by Kendra Santos, PRCA Director of Communications | Aug 13, 2015
I first met Zayne Dishion when he was 5, and was crowned the 5-and-Under World Champion Dummy Roper in Las Vegas. He was a cute little fellow, and was surrounded in the winner’s circle on that stage by the likes of eight-time World Champion Team Roper Speed Williams and ProRodeo Hall of Famer Tee Woolman.
I’ve been friends with “Baby Zayne,” as I call him, and his family ever since, largely because he’s grown up good buddies with my boys. So the young man I saw hoisting up those silver spurs to the roar of the crowd as this year’s Reno Rodeo team roping titlist next to his partner and heeler, Tommy Zuniga, was a whole lot more in my eyes than just another young-gun new kid on the block.
As usual in this fabulous rodeo family of ours, there are cowboy connections and brotherly bonds at work in the story of Zayne Dishion, who’s 21 now and knocking on the door that leads to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. He’s darn near doing that with one eye closed, by the way. The year before I met Zayne, when he was 4, he came dangerously close to completely losing his right eye.
“My brother (Dylan) and I were playing baseball in the backyard, and I tripped over a sprinkler,” Zayne remembers. “My thumb went through my eye and ruptured the sack that holds all the fluid in my eye. I wear a thick, hard-glass contact lens to hold my eye in place and help it focus. It helps take the place of the lens in my eye, and keeps my eye the right shape.
“I have almost 20/20 vision with the contact lens in. Without it, I wouldn’t be able to tell who was standing in front of me if they were five feet away. I keep an extra one on standby in my truck, because I’m basically blind in that eye without it. It’s normal to me, because I don’t remember living with it being any other way.”
Zayne actually attended his first NFR the month before he was born, in December 1993. His dad, Deston, and very pregnant mom, Sue, were there to cheer for Deston’s best friend, NFR header Mike Boothe. It was Mike’s first of two straight NFRs. When Baby Zayne was born on January 19, 1994, they named him Zayne Michael.
“I grew up with Mike in Bishop (Calif.),” Deston Dishion said. “We were best friends growing up, and he was the best man in my wedding. I was the first one in my family who didn’t use an old family name, but Mike was everything to me, so Zayne Michael it was.”
Mike didn’t yet have kids of his own, but he didn’t hesitate to bail right in and help with his best friend’s boys. When he babysat little Dylan, who had a fever, Mike figured out that the boy felt better when he opened the freezer door and held him up in front of the cold air. When Mike was on a swing back through California for a few late-fall rodeos right before his second NFR, in November 1994, he woke Deston and Sue up to announce a surprise visit.
“It was 1 in the morning, and he was going through town, so he showed up in the middle of the night,” smiles Deston, who was taught to rope alongside Mike by his dad, Roy Boothe, in Bishop. “He’d always call the house and ask if Michael was around—never Zayne. When he called, he told us to tell Michael he was on his way over to see him.”
Baby Zayne’s been a gamer since the day he was born. He jumped right up out of a deep sleep and took Uncle Mike up on a rocking-horse ride. But Mike didn’t make Baby Zayne’s second birthday party. In September 1995, while in strong contention for a third-straight NFR, the head horse he was riding fell on the grass at the Pendleton Round-Up. They both broke their legs. Mike died the next day of rare complications when tissue from his bone marrow broke loose and traveled through his bloodstream and into his lung. He was 25.
It was a sad and shocking loss to us all. Everybody loved Mike, and he was a friend of my family, too. He lived for a time in our tiny one-horse town of Creston, Calif., right there at the end, and won a round on my brother Blaine’s head horse General at NFR ’94. We still love watching the old tape of “Red Duck” (a take-off on the “Lonesome Dove” character Blue Duck, which was modified for Mike’s hair color) take that victory lap with Brent Lockett.
