by Kendra Santos, PRCA Director of Communications | Apr 28, 2015
Mike DeMoss was smiling from the most Heavenly seat in the house March 28, when his baby boy took the RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo saddle bronc riding title in high-flying Heith DeMoss style.
Six-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier Heith, who’ll turn 30 on April 26, won both the semifinals—with 83 points aboard Rafter H Rodeo’s Spade—and the four-man finals—with an 87-point ride on Stace Smith Pro Rodeos’ Goin South.
The Southeastern Circuit saddle bronc rider’s spring break in Florida was worth $15,299, and a trip to both Disney World and Gatorland with his wife, Hallie, and 3-year-old daughter, Dixie. Son Gavin, who’s 14, held down the fort back in Louisiana to stay on top of his schoolwork.
“We thought it’d be cool to show Dixie Cinderella, Rapunzel and Monsters, Inc.,” said DeMoss, who’s quickly closing in on $1 million in career earnings. “Monsters, Inc. is what she was really excited about. She had a blast, but every day is like Las Vegas to Dixie. Her attitude is, ‘I’m going to have fun and you can join me if you want, but I’m going to have fun either way.’ We’re a good bit alike, Dixie and me. We like to have fun.”
That laughter—followed up by a fishing trip to Black Lake with his pro bass angler Uncle Tommy (Williford) just after returning home to his beloved Louisiana—was the best possible medicine for Heith DeMoss.
Two weeks before his big win, Heith was headed home from South Texas on a Saturday night when he got a call from his big brother and 10-time NFR bronc rider Cody along the way during his 13-hour drive.
“When I got about 30 miles from the house (by then it was Sunday morning), Cody called and said to brace myself, because it wasn’t pretty,” Heith said. “I got there, and Dad was laid back in his chair. Moma was talking to him, but he wasn’t very responsive. I let him know I was there. Cody and I each held one of his hands, and Moma told him we were ready for him to go if he was ready to go. And that was it. He waited for me. It was amazing.
“It was tough, but I thought it was the coolest thing. If I had to die today, I’d want my kids holding my hands and the woman I love talking to me and playing with my hair.”
Mike DeMoss was only 58 when he headed to Heaven just after high noon that Sunday, March 15. “Dad had cancer about seven years ago,” Heith explained. “He fought it off twice, but it came back a third time and it was more than he could bear. He’d been suffering for a long time and was in a lot of pain. Being there when Daddy died changed my whole view on life. Life is precious, but it’s OK to go when you’re ready to go.
“I’d never experienced anything like that. I lost my grandpa when I was 19. We were best friends and spent every day together. When he died I went through a depression. With Dad, it was so peaceful. You couldn’t have asked for a better way to go.”
Heith had Mike in mind all the way to that whistle on Goin South in Kissimmee, and immediately dedicated the extra effort to him when he was done.
“I tried to ride that last one like my daddy always told me to do it,” Heith said. “I did what he told me to do, and that’s ‘Lift, charge, go at ’em, take it jump for jump and as it comes, try hard and go for it. I’ve always been a go-for-broke kind of guy. I still go for first, but I’ve learned over the years how far I can actually push it.
“When I was learning to ride, my dad would get so excited trying to tell me about the fight that was about to happen. The only time I ever saw my dad show a whole lot of excitement and get fired up was teaching me about bronc riding. Maybe that’s why I get so amped up now—because my daddy was a bareback rider and taught me the bareback rider’s attitude. They step out there on the edge, and live right there.”
It was Heith’s third round with Goin South.
“I’d run into Goin South two times before, both times at the NFR, and think I won second on him twice,” said Heith, who described his little hometown of Heflin, La., which is tucked in the Northwest corner not too far from Shreveport, as sandy country with hills and pine trees.
“But I’d never ridden him exactly like I wanted to. That horse has been a good one for a long time, and he’s never done the same thing twice. That all goes back to what my dad always said about riding horses jump for jump.”
Ranch-raised Oregon cowboy Ryan Mackenzie was a close second in the RNCFR saddle bronc riding race with 85 points on Stace Smith Pro Rodeos’ Resistol’s Top Hat in the final four. “Ryan made a darn good ride right before I rode, and that horse was my pick going in,” Heith said. “We had the two best horses, for sure, and he rode great. My horse just really stacked up right there and didn’t go very far.”
