Were you watching last night’s semifinals at the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo with me, and wondering what Trey Yates was talking about when he mentioned the guardian angels who ride shotgun with him every time he ropes? Well, he was cool enough to take my call this morning while ordering pancakes, to tell me about the initials on that feather in his hat.
“They were all special young people in my life who left us way too soon,” said three-time National Finals Rodeo heeler Trey, 28. “They were family friends I junior rodeoed with, college rodeoed with and jackpotted with. I have several more guardian angels, and it’s never easy to lose someone special. These are the ones God called up early. Every night when I pray right before bed, these faces flash in my mind, and I thank the Lord for their special part in my life.”
Trey’s aunt and NFR barrel racer Kelly Yates is friends with Kathryn McDowell of KT Beadwork. Kathryn crafted that feather for Trey with his dearly departed friends’ initials on it. Last night—when Trey and Jake Clay’s 5.7-second run won their semifinals set and advanced them to tonight’s Fort Worth finals—was the first night Trey had that feather in his new hat.
TV: Terrel Vineyard was a young Nebraska cowboy who was struck by lightning while out working on his best horse, Dose, who also died.
“Terrel and I went to college together at Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne (Wyoming),” Trey remembers. “He was just a happy, positive guy who really enjoyed roping. We shared that common interest, and became good friends.”
BW: Brady Wakefield was a young Nebraska timed-event cowboy who died in a road accident in 2015.
“Brady and I were about the same age, and competed against each other growing up,” said Colorado-raised Trey. “Our relationship was as competitors, but we were friends outside the arena. Brady was a fierce competitor, and very talented in all the events he competed in. When he put his name down in any event, he could beat you. We thought a lot alike as competitors—fierce.”
LL: Lariat Larner was a talented young Texas cowgirl who rodeoed for Tarleton State University in her hometown of Stephenville before pursuing her master’s degree at Oklahoma State University, where she also served as assistant rodeo coach. A road accident took her in 2021.
“Lariat was a happy, positive person, and we became close friends,” Trey said. “We spent valuable time together in person and on the phone, and we both cherished our friendship.”
SA: Sydney Arthur was the daughter of NFR header Todd Arthur and his wife, Donna, and a talented Texas cowgirl in her own right. Sydney was a nursing student at Hill College, and died in a road accident last fall.
“Sydney and I were great friends,” Trey said. “Her brother, Forrest (Fisher), and I are about the same age, and came up the rodeo ranks together. Sydney was always smiling, and always had your best interest at heart. She was very special that way.”
TG: Talented young Arizona team roper Tyler Getzwiller, whose nickname was Froggy and was the son of Joe and nephew to NFR heeler JB Getzwiller, died in 2020.
“Tyler and I first spent time together the first time I went to Arizona in the winter, when I was 17,” Trey said. “He was a dominant heeler there at that time, and I got to head for him at some ropings when I was young. Later, when I bought a place in Arizona, he’d come and rope with me at least every other day. Tyler was just fun and happy, and he loved to jackpot. He had the best morale, and was one of the best buddies I’ve ever had.”
TF: Teigen Finnerty was a talented young all-around cowboy from Wyoming who died in a 2018 road accident.
“Teigen and I college rodeoed together, and our dads (Dean Finnerty and JD Yates) were great friends also,” Trey said. “It’s like our dads’ friendship went straight down to our generation. I only entered the bulldogging one time, and I rode Teigen’s horse and he hazed for me. He let me haze on his horse a lot at the college rodeos. Teigen was always happy, and when he asked how you were doing, he meant it and he cared. Dean and I still talk, and when he tells me he loves me, he means it.”
Now you know a little bit about what those initials on that feather in his hat mean to Trey. As for his new partnership with Jake Clay, “He’s very talented with his rope, and he wants to win. So our minds work the same when it comes to the arena. We’re both young and single, and roping is all we think about. Our goals are the same.”
And that, of course, includes a successful finish in tonight’s finals in Fort Worth. Here are the big eight who roped their way into the final showdown, in the order they’ll rope:
- Brenten Hall and Kaden Profili
- Cole Thomas and Dylin Ahlstrom
- Jake Clay and Trey Yates
- Dustin Egusquiza and Levi Lord
- Kaleb Driggers and Jake Minor
- Clint Summers and Jake Long
- Ty Arnold and Tyler McKnight
- Clay Smith and Coleby Payne
Good luck, everybody! And God bless Trey’s guardian angels.