Each year, as the National Day of the Cowboy approaches, members of the Board of Directors for the National Day of the Cowboy organization have the privilege of reviewing the many nominations submitted for its annual Cowboy Keeper Awards©. It is always an uplifting experience. The award is bestowed upon those who make a significant contribution to the preservation of cowboy culture and pioneer heritage. This year there were more nominations than ever, each one raising the bar for future nominees. Those selected to receive the award share, among other things, an impeccable character, a joyful work ethic, a broad range of talents and skills, a love for educating the public about cowboys, a sense of leadership, and a high degree of creativity. We are proud to name Sheila Carlson, Waddie Mitchell, Ernie Sites, David Stoecklein, Bud Young, and husband wife team, Lyman & Alaire Tenney, as our 2015 Cowboy Keeper Award recipients.
Arizona cowgirl, Sheila Carlson, is a wonderful example of a hard-working person living “the Cowboy Way” every day. She has worked as a cowboy for over 15 years on ranches in Idaho, Nevada, Montana, and Arizona. About her day work she says, “I get to work with great freedom, and I love working with the cattle and my horses and cow dogs.” Besides being a hardworking ranch hand, she has a passion for photography. Still she has made time in her life to make a difference to many people and their families. As the founder and director of the non-profit “Cowfolks Care,” whose purpose is to provide financial and other types of assistance to members of the American ranching and agricultural community, her tireless efforts have helped raised vital funds for ranch people in need. She created the organization in 2013, simply because she saw individuals and families struggling with difficulties in their lives such as lost jobs or serious medical issues, and realized she could never do enough to help by herself. “I, like many others, did what I could to help out, but that just didn’t seem to be enough,” she reflects. In her mind, it felt right to find a better way and she knew it was a mission she wanted to start and to remain a part of. Through the effective use of social media she has been able to organize and offer successful online auctions and promote live events, raising thousands of dollars for those in need. Sheila has graciously built camaraderie with the nearly 8,000 involved people who now belong to “Cowfolks Care,” on Facebook, demonstrating that the cowboy way of helping others is alive and well. The non-profit’s entire staff consists of volunteer cattle women who utilize their individual skills to see that their mission is served. Sheila Carlson’s immediate and direct methods ensure that donations reach those who need them quickly. One hundred percent of funds raised go to designated recipients.
Cowboy Poetry’s Margo Metegrano observes, “Sheila Carlson is a “Keeper” in every sense of the word. Her selfless efforts have helped keep many individuals and families from the brink countless times. She has created and sustains a vibrant community of people who find fulfillment in helping others. Her work offers hope and comfort. Ms. Carlson exemplifies the right and the good that can be done in true cowboy style.”
Buckaroo Poet, Waddie Mitchell, is a true working cowboy who became a world class cowboy poet and storyteller. He has lived the cowboy life since the day he was born on the Horseshoe Ranch south of Elko, Nevada, and he continues to perpetuate everything that embodies the cowboy code. He spent most of his early days with the working cowboys, and at night, since they had no electricity on the ranch, he listened to their stories and poems. He dropped out of school at 16 to become a chuck wagon driver and a full time wrangler. He began writing poetry of his own and soon dreamed of an event that would allow cowboys young and old to share their stories and tales in verse with each other. In 1984, he realized that dream when he and his friend, Hal Cannon, brought the first National Cowboy Poetry Gathering to life in Elko. That first year, Waddie was taken by surprise when over 2,000 people came for the shows. The Cowboy Poetry Gathering has now been going and growing for over thirty years. Another milestone came in 1984, when Waddie recorded his first album of poetry at Cannon’s home. His second album sold over 10,000 copies. By 1988, he was the most well known cowboy poet in the world. In 1992, he was one of the first artists to record on Warner Brothers’ newly established Warner Western label with the album “Lone Driftin’ Rider.” Together he and colleague singer/songwriter, Don Edwards, embarked on an extensive promotional tour, performing at festivals, concert halls, schools and universities to sell the album and to educate audiences about their cowboy way of life. Mitchell released his second Warner album, Buckaroo Poet in 1994. In 1994, Waddie founded the Working Ranch Cowboys Association with a mission of creating scholarships and crisis funds for working cowboys and their families while showcasing the skill of everyday working cowboys. The WRCA now sanctions numerous rodeos throughout the West with a sold-out world championships held each November in Amarillo, TX. Once, when given the opportunity to perform his poetry on national television on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, he declined because he “had cows to feed.” When he finally appeared on Carson’s show, he was a big hit after reciting Wallace McCray’s famous poem “Reincarnation,” and he returned as a guest several times after that. He has also appeared on other programs, including Larry King’s radio show and a National Geographic special, as well as being featured in People, Life, New York Times, USA Today, Fortune, National Geographic, Wall Street Journal and the Official Program for Super Bowl XXX. Waddie Mitchell is known to be more concerned for the welfare of his animals than personal fame, and more sensitive of the feelings of fledgling poets than enforcing the rules of iambic pentameter. He participates every day in the preservation of the American Cowboy. He fights continually for agrarian rights and recently stood with his fellow ranchers in supporting the Grass Roots March to Washington DC. He has won numerous honors for his poetry and storytelling, and was inducted into the Cowboy Poets and Singers’ Hall of Fame. In 2011 he was inducted into the Nevada Writer’s Hall of Fame. He has performed internationally for audiences from Los Angeles to New York, Zurich to Melbourne, and most stops in between. Waddie Mitchell received the title of Adjunct Professor from the University of Wyoming. This honor was based on “real world credentials,” which Waddie Mitchell possesses in volumes.
