Friends rally to help fellow cowboy

Published 3:49 pm Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Cowboys are tough. Just ask any of them. For the most part, every cowboy has been, at one time or another, bucked off a horse, stomped by a bull, or jerked around by a roped calf. They have found themselves faced down in the dirt once or twice, or dodging angry hooves, or dusting off their hat and heading for the railing.

They have roped a few calves, rode a few trails, and watched a few sunsets on horseback. They have pulled barb wire as it snagged skin and clothes and hair, dug post holes in the unyielding ground under a hot summer sun, mucked stalls when they would have rather been riding.

A cowboy, or a cowgirl for that matter, doesn’t choose that way of life — it’s in their blood. They like the smell of a barn, the feel of a horse’s warm muzzle, the sight of a spindly-legged foal. It’s like being born with green eyes or brown hair or a big nose and having no control over it.

And, for the most part, when knocked down or facing a challenge, that cowboy will get back up, dust his pants off with his hat, and get back on for the ride while his fellow cowboys cheer him on. That’s just the cowboy way.

And, once in a while, a cowboy is faced with the challenge of his life.

Life-long Poplarville resident, Richard Traylor, is a cowboy. Three-time Professional Cowboy Association champion and 2009 champion, Traylor team ropes and travels the southeastern rodeo circuit.

Last December, he suffered a seizure and after a MRI, was told that while they did not know what had caused it, he had a few “spots in his brain.” The doctors sent him home. A month later, Traylor, who lives in Poplarville with his wife Carmen and kids Dalton and Dylan, was back in the hospital, but this time, what they found was not so easily dismissed.

Traylor was told that the spots were cancer and that he has an aggressive brain tumor, one so hostile, that the prognosis given to him by the doctors was if he did not have surgery immediately he only have 11 weeks to live. He was operated on February 12.

While the doctors at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas feel Traylor’s chances of survival with the surgery are “great,” the family of four must raise over $150,000 to cover the cost of the surgery and radiation treatment. “He’s doing pretty good. I think they were able to remove about 80 percent of it,” said friend Joey McClinton, adding that Traylor and his family were on their way back to Houston today to have the staples from his surgery removed.

To raise money for the Traylors, friends, family, and the rodeo community have banded together and are putting on a fund raising Benefit roping, barreling racing, horse shoeing, and auction this Sunday, February 28 at the Forrest County Multipurpose Center in Hattiesburg. “It is a whole out-pouring of the rodeo community coming together,” said McClinton, who through his business M & M Grafix in McNeill, donated the fliers, rodeo website content, and 500 special T-shirts for the benefit.

The T-shirts, which will be sold for $10 a piece at the rodeo, are modeled after the Wrangler pink breast cancer T-shirts, Tough Enough To Wear Pink. With pink for breast cancer, gray for brain cancer, and green for leukemia, the shirts bear the slogan “I Figure We’re Tough Enough To Wear Them All.” All proceeds from the T-shirt sales go to the Traylors.

The one-day event begins with a church service at 8 a.m. and exhibition barrels at 9 for $5 a race. Lindsey Shaw, who is in charge of the barrel racing portion of the event, said the exhibition runs, which are essentially practice trials, begin at 9 a.m. and run until 11 a.m. “The barrel race begins at 12,” said Shaw. The 4-D Barrel Race is $30 an entry.

McClinton, who is a fellow rodeoer, said cash prizes would be awarded to the top three winners in each event, but that 100 percent of the profits would be donated directly to the family.

“Instead of the producers pocketing the money, it all goes to Richard,” said McClinton, adding that not only were the events designed so that riders of all skill levels could participate and have the opportunity to win, but that money had been added to inflate the pot. “The way the prize money is determined is that each entrant pays an entry fee and the top three split the pot,” explained McClinton. But, he continued, when money is added into the prize pool beforehand, it increases what the top three win. “That way, no matter how many turn out, you know you can split at least the $500,” said McClinton. “It just raises the stakes.”

Richard Hebert, who is in charge of the team roping event, said that competition begins at 9 a.m. in the indoor arena. At $50 a team, there will be a #13 slide to even up the competition. “That is to make it fair for everyone,” said Hebert, who has practiced roping with Richard and credits him with teaching his sons how to rope. The overall high money winner will also win a saddle. Eleven, 10, nine, and eight roping will follow the auction, which follows the #13 roping competition.

Noting that in team roping, one person ropes the calf’s head while the other ropes his feet, Hebert said Richard regularly participates in both Tri-State and Professional Cowboy Association rodeos as the header. “He is a three-time champion of PCA,” said Hebert.

Around noon, an auction headed by Frank Graves, will begin and has everything from trips to horse gear to jewelry up for grabs. “Some people are donating a saddle, some a horse, I’m donating a corn wrap,” said McClinton, adding that a corn wrap is a protective head piece that the calves wear.

Graves said some other items up for bid are hunting trips — one to Nebraska to hunt mule deer and another to hunt turkeys in Hattiesburg — as well as a fishing trip with a professional angler, furniture, colts, horses, jewelry, gift certificates and much more.

In addition, while at the rodeo, participants and spectators can enjoy some great food. Tony Smith, owner of Stonewalls Barbecue, is running the concession stand and all the proceeds from all the food and refreshments sales will be donated to the Traylor family. “Everyone is donating everything,” said McClinton.

 Finally, but not least, four farriers — Jody Johnson, David Bush, Hank Chisolm, and Ailee Ledet — will be donating their horse shoeing services and shoeing horses for $100 a set with 100 percent of the money going directly to the Traylors.

But, even if you don’t own a horse, or ride, or understand cowboys, head on out and watch the event, eat some great barbecue,  bid on auction items, and pick up a T-shirt — admission is free. “It is amazing the way everyone’s coming together,” said McClinton.

For more information or to donate an item for the auction, call April Harris at 601-746-0036 or Candace Graves at 601-365-9282 or Frank Graves at 770-335-9097; for more information on the barrel events, call Shaw at 228-323-9099; roping — call Hebert at 601-916-9449; and horse shoeing call Johnson at 228-216-1792. To purchase a T-shirt prior to the Benefit, visit mmgrafix.com or call 601-799-2615.  

Also visit the website www.rtbenefit.com for more information.