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Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Lone Cowgirl - story by Roger Edison

JACI enunciated as "Jaycee," LEWIS of Goldthwaite, Texas preps her gear for the days big rodeo action.   As she cleans her saddle, she is alert to inspect and double check all the leathers, cinch, ropes and tie downs, slowly going through each piece of gear ensuring it's ready to go.   A fairly normal action for any contestant with a champion attitude. Although, for Jaci, this is no normal girls event.  She's the Lone Cowgirl in the male dominated sport of Bronc riding entered at the Tom Butler Memorial Bronc Riding Rodeo.

The (TBMBR) Tom Butler Memorial Bronc Riding event pays tribute honoring Bronc Rider Tom Butler, of Guthrie, Texas.   Butler was an 18-year-old student at Texas Tech University when his life was tragically ended in a motor vehicle accident in February 2006.  Butler was a shining star in the ranching community and respected Cowboy.   Tom had earned many awards and titles in ranch rodeos and horse competitions, as well as athletic and scholastic activities during the course of his life.  The Memorial Rodeo additionally raises money to provide financial assistance for college bound students to continue their education in a collegiate, trade or vocational program through recognized colleges, universities or technical college.   Since 2006, the TBMBR has awarded numerous Scholarships totaling $60,000.

"Jaci's originates from a long-line of Cowboy heritage," states Jaci's mother, Shaye Wilson Lewis.    "Her grandfather Gary, was an excellent roper in college and very close the the Nation Finals Rodeo.   Gary and his brothers all roped very well.    Jaci's cousin, Brent Lewis, was 1991 PRCA Resistol Rookie of the Year.  He has won or placed at the Top 50 PRCA Rodeo's and holds 12 WNFR Qualifications.    Jaci's Dad, Pace Lewis is also a roper. Additionally, he manages the WALL RANCH near Evant, Texas."

Shaye confesses, she married into the Cowboy life growing up on the Golf Course, but anytime her husband Pace in mention to anyone that does not know him, his mother-in-law is quick to say,  "He's a real Cowboy...Last of the dying breed."

Jaci is a petite Cowgirl who entered the 12 year old and under Shetland Pony Bronc Event. As she closes up her gear bag,  she gets help loading the heavy equipment that weights half her weight into her Daddy's pick-up truck before heading out for Tom Butler Memorial Bronc Ride. 

As vehicles arrive at the Post Stampede Rodeo grounds, some traveling as far off as Arizona and Colorado, Jaci is ready with anticipation. Cowboys and Cowgirls fill the grand stand with a record crowd of 2,500 in attendance. The Ranch Bronc Riding has given many Cowboys the opportunity to compete against their Peers while providing Stock Contractors like Jim Kinney of JK Rodeo from Pecos, TX the opportunity to work with this exciting non-profit event.

Terry Chandler known as "The Outlaw Chef" from  Fred's Texas Cafe in Fort Worth, provides a chuck wagon breakfast to the crowd.  The fund raiser of a live auction kicks in gear along with a silent auctions that help bring in revenues going towards the scholarship funds, along with the sales of Ridin’ High Tee’s and apparel sold through The TBMBR.  Vendors begin to line behind the bleachers marketing western gear, apparel, jewelry as the opening ceremony begins.   

The action packed day will be filled with 30 competitors riding in the Open Bronc Riding Division,  15 riders participating in the Rookie Bronc Riding and 21 riders taking part in the Shetland Bronc Riding for 12 year olds and under.

Patiently, Jaci sits on the white washed fence rail  as she waits for her draw of the wild Shetland ponies to be moved into the gates. Her Dad at her side watches on,  ready to assist rigging her saddle. Jaci, is the only cowgirl taking on the challenge of today's  Bronc riding event dominated by the young cowboys. The young lads dally near the stock pens, each prepping their gear with intense anticipation for some Rodeo action.