A western entertainer and an experienced cowboy, Ernie Sites hails from southern Idaho. Among his many talents, he is a western performer, songwriter, cowboy poet, trick roper, bull rider, rodeo clown, bareback rider, team roper and a calf roper. He has traveled the world over, using his gifts to teach people about cowboys and the west. Western author, Corinne J. Brown, has dubbed Ernie “the urban cowboy troubadour.”
His lifelong friendship with a guitar began when he was finally big enough to hold onto one, practicing his licks in the back room of the local barbershop, where the barber also happened to be a musician. Well before he learned to sing, he began developing his love for literature and rhyme by creating his own poetry. Eventually, he did learn to sing and to yodel, a combination that led him to the recording studio, “singing the stories of the West.” He formed his first band when he was 15. He continued to work on his cowboy skills along with his music, including hours of working to emulate his hero, Will Rogers, in the arena of trick roping. As his entertainer’s career grew, he discovered the National Cowboy Gathering at Elko Nevada, and was delighted to find there were many others who like him, were dedicated to preserving the cowboy life through music, poetry and storytelling. Along the trail, he has performed with such luminaries as Riders in the Sky, Roy Rogers & Dale Evans, Gene Autry, and the Sons of the Pioneers. He has been a guest on CBS, PBS, TNN, the BBC, and Good Morning, America. Along with these accomplishments, he is also a playwright and has created a fun filled songbook for kids.
Ernie is proudest of his accomplishments working with young people in his cowboy workshops, where he incorporates traditional and original cowboy songs, western singing, songwriting, yodeling, and storytelling. He even encourages the children to try to master rope tricks themselves. He is openly proud of every student with whom he works, making sure their encounter with his cowboy culture and history is always a positive one. Ernie is often characterized by professionals in the education field as a gifted teacher, because he so skillfully and easily engages kids in the learning process while conveying his own sense of happiness to them at all times. During summers, he travels from Idaho to One Thousand Acres Ranch in Adirondack Park, one of the first dude ranches in New York. There he works his cowboy magic for all the guests, grown-ups and young buckaroos alike, who’ve come to the ranch from all over the world to immerse themselves in a great cowboy experience. Ernie makes sure they are never disappointed.
The late David Stoecklein is a world renowned photographer of the west. He was born in Pennsylvania, but lured to the American west at age 20, by dreams of unlimited hours of white powder skiing in Idaho. Indeed, he first gained recognition as a professional photographer with his work in the ski and outdoor photo industry, including shooting advertising images for high profile clients like Stetson, Chevrolet and Jeep. He eventually became a rancher himself, and was a very devoted family man, with a wife and three sons who continue to preserve and share his life’s legacy. Stoecklein is a highly acclaimed visual storyteller, who through his incredible images, documented the lives of his working ranch friends, neighbors and colleagues. He is considered to be the most sought after and recognized Western photographer of his time. More than anything else, he had a passion for documenting the west he loved, because he believed in the importance of preserving the real work of cowboys and cowgirls for future generations. He did that with unforgettable majestic sweeping images and with heart stopping, breathtaking detail. High profile magazines carried feature stories about David, and his photos appeared regularly in and on the covers of major western lifestyle publications such as Western Horseman, and, Cowboys & Indians Magazine.
