The high drama of the ProRodeos season’s final days proved riveting for fans and competitors alike as team roping delivered clutching performances right through the Sept. 30 cut-off date. Calculators buzzed as bubble competitors for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo and for the 13 PRCA Circuit Finals Rodeos took their final shots for 2022.
Amidst the finals action, though, history was being made by all-around talent Cadee Williams, now set to compete in the team roping at her first Ram Montana Circuit Finals Rodeo in January, just a month after she competes in her first Wrangler National Finals Breakaway Roping.
Williams, however, is not the first woman to earn a circuit finals rodeo berth in a PRCA-sanctioned event—in fact, she’s not even Montana’s first.
In a wrap-up celebration of September’s inaugural #WomenInRodeoMonth, here’s a look at the ladies who competed with the best and advanced to ProRodeo’s championship events.
Mary Salmond: First Female Circuit Finals Team Roper
It didn’t take long for a cowgirl to break the glass ceiling after the PRCA’s circuit system began in the late 1970s. Less than a decade later, Montana’s Mary Salmond was the first lady to qualify to compete in a circuit finals rodeo in the team roping.
A multi-event star through high school and college rodeo, Salmond says she didn’t get serious about her team roping until college.
“My parents owned a ranch, so I always roped,” she said. “But it wasn’t until college that I really got with it in the team roping. I had a nice heel horse.”
Salmond qualified for the National High School Finals Rodeo in the barrels and goat tying and made the College National Finals Rodeo in the team roping, too. Finishing as the Reserve National Champion Breakaway Roper, she helped her Montana State team win the national title in 1986.
A year later, as a heeler, Salmond won the Montana Circuit Finals Rodeo with her husband, Mark, qualifying for the then-Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo in Pocatello, Idaho, in the spring of 1988—to date, the only woman to do so in a PRCA-sanctioned event.
“I went to the Montana Circuit Finals at least four times, but I think a few more,” Salmond said.
Though she doesn’t remember exactly which years, it was in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
“One year, they took the top 10 or 12, and those guys could invite a partner and I got invited that time. I think that was 1986.”
Throughout her run of circuit finals appearances, Salmond also competed in the barrels at the 1991 National Finals Rodeo.
Though the team stayed mostly in Montana, Salmond does remember one winter when they traveled south and competed in Tucson and the old Phoenix Jaycees rodeo.
“We won second in a go there,” she said of the rodeo, which used to attract many of the top teams. “We placed at the circuit finals a few times and I remember, one year, we won Butte and Drummond, back-to-back. That was pretty neat.”
Salmond said that the same competitors were going to the PRCA rodeos and the Northern Rodeo Association events at the time, where she was also a standout all-around competitor.
“I don’t remember it being that big of a deal,” she said of a woman competing in the male-dominated event. “I’d seen them all; we were friends with them.”
Today, Salmond has more or less hung up her rope.
“I’m chute help now,” she joked.
Daughters Celie and Molly are both outstanding ropers, as well, ranked 13th and 5th in the 2022 WPRA ProRodeo Montana Circuit standings. Molly is rodeoing for her mom’s alma mater, Montana State, and finished fourth at the 2022 CNFR in the breakaway.
“Celie heads, as well, but they both heel.”
A Breakout Star
Tammy West-White: First Female Team Roper to Make California Circuit Finals
California was the center of the ProRodeo team roping world once upon a time, so it’s no surprise that two of the first three cowgirls to rope in the RCA/PRCA hailed from the West Coast. Sammy Thurman Brackenbury came first, followed by Salmond and Kathy (Kauzlarich) Salisbury of Newhall, California, who earned their cards just days apart.
The next cowgirl to punch her ticket to a Circuit Finals Rodeo after Salmond was also a California girl, Tammy West-White.
White was cutting her own path even before she hit ProRodeo, becoming the first girl to win the California State High School Rodeo title roping with Daniel Green, who would go on to be an NFR roper. She qualified to the National High School Finals Rodeo twice (but was only able to compete once due to financial constraints).
Later, White became the first lady to conquer the PRCA team roping, too, advancing to the Circuit Finals Rodeo in her home state of California. Roping with her husband Ryan, White made three California CFRs between 1999 and 2001—in 1999, she and Ryan were named the California Circuit Rookies of the Year in their event. Despite rodeoing almost solely on the West Coast, White landed in the top 50 of the PRCA World Standings in 2000.
White and her husband now own Best Ever Saddle Pads and have two sons, Trey and Colton.
Expanding the Legacy
Jolee (Lautaret) Jordan: First Female Team Roper to Make Turquoise Circuit Finals
After White, Jolee (Lautaret) Jordan was next to get to her circuit finals, competing at the Turquoise CFR in 2003. Jordan was making her second Wrangler NFR run in the barrel racing but took up her rope to spin steers for her father, Darrell.
“We had always rodeoed as a family and there was a piece of that missing when we went full time on the road barrel racing since Dad had a real job that prevented him from hauling hard,” Jordan explained. “But we were already roping together at the regional rodeos in Arizona, and I had an awesome horse at the time which made me think I could compete in the PRCA. It was a fun challenge and allowed us to be together on the road again, at least part of the time.”
Jordan and her dad won second in a round at the CFR that year, just missing the round win behind NFR tie down roper and all-around talent Brent Lewis.
Lewis apologized to the Lautarets for beating them for the win.
“Dad and I chuckled at that one,” Jordan said. “But really, the ProRodeo guys were all pretty supportive and didn’t treat me differently at all. I had roped all through high school rodeo and a year of college rodeo and struggled to find partners because there was still more of a stigma of roping with a girl back then.
