When Massey Ferguson #8.5 WSTR Finale Champion heeler Radar Shepherd backed in the Priefert box at Finale XVI with long-time friend Blake Beck to win $233,000, Shepherd was still sporting the Reserve Champion Junior Livestock Hog buckle that he won 10 years ago.
“I won this in 1999 and I’ve wore it ever since,” explained Shepherd, 36, who used to show and still farms pigs. “I’ve won some team roping buckles and stuff, and everyone kept asking why I don’t wear one. In my mind I kept thinking I won’t change it until I win a World Series Finale buckle.”
To Shepherd, though, this new buckle means a whole lot more than a shiny new trinket and big payout. One week prior to the entry deadline for the 2019 Finale, Shepherd’s mom Cindy gave him the money he needed to enter. But not long after, Cindy was diagnosed with cancer. Just one week later, on December 6, 2019, she passed away peacefully. Beck, who had known Cindy all his life, had called the WSTR office to see about drawing out their team, but Shepherd said no.
“We only knew she was sick for about a week,” Shepherd said. “One of the last things she said to me was go out there and bring home big money. I definitely felt like I had an angel with me.”
Cindy’s services were held the Wednesday before the #8.5 Finale in the family’s hometown of Lake Shore, Utah, just days before the boys had to leave for Vegas.
“We were absolutely roping for Cindy,” said Beck, who lives in nearby Spanish Fork.
The friends and family cheering on the Utah team in the short round rode a rollercoaster of emotion as they watched them take the lead from second call back, and then watched the high call team go out with a no-time.
“Last year I missed the first steer I roped out here and I wasn’t going to do that again,” said Beck. “We just said let’s go make the best runs that we can.”
Shephard hadn’t missed a day of roping since January 29, whether it was roping the dummy, or a full-on practice session. It paid off when the duo first made the short round in the #8.5 outdoor qualifier. They came up just short but had built some confidence going into the main event.
“We practice together a lot at home,” said Shephard, who first met Beck showing youth livestock.
Beck is now a commercial loan officer for Mountain West Small Business Financial and operates a small family farm. He also trains a few horses on the side, including the 5-year-old sorrel Eyesonthegun that he was riding at the Finale. He bought “Reno” via an online advertisement and had to put nearly 300 pounds on the horse to get him where he wanted him.
“He couldn’t even lope a circle when I bought him a year ago,” Beck explained. “He took his first steer out of the box in May and I took him to his first roping in August. He really felt like he just needed a job. He’s been great.”
It was more than a job well-done for Beck and Reno, Radar and his horse Chip Dip—it was a dream come true and a promise fulfilled, and one heck of a way to round out the Ariat WSTR Finale XIV.