Known for an intensely competitive streak, a big heart and a smile to match, Stoecklein was adamant that his photos had to be of real working cowboys and cowgirls. A self-taught photographer, he accepted nothing less than ‘the real deal,” which is why he became a working rancher himself. Of his life’s work in books (which have sold over a million copies) and photography spanning 43 years, he said, “My hope is that folks who don’t understand the Western lifestyle, will come to respect it, embrace it, and help preserve it.” His family has established the David Stoecklein Memorial & Educational Foundation to support literacy and education about western life through art, photography, scholarships, and publications. But his personal legend and legacy will live on through his body of award winning images, more than any other avenue. David Stoecklein’s remarkable photography seems to speak for his heart.
Alaire & Lyman Tenney
Lyman “C” Tenney, one of ten children, was born on his family’s cattle ranch near Willcox, Arizona. His wife, Alaire, born in El Paso, Texas, was the daughter of Quarter Horse Association founder and QHA Hall of Fame inductee, J.E. Browning. Together, Lyman and Alaire left a deep cowboy mark on the American Southwest and Australia.
Lyman started cowboying as soon as he could climb on a horse and spent 60 years in the saddle. At 15 he left home to cowboy on his own. “I wanted to see all the ranches I could and work for ‘em all.” In Arizona, he worked ranches from Big Chino to Ashfork, all the ranches on the Verde to Clarkdale, Cottonwood to Flagstaff, Mingus Mountain to Orme Ranch, Camp Verde to Dewey, Prescott to Crown King, down the Hassayampa and up Yarnell to Wickenburg. He worked cattle from Skull Valley to Williamson Valley, Cochise, Santa Cruz, and Pima Counties, the Graham, Winchester and Galiuros Mountains, the slopes of the Rincons, Whetstones, Huachucas, and more. He was a rodeo cowboy in the US, Australia and Tasmania, in saddle bronc, bareback and bull riding, and the timed events of steer roping, calf roping and team roping and a contestant at the Prescott Rodeo for 22 years straight. During July 4th weekend, in 1941, he drove to Prescott to enter the rodeo. There he met 18 year-old cowgirl, Alaire Browning. The next summer, they decided to marry, and wed the day after he won the Dewey Saddle Bronc money. Lyman went to work on the DK then the DuBois Ranch, until Alaire’s father bought the Bar HL south of Willcox. They worked the Bar HL from 1942 to 1951 when they bought the Muleshoe Ranch, selling it when drought forced them out. They moved to California, running 6,500 head of cattle in Imperial Valley. In 1963, Alaire, who was an expert cowhand, was badly injured when her horse tripped in a hole and rolled on her. She was unconscious for 77 hours. Recovery took far longer as she had to learn to walk again.
In 1966, Al Stansbury asked the Tenneys to run his ranch in Australia’s Northern Territory. Their accomplishments in Australia alone could fill volumes. On the Woollogorang “Station,” in Australia, they managed the largest cattle operation they had ever run – 2,225 square miles, 1,650,000 acres, 10,000 head of cattle. It was 500 miles to the nearest grocery store and the closest rail point. Cattle drives to the railhead took 11 weeks. Lyman soon arranged to haul cattle by semi, shortening the drive to 18 days. One day, Lyman and son, Todd, gave a team roping demonstration at the Mount Isa Rodeo. It soon became a popular and widespread rodeo event. Lyman has since been called the “Father of Australian Team Roping,” because he introduced it to the continent. Lyman and Alaire took part in an experimental program for Nelson Hunt, to domesticate water buffalo. Lyman helped form the CeeTeeGee Saddle Tree Company, making saddle trees for American-style roping saddles and hornless bronc riding saddles. They staged the first roping school in Australia and helped establish the first rodeo club, started the Western Performance Horse Club and the Sierra Bonita Roping Club, trained Quarter horses and taught western riding. In Aspley, they helped establish the Pine View Equestrian Center, became involved with the Australian Trail Horse Riders Association and helped establish the Australian National Riding Trail, said to be the longest continuous horse trail in the world. They gave seminars and clinics teaching American style horsemanship and horse training, cutting and reining, as well as rodeo riding skills. Within a decade, they held over 100 schools in Australia and Tasmania. They imported Quarter Horses, Appaloosas and Paints from the U.S. Lyman helped organize regional QHAs, and was a founding member of the Australian Quarter Mile Racing Association, a charter member of the National Cutting Horse Association of Australia, and organized and brought to fruition an NCHA Finals and Futurity. Alaire in turn, started the popular Ladies Cuttings in Australia. They formed the Western Australia Cutting Club. He was a co-founder of the Paint Horse Association of Australia. Their Paint horse, Joeleo, was one of the founding sires and National Champion of the PHA of Australia; the first horse inducted into the Australian PHA Hall of Fame. In 1971, Lyman produced the first American style rodeo in Brisbane. In 1973, at age 54, at the Roma Rodeo, he won 1st in calf roping and team roping and 2nd in steer roping, winning the All-Around Championship; the first time in Australian rodeo it was awarded to a contestant who only roped. In 1977, they formed the Albany Trail Riders Association. In 1979, Alaire was appointed head of the National Paint Horse Queen Committee, where she organized the Queen contest for the first NPHAA National Show.
