Veteran Cowboy Rides Away

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Payson's August Doin's lost one of their own Sunday afternoon.

Wayne Jennings, a hazer at the World's Oldest Continuous Rodeo for at least 30 years, died during the steer roping event. "We think he had a heart attack, then fell from his horse," friend Bill Armstrong said.

"All the cowboys respected him. If he'd have picked a place to die it'd be right there in the Payson arena," Armstrong added.

Jennings' protégé and Armstrong's son used to ride bareback horses together and the two men would banter about which young man rode the best and what the judges saw.

"We had fun. He was a good ol' boy," Armstrong said.

"Wayne's been around since the sixties. I don't know anybody who has not ridden his horses," friend and the steer wrestling director for the Turquoise Circuit, Charlie Lewis said.

Jennings bought and traded steer wrestling horses, and at one time had a steer wrestling school.

Cowboys who traveled quite a distance borrowed horses from Jennings, so they could compete. If they lost, Jennings received nothing, but if a cowboy on one of his horses won, Jennings' fee was a percentage of their earnings.

Those same cowboys immediately pooled a fund for Jennings' relatives Sunday.

At the Payson rodeo, Jennings was "always there to give me advice on the timed events -- if I don't know, I can't fix it," Armstrong said.

Jennings was a champion steer wrestler on the Wilderness Circuit in 1978 and the Turquoise Circuit in 1979.

He earned his PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) gold card.

In recent years, Jennings hazed for cowboys twice at the National Finals Rodeo. "Both times those cowboys won," Lewis said.

Preacher, a horse Jennings trained achieved the honor of steer wrestling horse of the year at PRCA several years ago.

Jennings would often regale listeners with stories he experienced in his 73 years as a real cowboy.

"He was a lot of fun to travel with, but the stories he told, I couldn't repeat," Lewis said.

Jennings was a cowboy committed to his profession.

"He never quit," Dennis Fendler said.

Jennings competed at the rodeo Friday, then competed in New Mexico Saturday, then was back in Payson with horses Sunday.

"Wayne was respected and loved by all who knew him. Wayne passed doing what he loved, hazing and riding with his friends. He will be missed greatly," reports the Turquoise Circuit Web site, http://turquoisecircuit.com/tc_members/.

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