My family had some great times at the California High School Rodeo Association Finals in Bishop over the years. When some of the other families went on river floats or fishing trips, we went and roped with the Dishions and visited Mike at the cemetery. I wanted my boys to know who that Mike Boothe Memorial Arena sign that towers over that state finals fairgrounds is all about.
Mike Boothe was a cowboy’s cowboy, and not just in the arena. If you needed something wild gathered out of wide-open spaces, Mike was your man. Deston swears he sees some of his late best friend’s traits in his son. Zayne loves tracking wild cattle with Derrick Begay on the Arizona desert. Mike would have been all over that.
Bishop will always be home to Mike Boothe, just as it’ll always be home to Zayne Dishion, even though he moved to Texas on the brink of his 17th birthday to live with his other big brother, three-time World Champion Team Roper Jade Corkill. Jade’s parents, Bruce and Mitzi, became best of friends with Deston and Sue Dishion when their kids junior rodeoed together in Nevada.
Jade’s who dubbed Zayne “Kramer” after the guy on “Seinfeld” with the unruly hair. Mike Boothe had wild, curly hair, too, only he tamed it with the horse clippers. Zayne lets his hair run wild, though he grew up in the same old-time cowboy shirts with snaps that Mike always wore.
“Zayne reminds me of Mike so much sometimes with his sense of humor and comebacks,” Deston said. “There are times something comes out of his mouth, and I’ll feel like asking him, ‘Did Mike tell you to say that?’ Zayne wasn’t old enough to really know Mike, but you’d never know it.”
Mike grew up on an old bay horse he called Stoney, who was the signature ride of his life. It’s the same way with Zayne, who started riding the sorrel horse he calls Tuf in eighth grade and just won Reno on him. The Reno spurs rank No. 1 when it comes to rodeo career highlights for the relatively new team of Dishion and Zuniga, who joined forces in the spring.
“I’m a 21-year-old kid who still has a lot to learn, but a win like this is a huge confidence booster,” Zayne said. “It gives us a chance, and a reason to keep rodeoing. We need to keep winning, for sure. We definitely can’t coast.”
Zuniga’s 30 now, and has come close to the Finals-cut finish line before, including a 20th-place 2014 finish roping with Brady Tryan. Zuniga, who lives in Centerville, Texas, with his wife, Wyndee, and sons, Randen, Rett and Ryen, started this season with Joel Bach. His long list of ProRodeo partners has included Landon McClaugherty, Matt Sherwood, Chace Thompson, Camish Jennings, Caleb Mitchell, Colby Schneemann and Shane Durbin.
“I go rodeo for a little while, and if I don’t win enough I pack up and go home,” Zuniga said. “We’re all still friends. Zayne’s a friend, too, and he’s always got a pretty good attitude.
“Winning Reno was a big deal for us. Anytime you beat the best in the world it’s a good win. I’ve gotten pretty close to getting to the big show. Winning big money is always exciting. To start off the summer with that win almost wasn’t real—it was almost like a fantasy.”
Meanwhile, guys like Travis Tryan, who’ll get to see his beloved bay head horse Walt inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame next month, call Tommy “Nacho,” which he explains is short for his middle name of Ignacio. Then there are guys like Mikey Fletcher, Walt and Travis Woodard, who call him “Mexicutioner.”
So, Zuniga, what’s Kramer in Spanish? “I don’t know what that would be,” he laughed. “I’ll have to get back to you on that one.”
The last few years have taught Tommy that “one steer can turn your whole year around.” Zayne’s learned some valuable life lessons from the rodeo trail, too.
“Don’t get too high and don’t get too low,” he said. “You can win Reno, then barely make it to the next one (Prescott, Ariz.), then miss the next rodeo (Livingston, Mont.) over the Fourth because of delayed flights. You get on a confidence kick and think you can’t miss one, then you don’t catch for a week. But if you get too down on yourself you definitely won’t catch. There’s a fine line there you’ve got to ride. I don’t know what it’s called, but I’m looking for it.”
Courtesy of PRCA