WRWC Commissioner Linsay Sumpter discusses growing up around her legendary grandfather, Cotton Rosser, after his passing in the summer of 2022.
I don’t know what makes a man legend, but I know on June 22 we lost one. It was supposed to be a day to celebrate the birth of my biggest supporter—my husband, Wade—and Uncle Reno, but it turned into the day the king of the cowboys completed his circle of life. Though I knew he was old enough, and his body was ready, I am not sure I was.
He was more than a cowboy. He was a showman, a stock contractor, a man of faith, my grandpa and a legend.
He wasn’t a legend because of what he won. He wasn’t a legend because of what he accomplished. He was a legend because of what he gave, and he gave our family so much. He was a man who gave and taught so many. He was always willing to share his knowledge, life lessons and wisdom with anyone who crossed his path.
I’m not sure I can pinpoint exactly what I learned from him, but I do know that I am the woman I am today because of the lessons I learned from him. I have been asked multiple times by multiple people, “How did you end up this way?” I never really had an answer. I just knew that the knowledge that had been passed down from him and my family was in me. The confidence to walk behind the bucking chutes, flank horses or pull a riggin’, sort stock, back in the box and rope, or carry the American Flag in front of thousands of people, all came from experiences learned with the Flying U Rodeo Company and Cotton Rosser.
I can tell you that being a girl in my family afforded you no favors. If there was work to be done, we all pulled on our boots and got it done. There was no job that had a gender orientation. Working in the rodeo business is not necessarily an easy life. The all-night drives just to set up rodeo arenas when you get there. Packing panels, feeding stock, raking barrels, getting run over by a bucking bull or bucking horse just to do it all again the next day and next weekend.
Grandpa taught all his daughters and me how to work as hard as he did. No job was off-limits for us. A lesson that I will value forever. He never made us feel less than equal in our family. Though, there was always a totem pole to climb and, if you wanted a better job, you had to earn it. The older I got the more responsibility I had. Grandpa would sit back and watch as I grew in my confidence, and he always seemed to know the right time to give praise. Just when I was ready to throw in the towel, he would ride by on his paint horse with a, “Good job. Proud of you.”
I ended up this way because of these small praises and striving to do better. Striving to keep the traditions my family passed down to me alive. I gained confidence in knowing I was valued in my family. My grandfather was a fan of women in the sport. He loved watching cowgirls perform—barrel racers, ropers, trick riders and even rodeo queens. “Pretty women on pretty horses” is always a crowd favorite. He was a huge supporter of breakaway roping.
Knowing that I always had his support allowed me to be the cowgirl I am today. I am my grandfather’s granddaughter; I believe it’s my duty to give back to the sport that has given our family so much. Educating the public on the value of agriculture, the sport of rodeo, hard work and equality for the women of the industry.
I will do my best to honor his legacy and leave the rodeo industry better than I found it—the same way he did.
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