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Meet the Member Wendall “Stitches” Stanley
story by Kyle Eustice
With a nickname like “Stitches,” there’s no doubt Wagoner, Oklahoma resident Wendall Stanley is adventurous, to say the least. The Rose, Oklahoma native and rodeo aficionado admits his nickname was “well earned.”
“As a young kid, I’ve been bucked off horses, been in car wrecks, and have busted my head open numerous times,” said Stitches. “The first time I was on a tire swing, I cut my head open from front to back. I’ve had stitches at least 15 times.”
Now 34-years-old, he hasn’t had any stitches lately, but he’s been team roping with the ACRA since 1997, shortly after competing in his first rodeo. His father Brian, who he considers his role model, had been a team roper and tried to set a good example for his son.
“My dad really inspired me,” said Stitches. “We are really close and used to do everything together. He taught me everything I know about rodeo.”
He quickly picked it up and has been doing it ever since. While a student at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, he continued competing in rodeos. In 2002, he won a national title ring with his partner Colt Brayden. “We both went to school together,” explained Stitches. “We roped all year long and went to Casper, Wyoming for the College National Finals Rodeo. That’s probably my most memorable accomplishment.”
During college, Stitches also met his wife Randi Stanley, who breakaway ropes. They soon settled in Wagoner to raise their children, 6-year-old Tripp and 4-year-old Taya. He can’t go to as many rodeos as he used to because of family commitments, but he’s happy with his life.
“Once I had kids, it encouraged me to keep going,” explained Stitches. “I pro rodeoed for a couple years, but when I met my wife, we weren’t loaded with money. We still can’t just go all the time. We have to work, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.” Randi is a school teacher at Wagoner School, where she teaches 4th grade, while Stitches is a welder and works 40 to 50 hours a week. He’s able to make his own schedule and is usually home from work by 3 p.m., so they hit the rodeos as often as they can.
“It’s scary from the outside looking in, but once you’re involved, you just do what you have to do,” said Stitches. “Today it’s all about my kids.”
Stitches hopes his children stay involved in rodeo. Tripp wants to take his horse everywhere. He already loves roping and ropes goats—basically “anything that moves,” including his dad, sister, or the family dog. The Stanleys also enjoy hunting and going to Tripp’s baseball games or Taya’s soccer practices.
“My little boy has played baseball for tow years,” said Stitches. “He plays second base. I played short stop in college and got a scholarship to play baseball, but quit to pursue rodeo.”
On the weekends, Stitches can normally be found at an ACRA, IPRA or CRRA event, where he team ropes with his partners Eric Flurry and Jake Weddle, who Stitches calls “the best two headers in the area.”
“I like everything about team roping,” said Stitches. “You have to rely on your partner and get through it together.”
He wouldn’t be where he is today without his favorite horse, 11-year-old Flounder. Stitches trained and broke him, and he’s been the ACRA Heel Horse of the Year four times. While having a stellar horse helps Stitches have the confidence he needs to compete, he also knows how to keep himself relaxed. “I used to get nervous and think about that moment before I competed all the time,” admitted Stitches. “Not so much anymore. At a certain level, it’s all mental. If you keep your mind right, everything else falls into place. Most of the time, before I rope, I’m either watching my kids or just doing something to calm myself down. The least I think about it, the better I do.”
Although he travels a lot, the family sticks relatively close to home. They like to be able to sleep in their own beds every night. For fun, they like to play with their dog Buster, swim in either a pool, lake or creek, go to the movies, or hunt. “We just love to do things as a family”, said Stitches. “It’s what keeps me going.”