Lari Dee Guy
Lari Dee Guy strives to be a role model in competing, training, and clinics. “I want to be an inspiration that helps that little girl […]
story by Lily Weinacht
Kay Stevens of Maquoketa, Iowa, is returning to the Cinch USTRC National Finals of Team Roping for the seventh time. The 51 year old #4 header is travelling to Oklahoma City with her Australian Cattle Dog as her co-pilot and her famous horse, Walmart, in tow. Though her husband’s saddle now sits empty since he passed away in March of 2014, Kay continues to rope in the memory of Mike Stevens and the absolute passion that the husband and wife had for the sport of team roping.
Mike was responsible for turning Kay into the avid roper she is today. The husband and wife met at a horse show in DeWitt, Iowa, and while Kay had been rodeoing since she was ten, she was chasing cans instead of steers. Born and raised in Illinois, Kay was exposed to both the racetrack and the rodeo pen at an early age. “My mom was a jockey and she’d take the racing rejects and start them on barrels,” Kay explains. “I learned good horsemanship from the racing world and rodeo. I could wrap a horse’s front legs by the time I was four. I always wanted to be a jockey, but by the time I was 13, I was already 5’6″, so I knew I was out.”
Kay focused on barrel racing instead, competing in open rodeos and barrel races, including several events put on by Wheeler Hobbs, Jackie Hobbs’ uncle. She went to a junior college in Illinois and was a member of the horse judging team before transferring to Kansas State University where Kay joined the rodeo team. She earned her degree in Animal Science and met Mike, a PRCA tie-down roper, soon after. Once they were married, the couple moved to Iowa, Mike’s home state. “I got interested in roping in the late ’90s,” Kay recalls. “I was working with our horses, and the next thing I knew, Mike was taking them and competing. Eventually I decided I should start competing and not just training!” Kay started breakaway roping but found her niche in the team roping, and began heading for Mike.
In 1993, Kay and Mike started holding roping practices for local kids at their house every Tuesday and Thursday night. “It was our way of giving back, and the kids were passionate about it,” Kay explains. “We live off of a black top road and we’d have parents droppings kids off at the road, then they’d come trotting in with a rope bag over their horn.” Many junior high, high school, and college national champions got their start in the Stevens’ weekly roping practices.
Kay and Mike retired their roping practices in 2008 after their daughter, Jyme, a barrel racer and pole bender, graduated from high school. They began pursuing the USTRC more seriously, but when Mike passed away in 2014, Kay’s motivation to rope was shaken. “I wasn’t really sure I wanted to keep roping, but I was already committed to going to the Windy Ryon roping with some girlfriends,” says Kay. “I knew I should stick with it, so I hit the road pretty hard. My daughter ran my business so I could spend the winter roping in Arizona.” Putting 36,000 miles on her odometer last year proved healing for Kay, restoring her desire to rope almost as soon as she had questioned it.
When she’s not roping, Kay is working from home in her animal cremation business, which she started in 2006. “I have a contract with vets in eastern Iowa, and I pick up animals, cremate them, return ashes, and start all over again. I wanted to do something helpful, but after I did the first one, I didn’t think I could keep going,” Kay admits. “Yet I couldn’t believe how appreciative people were, and I decided I could do it after all. I’ve taken everything from dogs and cats to horses, llamas, alpacas, ferrets, albino crows, flying squirrels, and snakes.”
After achieving a longtime goal of hunting elk in New Mexico this fall, all of Kay’s weekends have been spent at ropings, including the second annual Mike Stevens Memorial Roping held in Bethany, Mo. “Friends come and rope at my house every night,” she says. “The Priefert Automatic Chute is the only way to go, and my heeler, K.O., runs the steers down the arena and loads them. Mike taught her how to do it.” K.O. was named when Kay figured she’d get kicked out for bringing another puppy home to Mike, but he and K.O. were quick to make friends. “Now she goes with me everywhere – she’s my right hand man!” Kay says with a laugh. Likewise, she is never at a roping without Walmart, a black gelding with a strikingly long mane and tail. “He was Mike’s heel horse and last year I decided to head on him,” says Kay. “Mike named him, saying he was so lazy, you had to put a quarter in him to make him go, like the horse rides at Walmart. But I love him – he’s my main man!”
With only one USTRC roping held in Iowa, Kay travels to Nebraska, Colorado, Missouri, Oklahoma, Ohio, Tennessee, and Indiana, to qualify for the USTRC finals. “Rodeo is very popular here in Iowa,” says Kay. “There are lots of ropings, and we have the IRCA and MSRA rodeos.” Kay competes in all-girl rodeos and was also a member of the WPRA for several years, winning the Great Lakes Reserve Team Roping Champion title in 2011. At the close of her 15th season in the USTRC, Kay says, “A personal goal of mine is to win more money and go to some of the bigger USTRC ropings, and I’d like to get into the Cruel Girl standings. Roping is my passion. It turned into my life, and I love it!”
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