By: Justin Felisko July 23, 2014@ 06:30:00 PM
PUEBLO, Colo. – Kasey Hayes was 6 years old the first time he rode alongside the Point Rock Riders with his dad, Kyle.
For four years, Kasey and his family would take part in the historic two-day horseback trail drive that begins in Elkhart, Kansas, and ends in Guymon, Oklahoma, for the Guymon Pioneer Days Rodeo every May. The Hayes family would rise at 7 a.m. on the first day and ride an estimated 50 miles until sunset, breaking for lunch in between, before setting up night camp. Following a hearty breakfast the next morning, all of the riders traveled the final 10 or so miles into Guymon before participating in the grand entry for the rodeo.
The Pioneer Days Rodeo, which began in the early 1930s, exposed the young Liberal, Kansas, boy to a sport that began to enthrall him. He still remembers peering through the panels at the Henry C Hitch Pioneer Arena trying to catch a glimpse at the bull riders and team ropers.
“Him and his buddies were running around and trying to figure out how to get behind the chutes instead of being on the spectator side,” Kyle recalls.
Even more so, there was nothing better than capping off the trail ride by riding into the arena as part of the grand entry alongside some of the top Western sport athletes.
“That was the icing on top of the cake,” Kasey said. “You got to go out there with the professionals and be a part of a professional event.”
Once he turned 9 years old, he and his buddy Chance decided during the trail ride that they wanted to begin competing at junior rodeos.
After Chance explained he wanted to start roping, Kasey responded, “I am going to start going to junior rodeos too. I am going to ride bulls.”
Kasey Hayes puts up 91.5 points on Shepherd Hills Tested in the Built ford Tough Championship Round of the 2014 PBR BFTS Rumble in the Rockies in Colorado Springs, Colo.
It was a smart decision.
The older Hayes got, the better a bull rider he became, and he has since competed on the Built Ford Tough Series for the past nine years. A seasoned veteran of the PBR’s toughest tour, Hayes, currently ranked eighth in the world, always hoped to one day bring a PBR-sanctioned event close to his hometown.
Hayes will be able to cross that goal off his list this weekend thanks to the help of the Guymon Chamber of Commerce and Fred Williams when the inaugural Kasey Hayes and Stormy Wing Invitational takes place Saturday night at the Henry C Hitch Pioneer Arena.
The $20,000-added Touring Pro Division event begins at 6 p.m. and the event winner will have the opportunity to challenge bounty bull Stone Sober for an additional $10,000. H.D. Page will bring a variety of his BFTS-caliber bulls, Mike White will handle the safety rider duties, Ross Coleman is taking care of the gate, Clint Adkins will be announcing and Cord McCoy will also be hauling a couple of bulls.
Williams, who used to compete in bull ridings in the early 1970s, approached Hayes with the idea of putting his name on the event in Guymon, which is only 45 minutes southwest of Liberal, Kansas.
Hayes immediately said “absolutely.”
“It means a lot to me that Guymon would do that,” he said. “I have been going to the Guymon pro rodeo since I was a little kid.”
Hayes then offered the idea of co-hosting the event with Wing, whose hometown of Dalhart, Texas, is a little more than an hour away.
Williams liked the idea and credited both riders for being helpful and supportive in the weeks leading up to the event.
“Kasey has done a fantastic job,” Williams said. “They have just busted their butts to do it. They are both volunteering to do signings on Saturday. They are both great people.”
Wing said, “I am honored that he asked me to be a part of it. He could have asked anybody else, but he asked me. I told him that I would and we are sticking together through it.”
Guymon and its community have long supported the Western way of life and Williams expects a good crowd to show up on Saturday night. The goal for 2015 is to make the bull riding a $40,000-added event over the course of two days and to attract some of the top BFTS riders.
Kasey’s father agrees that the PBR will go over well because of Guymon’s rich Western tradition.
The trail drive has been a staple of the Pioneer Days Rodeo since 1948 and just this past year, Kyle’s wife, Donna, made the trek with approximately 80 other riders. In years past there have been more than 200 participants during the trail ride. Kyle’s first trip from Elkhart to Guymon via horseback came when he was in sixth grade. His mother took part in the journey in the 1950s when she was in high school.
Kyle said Kasey had a love for horses ever since he was a kid and had his first pony, JC. Kasey was fearless with JC.
“If there was a big hill to go down, Kasey went down it and led all of the other kids down it and it was like whatever,” Kyle said. “Kasey never had his back up. It was just like, off he go.”
There was one instance when Kasey’s horse climbed into a water tank. Everyone began to freak out, Kyle recalls, and Kasey simply looked around and asked what the problem was.
“He just said, ‘I will ride him out,’ and he rode him out of the tank,” Kyle said before laughing.
Saturday night will be a surreal moment for Kasey when life comes full circle on him.
“That is where I was watching and thinking I want to be a bull rider,” he said. “I just never grew out of that stage.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.
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