In 1980, they returned to Arizona. 1986 found them managing the 87 square mile DG Ranch outside Wickenburg. In 1994 they retired in Willcox, then moved back to Prescott. Lyman was inducted into the Arizona Living Pioneer Hall of Fame. Alaire, who ranched, roped cattle; team roped, and taught roping and riding right beside her husband, passed away in 2008. Lyman passed in 2009. Few if any, men or women have cowboyed as extensively in the American Southwest as Lyman and Alaire Tenney, and no other husband and wife team has done more to proliferate the cowboy culture in Australia.
Coldwater, Mississippi’s Lawrence “Bud” Young, known to his friends as “Mr. Bud,” has for 59 years competed in rodeo, coached teams, instructed students and helped organize events throughout the southeastern United States. He has served as a judge for rodeo events and as an instructor for Lyle Sankey Rodeo Clinics. He is characterized as a master teacher and rodeo coach who has guided youth in the areas of competition and in the arena of life. Mr. Bud is known to all as a gentleman cowboy who treats his colleagues and friends with compassion and respect, and as a citizen and soldier who has served his nation with distinction.
Bud Young started his bull riding career in 1957 at age 12. He joined the International Professional Rodeo Association in 1964, where he is still an active member. He has also competed in the PRCA, CRA, URA and the Deep South Rodeo Association. Bud came to Northwest Community College in Senatobia, MS, in 1973 as an instructor in livestock management technology, starting the college’s first rodeo team that same year. Under his leadership, the Northwest team regularly earned awards in local, regional and national competition. His team members won championships in bareback riding, bull riding, barrel racing, steer wrestling, and in the All-Around category. The longest tenured coach in Northwest’s athletic history before retiring in 2009, Young coached college rodeo for 36 years, was the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA) facility director for 18 years and served two terms as its Facility President. Bud Young was inducted into the Northwest Sports Hall of Fame in 2005, and, was honored with the announcement of the Lawrence “Bud” Young Endowment Scholarship which benefits a student in the college rodeo program. Bud, whose name is synonymous with Northwest Mississippi Community College rodeo, was inducted into the Mississippi Community and Junior College Sports Hall of Fame in April 2013. He is the first rodeo competitor/coach to receive that honor in the State of Mississippi. Since retirement, Young has remained involved as arena manager of the Northwest Multipurpose Arena and is an adjunct faculty member teaching plant science. He continues to share his experience and expertise with high school students by conducting workshops and seminars, as well as working with youth in the Little Britches Rodeo Association.
Friend and fellow Mississippian, Rip Copeland, writes, “I’ve watched Bud instruct students in correct chute procedures, the fundamentals of riding, the proper way to greet a lady by removing your hat, and even the proper way to shake a man’s hand. In every aspect of his life, he exemplifies and embodies the Cowboy Code of Conduct embraced by the NDOC.”
Each year, a different artist or photographer generously donates an image to be used in the Cowboy Keeper Awards. This year’s spectacular image of a stagecoach stopped in Monument Valley, “Hitchin’ Up for a Dry Ride,” was created by Arizona artist and Cowgirl Up member, Sheila Cottrell.
The mission of National Day of the Cowboy non-profit organization is to contribute to the preservation of America’s cowboy culture and pioneer heritage so that the history and culture which the fourth Saturday in July honors, can be shared and perpetuated for the public good, through education, the arts, literature, celebrations, gatherings, rodeos, and other community activities. These Cowboy Keeper Award recipients personify that mission. Although there is not enough room in this piece to share completely the vast and illustrious accomplishments of each one, we recommend you delve further into their stories for further inspiration.
Hats off to the cowboy.
by Bethany Braley