to truly comprehend what’s been happening here. But Shad gets that this is far from par for the cowboy course.
“It’s been, like, ‘Wow,’” he said. “It’s all been a dream. Everything just keeps happening. I’ll never forget this. Ever.”