“It’s so awesome to see that all but gone today,” she concluded.
Back to the Back End
Jamie Williams: First Female Team Roper to Make First Frontier Circuit Finals
After Salmond and Salisbury broke through the ProRodeo ranks as heelers, the next ladies to follow were mostly headers until Jamie Williams swung the pendulum back to the backside of the team roping equation. Williams qualified to the First Frontier Circuit Finals Rodeo as a heeler in 2012.
“I was going to the rodeos with my husband anyway,” Williams noted.
Her husband Joe is a two-time circuit champion, also as a heeler.
“I roped with the same guys at the jackpots,” she explained, “so I decided to give it a try.”
In her circuit finals season, Williams teamed up with Chad Stoltzfus, who also competed in the steer wrestling. She also roped a year with her father, Kerry Smith.
“My mom and dad and my brother all learned to rope when I did,” she said.
Williams cut her rodeoing short when son, Cooper, started playing baseball—but he’s also decided to take up the family sport in recent years.
“We just couldn’t do both,” Williams said of the time commitments baseball and roping each required. “Now, all he wants to do is rope, rope, rope. He wants to go everywhere.”
Williams runs a small equine rehab facility with treatments available such as an underwater treadmill and she is a vet tech as well. She’s hoping she can eventually talk her son, who is 14, into turning steers for her at the ProRodeos.
“That’s the goal,” she laughed, adding that she’s heading for him currently.
We Can Do Hard Things
Mary Ann Brown: First Female Header to Make First Frontier Circuit Finals
Before Cadee Williams, Mary Ann Brown was the most recent female circuit finalist in the team roping. Brown turned steers for her husband, trainer Kenny Brown, in the First Frontier Circuit. After capturing the win at several regular season rodeos, the Browns advanced to the 2016 First Frontier Circuit Finals Rodeo held at the Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg, where they finished fourth in the three-head average.
“I wanted to get better as a team roper,” Brown said recently in an interview with The Team Roping Journal. “I wanted to be more well-rounded, not just a jackpot roper. I put that on myself. For my own self-gratification, I wanted something hard to do.”
Welcome to the Club
Cadee Williams: First Team Roper to Qualify for a Circuit Finals and the National Finals Breakaway Roping
Cadee Williams set some lofty goals for the 2022 season. The Montana native who now lives in Weatherford, Texas, set out to qualify for the Wrangler National Finals Breakaway Roping and the Montana Circuit Finals Rodeo as a header.
“I’m not sure why I chose to do that,” Williams said in good humor, though the current rules for entering proved challenging throughout the season. “It was very tricky. My husband also calf ropes, so we were trying to enter three events and we can’t buddy our runs together.
“Plus, we’ve got our two little kids,” she added of Honor, 5, and Wyatt, nearly 2. “It was a crazy summer to say the least, but it was all worth it in the end.”
With the 2022 season finalized, Williams can mark both goals off her list.
“This is actually my third year to try for the circuit finals,” she said, noting she has come as close as 14th in previous seasons.
Her first year in the PRCA, she roped with her brother Colt. “We only went to a handful. The second year I roped with my husband back when we were still dating, before we had kids so probably six or eight years ago.”
Husband Landon is a perennial challenger for the circuit’s all-around title and the team kicked off their 2022 campaign with a reserve finish in Roundup on the Fourth of July. After silver finishes at four more rodeos, Williams racked up $6,463, ending 10th in the final regular season standings.
Williams grew up in a roping family—her younger brother Casey is currently leading the Texas Circuit and older brothers Colt and Cody are also pro-caliber ropers.
“I’ve been roping since I could walk; forever,” Williams said. “It was a huge advantage. [My brothers] were definitely tough on me—the good kind of tough that really stepped me up.
“They all roped well and expected that of me too,” Williams continued.
In 2021, Williams got her first taste of the Montana Circuit Finals when she was its first-ever breakaway roping champion. Making the win even more special, Landon captured his own win in the tie down, so the husband-wife duo qualified together for the NFR Open in Colorado Springs in July.
“That was super cool, especially since they only take two in each event,” Williams said. “That’s our goal again, to get to go compete together. We’d love to go and have four chances, two for each of us.”
The family will need to make an adjustment for the Montana CFR this time around.
“We need a full-time babysitter,” Williams laughed. “Last year we didn’t have anyone, but he roped and I watched them and then he watched them while I roped. We won’t be able to do that this year.”
Williams says she’s excited for both championship events this winter.
“I’m very grateful,” she said.
The Real First-Ever
Sammy Thurman Brackenbury: First Female to Team Rope at a PRCA-sanctioned Event
ProRodeo Hall of Fame cowgirl Sammy Thurman Brackenbury is likely the first lady to team rope at a PRCA-sanctioned event, doing so back in the 1960s—Brackenbury roped with her father, Sam Fancher, when his partner did not arrive in time to compete.
As a member of the Girls Rodeo Association, the predecessor of the WPRA, Brackenbury had to receive permission from the RCA leadership to compete in their events. She later competed at the famous California Rodeo in Salinas, but the circuit system was not implemented until the late 1970s.
Keep An Eye On
Whitney DeSalvo: First-Ever Female 8 Heeler
Two years ago, Whitney DeSalvo put her name into the team roping record books when Global Handicaps designated her an 8 heeler, the highest ranking ever given to a female roper.
In ProRodeo this year, the Arkansas roper finished 14th in the Great Lakes Circuit standings.