College Cowgirls: Ranchwomen Wilson and Ramsbottom CNFR alumniWritten by Jennifer Womack
Traveling to Klamath Falls, Ore. for the rodeo, they say a lot has changed in college rodeo, and rodeo in general, since their days on the road. The sport has gotten faster, the horses more specialized and the women’s events more numerous. Sally and Clara are among those college rodeo alumni who will be recognized during the June 14-20 College National Finals Rodeo in Casper.
According to Sharon Adams with the college rodeo alumni group, the first women’s all around award was presented in 1951 to Jo Gregory Knox of Texas. Women’s teams began competing at the event at the 1961 finals in Sacramento, Calif. with the team from Sam Houston State winning the women’s team honors. Sally and Clara were also competitors at that National Finals held in Sacramento.
The men’s team from the University of Wyoming — Frank Shepperson, Leon Cook, Al Smith, Fred Wilson, Jim Moore and Jerry Kaufmann — took men’s team honors at the 1961 rodeo. Members of the team will be inducted into the University of Wyoming Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame in September of this year.
Unlike today, Sally says competitors used the same ranch horse for multiple events. At the time women competed in two college rodeo events — goat tying and barrel racing. Heading down the road with a pickup pulling a two-horse trailer with the manger above and the tack compartment below, Clara says the University reimbursed them for mileage at a rate of 10 cents per mile.
Sally says there were a dozen or so rodeos each year. Much like today, members of the rodeo team would travel to the rodeos on Friday and return home on Sunday. “Getting a college education was my top priority,” says Sally. Rodeos for the region were held in Montana, Colorado, Nebraska, Utah and Wyoming. Two of the rodeos were held in indoor arenas.
“We didn’t have any practice facilities like they do today,” says Clara who studied physical education. The team did have Carrol Schoonover, a teacher in the college’s agricultural department, as an advisor. “We were on our own to practice,” says Clara.
“I learned to goat tie on a chair leg in my dorm room,” laughs Sally, who studied biology in the College of Education at the University of Wyoming. “I’d never even had a hold of a goat.”
Both the Sheppersons and the Wilsons have a long history at the CNFR. Clara’s husband Fred won the bareback riding in 1962 and was a member of the 1961 champion team from the University of Wyoming. Their daughter, Lonnie Farella, also competed at the event.
Sally, who took fourth place for all-around in 1959, was one of many from the Shepperson family to compete at the event. Her brother Frank Shepperson won the steer wrestling championship in 1964 and her niece Amy Shepperson won the breakaway roping in 2000.