By Lisa Scott
Red Ryder Rodeo
Mike Ray — horseman, houndsman, outfitter, cowboy — is a lifetime resident of Pagosa Springs who embodies the Code of the West. From the rodeo arena to the high country, Ray “does what has to be done.”
For more than 20 years, Ray has been a Red Ryder Rodeo volunteer and a Western Heritage Event Center board member and officer. All aspects of the Red Ryder Rodeo mattered to Ray. His contributions have been longstanding. Most recently, he organized two auctions that raised seed money for the indoor arena — The Hughes Pavilion. The mutton bustin’ sheep chutes, front and center in a portable trailer, were his vision.
For an entire summer, he voluntarily oversaw and welded this huge pipe arena with its majestic mountain backdrop. Over the years, he has dealt with and set the course for stock contractors, contestants, buckle makers, volunteers, sponsors and specialty acts, and recruited the best groundsman,Tim McRee, to keep livestock and contestants safe. His efforts mirrored his desire not only to maintain but to elevate rodeo cowboys and cowgirls and the western way of life.
Having won the Red Ryder Rodeo All-Around Cowboy title five times is a testament to his ability to “live each day with courage.” Ray competed in every event: saddle bronc, bareback, bull riding, steer wrestling, tie down and team roping. He won his fifth title at the ripe old age of 40. He was a member of the PRCA and competed in the Turquoise Circuit.
“Be tough but fair” was evident in how Ray raised his two daughters, Raesha and Re’ahna, who each started rodeo as sheep riders and went on to compete in all cowgirl events at the high school and collegiate levels. Each has a strong work ethic and can get the job done.
“When you make a promise, keep it” is evident as he has been married to his wife, Gwen, for 33 years.
When you meet Mike Ray, you’ll understand “talk less and say more” as his words and delivery contain no fluff, are honest and knowing.
As sung by Michael Martin Murphy: “The real cowboy’s the one in the middle, He ain’t there by fate, Cause first he don’t have to drive, And, then he don’t have to open the gate.”
The 71st annual Red Ryder Roundup Rodeo committee and the board of the Western Heritage Event Center would like to tip our hats to this real cowboy, Mike Ray, the 2021 Red Ryder Award recipient. We extend our heartfelt thanks for his love of the Red Ryder Rodeo rodeo, his continued contribution to the western culture of this community, and for his loyalty and friendship.