Piggin’ strings and bucking shoots used to be part of my everyday life. Rodeo clowns were constant companions and mutton busting came to be one of my favorite things. For one year, I spent days, nights and weekends on the PRCA trail with top ropers and riders from all over.
Originating in Pecos, Texas, years ago, rodeo has become synonymous with America’s wild west heritage and the reputation has been well-earned. Competition includes non-paid athletes that need those prize dollars to keep ‘goin’ down the road.’
As a national spokesperson for the Adolph Coors Company, I lived on the road and attended one event per week. Peter Coors signed my check and his new passion was rodeo, so, I saddled up. For forty six weeks straight, I rode horseback in professional rodeos across the country-from Albany, New York to Poway, California.
Twelve cases of beer, Coors, of course, were delivered to my hotel room everyday for me to give away for “goodwill.” Host hotels often booked me in their best rooms and re-named them the “Bridle Suite.’ I held press interviews from my parlor many times.
One day, we were lined up at a rodeo in Rock Springs, Wyoming, to ride the “circle 8.” Either Clay or Jake leaned over and said, “Lane’s down at Cheyenne.” By the time we finished the opening routine, Lane was dead.
Lane Frost had been my friend in rodeo. His last interview was with me in Santa Maria, California and I saw snippets of that interview on the news over and over and over. Then, they made the movie “8 Seconds” and it tried to do justice to his life.
The film didn’t touch how deep the friendship between Lane and Tuff Hedeman was. I was with Tuff at the very next rodeo in Fort Madison, Iowa, and he showed up, ready to ride and do the press tour. Tuff and I were auctioned off at a benefit for some charity. We both had to dance with someone who had bid on us.”How are you even here?” I asked him.
One month of the year, I did an alcohol awareness junket. The goal was to balance the promotion of beer with a fair warning of its danger. No press was booked and I was sent to Indian reservations-mostly in New Mexico and Arizona. One visit to the Navajo reservation in Window Rock, Arizona, was enough to get the full impact of the downside of alcohol use among the Native American people.
So Native American lives have been obliterated by ethanol alcohol due to their inherent trait of never having consumed ‘fire water’ before white man brought it from Europe. We brought the potent beverages when we came to develop and settle into the territories which would later become the fifty states. The evidence of alcoholic damage is evident and far-reaching when one visits the reservations.
In a time when family events are rare, rodeo still holds the attention of all ages. There are two kinds of competitors-riders and ropers-and it is thrilling to see a horse and rider compete as one in the arena. I’ll never forget the year that I spent “going down the road” with all those proud horsepeople and of my brief exposure to the damage caused by ethanol brews to our Native American population.
For now, SherryD
Formerly Miss Coors Rodeo