The stock contractor and Rodeo staff begin moving the Ponies into the prospective shoots. Her draw is moved into shoot number five. Her Dad begins rigging Jaci's Bronc Saddle on the Pony. As he cinching it tight, he give the pony a knee, enabling him to pull the cinch tighter. Jaci straddles the horse as she takes her rope rein in hand sliding onto the saddle. Her Dad double checks everything again questioning if she's ready. As she pulls her hat firmly down with her free hand, she nods her head indicating yes. In her small voice she calls out, "Let's ride."  

Jaci Lewis Bronc Rides at TBMBR
The gate flies open. The Rodeo announcer broadcast "Jaci Lewis coming out of shoot number five from  Goldthwaite, Texas. Come on Jaci Lewis." The crowd roars with excitement as she hangs in there while the pony bucks away. The horn blows after the eight second ride as Jaci leaps to the ground. Landing on her feet, she stands listening for the judges to announce her score.  

“I was so excited when I got on my bronc, but not so much nervous. Then I think I kinda blacked out during my ride. My dad rides broncs in ranch rodeos and he told me he kinda does the same thing,” states Jaci.

Cooper DeWitt from Rio Rico, Arizona drove all night to participate in the Open Bronc Riding event.  His brother Miles DeWitt won the same event the first two years it was held. Cooper expressed the event as one of the most prestigious ranch bronc rides in the West. His twelve hour drive without sleep did not detour him from winning First place in the Open Bronc Riding Event, earning $3,000 and a custom handmade Bronc Saddle valued at $3,500.  

OPEN Bronc Riding: 1st-Cooper Dewitt, 2nd-Kye Fuston, 3rd-Tanner Johnson, 4th-Tell Good, Wildest Ride Zane Peters

ROOKIE Bronc Riding: 1st- Will Butler, 2nd- Reece Belongia, Wildest Ride Cayce Lewis

SHETLAND: 1st-Kutter Johnson, 2nd-Jaci Lewis (the lone girl shetland bronc rider) 3rd-Bonner Voss, 4th-Hayden Wright, Wildest Ride: Riggin Johnson

Kelly and Traci Butler award Jaci Lewis
As Jaci's name was called to receive her awards, her Mom and Dad both felt extremely proud of her courage and accomplishment. Her Dad, Pace Lewis quickly dials his cell phone, calling friends and family to report Jaci's accomplishing ride. 

Jaci blushing exposing her grin as she proudly accepts her awards. Then poses with Kelly and Traci Butler, the parents of Tom Butler for a photo. 

Many women helped shape the west, including the sport of American Rodeo. In 2009, TBMBR found Kaitlin Voss as a lone cowgirl who also took second place against 15 male buckaroos in the Shetland Bronc Riding Event. 

The Lone Cowgirls who went against the odds, like Bronc Rider Eloise Fox Hastings Wilson (1882-1948). She was entered into the national Hall of Fame in 1987  for her performance of trick roping and Bronc Riding during her early years with the Irwin brothers' Wild West Show. Other cowgirls like Ruth Roach,  Florence Hughs, Bea Kirnan, Bonnie Grey, Rose Smith, Toots Griffith and Ruby Roberts rode for Ralph R. Doubleday Rodeo each proved their abilities to match up against the men of Rodeo. 

Considered one of the greatest cowgirl bronc riders of her day, Mildred Douglas (1895-1983) was inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 1988.  Nearly one hundred years ago, Mildred won the Ladies Championship of the World Bronc riding during the Cheyenne Frontier Days of 1918.  

Cowgirls like Jaci continue to help shape our Western Culture. She plans to be back for the October 15th, 2011 TBMBR. Perhaps George Strait, says it best in his song, "How 'Bout them Cowgirls."  Jaci Lewis may be the lone Cowgirl, but she has a grand stand fulled with fans to cheer her on. 

Young Buckaroo Congratulates the Lone Cowgirl on her Ride

Shetland Bronc Riding at the Tom Butler Memorial Bronc Riding

Cooper DeWitt wins the Tom Butler Memorial Bronc Riding

 for more information on the Tom butler Memorial Bronc Riding, Please visit their web site