Bill Skavdahl has gotten plenty of adrenaline rushes in his life. Some of them were ones he planned on, like when he rode bulls and […]
Dick and Lois Cory
Written by: Siri Stevens< Back to Articles
“Spinning my ropes and smiling at the folks.” That was Dick and Lois Cory’s motto throughout 60 years of rodeo. And spin ropes, smile at folks was what they did best. The husband-wife team, entertained thousands of fans with their trick and fancy roping.
Dick was born in 1933 in upstate New York with a love for the West. “I never wanted to be anything but a cowboy,” he remembers. He rode every horse his dad, a horse trader, brought home, and when the family went to rodeos, Dick was mesmerized with the cowboys. “I wanted to do it all: ride broncs, rope calves, but I was particularly fascinated with the trick and fancy roping. At that time, it was a part of every rodeo.”
He got the idea to put on a show, and learned to play guitar. At age 14, he began performing, singing and trick roping, and in 1949, he worked his first rodeo. “We went wherever they’d let us set up,” he remembers. “I sang, “I’m a Happy Roping Cowboy.” They’d pass the hat, and I made enough money to buy a new guitar. I thought, ‘this is it!’ And we were on our way.” In addition to entertaining, Dick also competed in the calf roping at his first rodeo.
It took a good ten years for his western entertainment act to get established full time, and during that time, Dick worked at radio stations. He started playing guitar on the radio at age 16, when stations would give up and coming musicians “sustaining time” – air time for the musician to play his music and promote his shows. An announcer at the station took Dick under his wing, teaching him the radio business. Dick started with broadcasting the morning farm reports, and did nearly everything in radio but the engineering.
When the rodeo business grew, he and Lois, who had married in 1956, put their full attention into western entertainment. They worked rodeos all across the eastern coast and the Midwest, and also entertained at theme parks. They spent winters in central Florida, the “cowboys headquarters” for eastern cowboys. In the slow rodeo seasons, Dick worked at “The Mighty Five – WFIV” radio station, and did on the scenes reporting for the Silver Spurs Rodeo. During the winter, he and Lois entertained at campgrounds and conventions, with their country and old cowboy western music band. Dick played the guitar, fiddle, mandolin and banjo, and Lois played the keyboard.
During the early years, when things were a bit leaner, Dick even announced rodeos. At that time, he was still calf roping, so often, he’d announce up to the minute he was up, then he’d jump on his horse, rope his calf, and run back to the announcer’s stand.
In 1965, being self-taught, Dick had learned as much as he could about trick roping. Buddy Mefford, a legendary trick roper, gave lessons to him and Lois for five years. “He made me realize what I didn’t know,” Dick says. “I was fortunate to be around him.” Mefford was a very respected trick roper who was willing to share his knowledge. “He helped me extensively in understanding the trick and fancy roping.”
Dick and Lois joined the International Pro Rodeo Association (then the International Rodeo Association) in 1965, and later joined the Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association. They held cards in the Southern Rodeo Association, the American Pro Rodeo Association, and the Mid-States Rodeo Association. “We pretty well covered the east and the Midwest” with western entertainment. Their act, the Roping Corys, involved much more than trick and fancy roping. Dick would often ride into the arena with a wireless microphone, singing cowboy songs as he rode the fence line.
In 2010, while at the Attica, N.Y. rodeo, Dick suffered a stroke. It affected his hearing, coordination, and balance, and his rodeo career was over. “Until I was 77, we were actively performing, and I did everything. I was still breaking colts at age 77.” The stroke has been an adjustment for him. “I didn’t have the luxury of growing old gradually,” he says, regarding the stroke. “I got old overnight.”
He and Lois miss the road, which was their home. “I’d get cleaned up in the morning, sit under the neck of my trailer with a cup of coffee, and I was home. By the same token, while we miss it, it’s gone, and a person has to adjust. It’s been hard for me, because for years, I rode into the arena in the spotlight and now I’m out kicking cow manure. But then, again, we were always homebodies. Being with horses, training horses, raising cattle, that was always the goal. I always wanted a ranch and cattle, and now I’ve got it, so what am I complaining about? A person has to take hold of themselves and go on.”
In 1990, he and Lois sold their winter acreage in Florida and moved to South Carolina. There, they have a cattle ranch and leather shop. The couple has two children. Rand, their son, lives in Stephenville, Texas and is an IPRA tie-down roper. Shawna, their daughter, is a legal secretary, and she and her family live on the South Carolina ranch with them. Rand’s son Ethan competes in ranch rodeos, and Shawna’s daughter Lindsey is married to Mike Wentworth, an IPRA rodeo clown. Lindsey and Mike also live on the ranch. Shawna’s son Ronnie Heid also grew up on the ranch and is now a team roper and pickup man.
Dick and Lois have been recognized for their achievements in the rodeo arena. They are gold card members of the IPRA, and lifetime members of the SRA. They were Contract Act of the Year in 1993 for the Mid-States Association, and in 2002, they received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Wild West Arts Club. Dick often served as a judge for the Wild West Arts Club contests, which included trick roping, among other things.
Even though their rodeo days are over, they look fondly back at them. “To tell you the truth, although I miss it an awful lot, it feels good on Friday mornings. Lois and I look at each other and say, ‘Isn’t it nice to not have anywhere to go?'” And his childhood dream of being a cowboy has been fulfilled.