Her name was Peggy Harris, and she could ride a horse around the rodeo barrels like nobody’s business.
She also liked to bake.
She had four children and 13 grandchildren, and she was a breast cancer survivor. But when the virulent disease spread and she was dying of pancreatic cancer in June, the last words she spoke to her grandson Ty Harris, the National Finals Rodeo tie-down roper, were simple and prophetic:
When Peggy Harris said that, Ty was ranked 47th in the world standings. He’ll begin Monday’s round —Tough Enough to Wear Pink Night, part of the campaign to raise awareness in breast cancer — in sixth place.
The last time Ty Harris tied down a calf on Pink Night at the Thomas &Mack Center, he won the round en route to being named the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s 2019 tie-down roping rookie of the year.
With Grandma, the 1959 and 1960 NFR barrel racer, sitting in the stands.
“There’s nothing I wanted more with her out there on Tough Enough to Wear Pink Night,” said the 23-year-old cowboy and former basketball point guard from the Concho Valley near San Angelo in central Texas. “It was pretty amazing.”
In the pink
To honor his grandma (and countless other cancer victims), Harris will be sporting a black shirt with pink embroidery and his horse pink boots that Ty found at a little feed store in San Angelo when the 10-round NFR reaches its halfway point Monday.
It will be a special, bittersweet night, Harris said. But no more special or bittersweet than his other rodeo days and nights since the family matriarch uttered that two-word imperative about winning.
“I’ll be honest, I feel the same way as I have all year since she passed,” Ty said ahead of placing sixth Sunday and moving up to second in the all-important NFR average. “It’s hard to go near a rodeo and not send her the videos after I ride.”
But in a way, she has been riding with him the entire way.
Harris said in lieu of presents, his grandma would give the older grandkids a $50 check on their birthdays. His was May 28, just days before she died. He took the check and a photo of him and his grandma and clipped them to the sun visor in his truck.
“It was crazy,” he said of his relentless charge up the leaderboard, “but all summer it just felt like she was with me.”
Best seat in the house
Harris, who was a district MVP for the Water Valley High basketball team on the outskirts of San Angelo before deciding to finish his high school studies at home and focus on rodeo, got off to a quick start in his third consecutive NFR by roping his calf in 7.7 seconds to earn second-place money of $21,336 on opening night.
“I feel really good, I feel sharp and I’m right where I want to be,” he said before Sunday’s go-round. “Hopefully things will keep going my way.”
But even if they don’t, he believes his grandma will be looking down on the Thomas &Mack Center arena from the best seat in the house.
“No matter how hard she was cheering for me, she was cheering for everybody else just as much,” Harris said about what he would want others to know about his grandmother, the NFR barrel racer who never baked from the same recipe twice.
“If I was 7.1, she wanted everybody else to be 7.2. She was that kind of person. She wanted everybody to do good.
“She just wanted me to do a little better.”
Feild builds on success with historic victory
Kaycee Feild cashed his second straight first-place check during bareback riding at Sunday’s fourth go-round of the National Finals Rodeo and inscribed his name in the record book.
The Utah cowboy and R.C. Landingham of Hat Creek, California, each were awarded 87.5 points to share first- and second-place money. The NFR round victory was Feild’s 25th, tying him with fellow legend Bobby Mote for No. 1 on the all-time list.
It went according to script, said Feild, the son of former three-time World All-Around Cowboy champion Lewis Feild.
“When I set out to be a bareback rider and dreamed of being a world champion and believing in myself when I matured, one of my goals was winning more go-rounds than anybody else and winning more championships than anybody else,” said Feild, who is deadlocked with Joe Alexander and Bruce Ford with five career bareback world titles.
“I have been able to do this for a long time and stay somewhat healthy throughout my whole career. I have been very blessed.”
Feild, who is seeking his second consecutive bareback crown and sixth in the past 10 years, increased his championship lead over Jess Pope to $13,000 and ranks second to the Kansas rider in the NFR average that will pay the winner more than $69,000 at the end of Saturday’s 10th and final round.
Other fourth go-round winners:
— Will Lummus, Byhalia, Mississippi, and Riley Duvall, Checotah, Oklahoma, in steer wrestling (3.9, tie).
— Kaleb Driggers, Hoboken, Georgia, and Junior Nogueira, President Prude, Brazil, in team roping (4.1).
— Wade Sundell, Boxholm, Iowa, in saddle bronc riding (89.5).
— Shad Mayfield, Clovis, New Mexico, in tie-down roping (7.6).
— Wenda Johnson, Pawhuska, Oklahoma in barrel racing (14.46).
— Dustin Boquet, Bourg, Louisiana, and Parker Breding, Edgar, Montana, in bill riding (84.5 tie).
National Finals Rodeo
When: 5:45 p.m. Monday-Saturday
Where: Thomas & Mack Center
TV: The Cowboy Channel; Channel 603 (DirecTV), Channel 232 (DISH Network); RFD-TV; Channel 345 (DirecTV); Channel 231 (DISH Network)