Here at the Tri-City Herald, I have covered many events in my 13 years, including hockey, prep sports and rodeo.
I generally get all four days of the Farm-City Pro Rodeo in Hermiston and all four days of the Horse Heaven Round-Up in Kennewick. Through the rodeos, I have got to meet some of the greatest athletes to rope and ride, but I’ve also got see some of the top horses and bulls in the sport.
Big Bend Flying 5’s Spring Fling was the first horse that caught my eye. She was a beautiful dark brown mare that competed in both bareback and saddle bronc. I saw her compete in Hermiston and Kennewick. When it came to bucking horses, she was the girl. She was one horse five-time world saddle bronc champ Dan Mortensen could never get an 8-second ride on.
As Spring Fling was ending her career, Coconut Roll was coming into her own. The grand dame of the Calgary Stampede bucking program, Coconut Roll made 10 trips to the NFR and 11 trips to the Canadian National Finals.
Coconut Roll retired in 2010. Two years ago she developed Cushing’s disease (an overactive adrenal gland). On July 10, she was euthanized at the age of 20.
The last time I saw Coconut Roll was 2008 at the Farm-City Pro Rodeo. Steven Dent was the lucky cowboy to draw a ride. He turned in an 83 that night, good enough for second place and a check for $4,227.
“It’s 1,500 miles from Lovington, N.M., to Hermiston,” Dent said at the time. “We stopped for fuel and not much else to make it here. It was well worth it.”
Over the years, she helped cowboys earn $550,000.
Coconut Roll’s famous son, Grated Coconut, was a six-time horse of the year and retired a couple of years ago.
Coconut Roll was buried at the entry gates to the Stampede Ranch with her own tombstone, alongside the Stampede’s other much-loved and celebrated bucking legends.
“She was a special, special mare,” said Keith Marrington, Director of Rodeo for the Calgary Stampede and long-time overseer of the Stampede Ranch and Born to Buck program, in a press release. “She had an incredible athletic ability in the arena, and you could just see her competitive spirit and natural pride each time she competed.
“Each time the cowboys drew her name, they’d get excited because they knew she was going to give them a tough ride, but if they could hold on until the horn, they’d have a great shot at being on top of the board.”