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Written by: Siri Stevens< Back to Articles
Recently stepping down from the Junior Southern Rodeo Association (Jr. SRA) association secretary position after 11 years of dedicated service, Debbie Colyer, will now devote her time as a newly elected member of the Board of Directors. “I just feel that we needed new blood in there and Glennis [Ussery] will do a great job,” said Debbie.
Debbie’s roots are ground deep within the Jr. SRA and its parent division: the Southern Rodeo Association (SRA), as her father (Jack Laws) was one of whom responsible for starting each organization in the 1950s. Although, never a competitor, Jack represented the associations as the president for many years. “He just loved the sport,” said Debbie.
Just imagine…North Carolina cotton farming in the 1930s. A young man (Jack) was out picking, but when he got to the end of the row he was working on, he just kept walking. Headed out to find, whatever it was that he was looking for, Jack made it as far as Big Spring, Tex., when his car broke down. Instead of giving up, Jack hopped a freight train to Arizona and found himself apart of the construction of the Hoover and Parker Dams. “Through his journeys out west, he found out about rodeo,” reminisced Debbie.
Upon returning to North Carolina from military service in World War II, Jack started his a business (Laws Stained Glass Studios in Statesville, N.C. – a business that Debbie and her brother continue to run today). But holding onto a love for rodeo, he started his first rodeo company (Carolina Livestock and Rodeo Company) on the side. By the time Debbie was around 12 years old, Jack had sold the rodeo company and bought a new string of stock for junior competitors. “We would travel to different local arenas holding junior rodeos, when dad and a few other guys started the Jr. SRA in approximately 1958,” Debbie explained.
Obviously, Debbie and her brother (Mike Laws) took up a membership within the newly formed organization. While Mike competed in the bareback and bull riding and later went on to compete in the SRA, Debbie was crowned the 1966 Jr. SRA junior barrel racing champion. She, too, went on to compete within the SRA and grabbed onto three barrel racing titles (1970, 1985, 1986).
After competing, Debbie and her husband (Mike Colyer) did their part in keeping her father’s work alive. In the early 1980s, Mike served four years as the president of the SRA and Debbie as the secretary. The pair returned to the Jr. SRA in 2001, where Mike served another four years as the president, but Debbie continued her work as the secretary for another seven years. “The responsibility came back to me and my husband and we did our share to keep the association going,” she said. Holding strong to 42 years of marriage, Mike and Debbie currently reside in Olin, N.C., where Mike raises bucking bulls from a direct line of Bodacious and is the chief flight director for Dale Earnhardt Incorp. “Mike was a paratrooper in the military and later became a pilot. While he was stationed in the east, and was already a bull rider, originally from Colorado, he entered a rodeo out here, where he had to borrow all of his gear and that is how we met,” explained Debbie. “He then went on to being Dale Earnhardt’s personal pilot up until his death.”
The family heritage of the two associations has continued to move throughout the Laws/Colyer family. Mike and Debbie’s two daughters (Jeani Almond and Kaycee Brown) both competed in the Jr. SRA and continue to compete within the SRA. Jeani’s husband (Eddie Almond) has just completed serving two years as the President of the Jr. SRA and was re-elected for another two years. Her oldest granddaughter (Hayley Knox, 20) is a past Jr. SRA five-time all-around champion and went on to obtaining her first of two SRA all-around titles at the age of 15. “Hayley is currently in college, but continues to compete in the SRA whenever she is home,” said Debbie. Going on through the line, Debbie still has two granddaughters that are contenders in the Jr. SRA. Mikayla Almond, 13, is a four-time all-around champion and has broadened her horizons to the 2013 National Junior High School Rodeo Associations reserve pole bending champion (Gallup, N.M.). Finally, her youngest granddaughter (Jolie Brown, 12) competes in the barrel racing, pole bending and goat tying in the Jr. SRA. “We are a generation after generation Jr. SRA and SRA people,” said Debbie.
Having seen the Jr. SRA’s membership double in the 11 years as the secretary, Debbie says that she would like to see the association branch out and get even bigger. “The Jr. SRA produces cowboys and cowgirls with the knowledge to continue on with their careers. Even if they don’t decide to rodeo as adults, the association gives the opportunity for kids to be a cowboy once in their lifetime,” said Debbie. JB Mauney and Jerome Davis are among some of the greats that got their start in the Jr. SRA. “It prepares kids for higher ranks and enables them to compete in larger associations such as the SRA, IPRA, PBR and the PRCA,” she continued.
While hoping to see the Jr. SRA expand and planning to be apart of it for a long time to come, Debbie says that it’s the love of rodeo that drives her forward. “While I was competing, it was the urge to be the best, but now that I’m older, it’s the people and family that makes me love it. The most unique thing about the sport is the people you meet and the memories that are made,” she concluded.