Since the PRCA adopted a monetary scoring system in 1945, Feild is among a handful of cowboys to win five world titles in just 3 years. Casey Tibbs, Dean Oliver, Tom Ferguson, and Roy Cooper matched the feat. Only Jim Shoulders surpassed the record, capturing an amazing nine world titles in just 3 years, winning the bareback riding title, the bull riding title, and the all-around in 1956, ’57, and ’58. All of these men, except Lewis Feild, have been inducted into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame, and it is virtually certain that Feild will be memorialized there as well.
As Feild amassed titles, he also amassed a fortune. In 1990, he became the first rough-stock rider in PRCA history with career earnings in excess of $1 million. In 1987, he stretched the record for single-season earnings in the bareback riding event to $114,657. That year, he also established a single rodeo earnings record of $75,219. And, until last year when superstar Ty Murray bumped the single-season arena earnings record to $213,771, Feild held that record, too.
At 34, Feild figures he still has a few good years left in him. ”I’m at an age where I could still ride, but I didn’t want to let this chance pass me by,” he said. The chance he speaks of is to become a rodeo stock contractor. This past summer, he and partners Cindy and Steve Gilbert bought out the Stephens Bros. Rodeo Co. of Middleton, Ida., and formed Lewis Feild’s Diamond G Rodeo Co. Inc. They’re also in the process of purchasing the Silver Lining Rodeo Co. , owned by former bareback rider Mickey Young of Jerome, Idaho.
Other forces conspired to draw Feild away from the hectic competitive schedule that once saw him traveling to more than 100 rodeos a season. This year, he’s cut that schedule to about 60 rodeos and is spending the extra time with his family at his ranch in Elk Ridge, Utah. Feild and his wife, Veronica, have a daughter, Maclee, and two sons, Shadrack and Kaycee. Feild has always put his family first, making extra trips home and taking them on the road with him when he could.
Feild also has a special affection for the Utah mountains, where he spends time fishing, hunting, and exploring on a four-wheel all-terrain vehicle. He was raised in Utah’s Kamas Valley near the small town of Peoa, about 60 miles from his picturesque home in Elk Ridge. It was in Kamas in the early ’60s that Feild saw his first rodeo.
“It was the most exciting thing I had ever seen, to watch those cowboys stay on those broncs. It was love at first sight,” said Feild. After that first experience, young Lewis began learning his craft by riding calves at the Peoa ranch of his parents, Keith and True.
He rode his first bucking horse at the Golden Spike Rodeo in Ogden. “It was a junior rodeo and it was not a full-sized horse, but it bucked and I stayed on. They gave me a buckle for an award … first thing I ever won.”
Later, Feild attended college at Utah Valley Community College and Weber State University, earning his keep on an intercollegiate rodeo scholarship. With the help of some friends, he turned pro in 1980. For Feild, life has been something of a whirlwind.
“Ten years in the business … it’s about the lifespan of a pro football or basketball player. I’ve been lucky physically and the sport has been good to me financially;’ said Feild in a recent newspaper interview. “Only in the last couple of years have I come to realize that I couldn’t do it forever.”
Feild must also take into account the dynamic presence of a new all-around cowboy, Ty Murray. That 21-year-old wonder has claimed the world all-around title for the past 2 years, and could possibly be the dominant champion of the ’90s.
Last year, after winning his second consecutive all-around title at the Pendleton Roundup Rodeo, Feild declared that he was having “one of his best years ever – if it weren’t for Ty Murray.”
As the new decade progresses, Feild hopes that history will recall him fondly. “Someday, when rodeo people look back at what I’ve done, I’d like them to say these things: that I rode tough; I could ride with pain and courage; that I was a fierce competitor in the arena, but a quiet, respectable man outside the gate. I just want to be remembered as a cowboy,” said the soft-spoken champion. “That probably says it all.”
* Lewis Feild passed away February 15, 2016 at the age of 59 after battling stage 4 pancreatic cancer.