Heith was so happy with his ride that he ejected for a Casey-Tibbs-style flying dismount. “Goin South got me in a little trouble right there at the end, so I figured instead of fighting it I’d jump. But I didn’t calculate it exactly right and I landed on my hip. I’m still sore about that. It jarred the heck out of me.”
Ironically, Mike DeMoss competed in every roughstock event but the bronc riding, which is the only one his sons work. Mike was the 1974 and ’75 National High School Rodeo Association bareback riding champ. He also rode a few bulls.
“He told Cody and me that as long as we were living under his roof we weren’t going to get on bareback horses or bulls,” Heith grinned. “Those events had taken such a toll on his body in such a short time. He’d gotten on a few broncs after he’d ridden bareback horses and bulls, and wished that’s what he’d started out doing. I tried bareback riding in college, and immediately realized my dad was extremely wise. I think I got on four of them, and I was done.”
Heith rode steers when he was younger, but “no full-grown bulls—yet. But riding a bull is on my bucket list,” he laughed. “I’ll get on one before I’m done. I was going to get on a bull at a rodeo school three or four years ago, but broke my arm on a bronc before I could do it. I was supposed to get on a bull that night, but breaking my arm halted my bull riding career once again.”
In a word, Heith says he would describe his dad as responsible. He also says Cody’s personality is more like Mike’s, and his is more like Moma Vicki’s (and yes, that’s how Heith spells Moma). “Cody’s an old-time cowboy, and I’m more of an old-timey papaw,” Heith smiled. “I throw on moccasins and overalls when I get home. Our daddy loved his family more than anything else in the world, and was sure a good teacher of right and wrong.”
Cody is a five-time reserve world champ, and is currently ranked No. 1 in the world. Little brother Heith could not look up to his big brother more.
“Cody is so correct and so strong every lick,” Heith said. “I go for it as hard as I can, but it doesn’t look as pretty as Cody. Cody’s one of the best bronc riders who’s ever put his butt in a bronc saddle.
“Cody’s dangerous. If he’s the last guy to go and you’re winning it, don’t hold your breath. I think he’ll win it. And he’s dang sure a player in Vegas, and it’s really going to boil down to who has the best Finals with all the money at the NFR this year. Never count Cody out.”
Cody’s dangerous, and yet guys like Cody Taton and Chad Ferley call Heith “Danger?”
It’s clear why they all call Mike’s boys cowboys.
“Bronc riding is something that I love on a different level,” Heith said. “I love everything about it. I can watch a horse and even if I haven’t been on him I can imagine how he feels and almost see his personality. If I see a big, bad bucking horse—there’s just something about them—they speak to my soul.
“Isaac Diaz had Rafter G’s big, black horse Congress in Lufkin, Texas, and I threw some chaps at him because he takes a big, long run before he starts bucking. He pinned his ears and pawed at those chaps with his front feet, then kicked at ’em with his hind feet as he went by. After that, that son of a gun broke in two and was a big, bad bucking horse. I knew he was a bad one, and that I wanted to get on him.
“I drew that horse at Gladewater (Texas) last year, and he took a big, long run. Then all heck broke loose. He was big and strong. When I got off of him, I felt like that was one of the most memorable rides I’ve ever had. I was 83, but that wasn’t the point. That’s the kind of horse that speaks to my soul. When you have one that tries as hard as that—and you try as hard as you can—it’s a very pure thing and it’s a very good thing. I think that’s why I like riding broncs so much.”
Heith just won the RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo and Cody’s winning the world. Life is good for Mike and Vicki DeMoss’ boys.
“It’s been really good, and I think it’s only going up from here,” said Heith, who rode at the NFR in 2007, 2009-11 and 2013-14. “Good horses have come our way. At this level everybody rides so good that it comes down to your partner. Keep those good ones coming and we’ll make ’em pay for it. We’re just trying to keep up with the Wright brothers and the Crawley brothers. As long as we can stay head-to-head with those guys, we’ll be doing pretty good.”
Courtesy of PRCA