By Ron Kantowski
Las Vegas Review-Journal
In 1987, when I was the new guy on the sports staff, I was assigned to cover the National Finals Rodeo at the Thomas & Mack Center, because that was what the new guy did. Even when the new guy was a city slicker.
A quiet man from Utah named Lewis Feild was awarded the gold buckle for being the best all-around cowboy.
It was the third straight year that Louie Feild had been awarded the gold buckle. But what I mostly remember was explaining to the sports desk that Feild was the correct way to spell his name, "e" before the "i". And that Feild wore a mustache that, combined with his attire, made him look like the Marlboro Man.
I also remember an old Boz Scaggs song called "Slowly in the West." I'm not sure what it was about, only that it couldn't have been about the passage of time in the tumbleweed towns. Because now Lewis Feild has a 28-year-old son named Kaycee who also is proficient with the spurs.
Kaycee Feild will be riding for his fifth consecutive bareback gold buckle in the 2015 NFR beginning tonight at the Thomas & Mack Center. It probably has a lot to do with acorns and trees and gravity.
When I heard that Kaycee and Sage Kimzey, the reigning bull riding champion, would be driving souped-up Corvettes at the Ron Fellows Performance Driving School at Spring Mountain Motorsports Resort in Pahrump on Monday — and that I could ride out there with the bareback king — I thought it might make a story.
The first thing I mentioned was having written about his dad. Kaycee said that was pretty cool, or that I was pretty old, or something to that effect.
Young Feild was wearing a Western shirt adorned with Wrangler Jeans (and other) sponsor patches. Corporate sponsors were just creeping into pro rodeo when his dad was in his prime. But instead of cowboy boots, Kaycee had on sneakers, and instead of a pinch of smokeless tobacco under his lip, there was a soul patch.
He said he still listens to Garth Brooks and the other classic country artists. But when they get ready to open the chutes, he switches to classic rock and hip hop. When you're preparing to ride a bucking horse sans saddle, having friends in low places will only get you so far.
He said like Apollo Creed's son in the movies, he is feeling pretty strong now, because he had cryogenic therapy before setting out to drive the souped-up Corvettes. He survived, and now his bum shoulder and other rodeo injuries don't hurt so much. If one thinks Wyoming is cold when one rises early to do one's chores, Feild said one ought to check out one of those cryo chambers. Brrrr!
Wyoming is where Joe Alexander is from. If Feild wins his fifth consecutive bareback title, he'll equal Alexander's record set from 1971 through '75. Feild said he met Joe Alexander once, that he seemed like a pretty good guy. I'll bet he has never seen the inside of a cryotherapy chamber.
(On the other hand, Feild said he had never met Lucky Blue Smith, though they are both from Spanish Fork, Utah. Lucky Blue Smith would be a great name for a rodeo cowboy, but he's a famous male model, having posed for Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger and appeared in fashion videos with Lady Gaga.)
Feild said he was feeling fairly confident about tying Joe Alexander's record, but check back with him after Round 8 or so.
He said he hasn't seen the sun come up in Las Vegas since 2008. He's married now, and he and Stefanie have started a family, and the honky tonks just don't appeal to him. He asked the two Las Vegas media guys in the SUV if there were a lot of fights in the honky tonks before the sun comes up, as if we would know.
He said he has a busy schedule in Las Vegas, signing autographs and making appearances for sponsors, but that he tries to balance those around spending quality time with other Feilds who will be making the trip down Interstate 15.
"Family is real important to me," he said as the lush desert landscape on Highway 160 was creating a peaceful, easy feeling on the way to the motorsports park.
That was my cue to bring the conversation back around to his old man. When I asked what was the best advice he ever received from Lewis Feild, Kaycee thought about it for like a nanosecond before giving a two-word answer.
We didn't talk about his dad after that.
On Wednesday night, I stumbled upon a Facebook page called Buck Cancer. Lewis Feild recently was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. A few days ago, he started his second round of chemotherapy.
On the Facebook page is a photo of the Hall-of-Fame cowboy with one of his nurses. His head is shaved with only a hint of Marlboro Man stubble on his chin. But he looks good. He is smiling and flashing thumbs up.
When I left his son on Monday, he and Sage Kimzey had just put on their fireproof balaclavas and helmets and had wriggled behind the wheels of those souped-up Corvettes. They, too, flashed thumbs up.
As per his old man's advice, Kaycee Feild appeared to be having fun.