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Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016

Driving force: Jaycee wives choose to embrace rodeo

Friday, August 11, 2006

Wendy Cox, who's married to Sikeston Jaycee Jimmy Cox, prepares cookie platters at the Jaycee Sponsors Building.
SIKESTON -- Throughout the past 54 years, the Sikeston Jaycees have pulled off one successful rodeo after another.

But one has to wonder just how successful the annual events would be if it weren't for the real driving force in these men's lives -- their women.

"I try to be as supportive as I possibly can," said Rose Harper, who is married to this year's Sikeston Jaycee Bootheel Rodeo Chair Chris Harper.

During rodeo week, Harper will usually take supper to her husband at the rodeo grounds.

"I'll bring him a big sweet tea because he can use a cold drink -- and a little caffeine," Harper said.

Knowing her husband has a lot of responsibilities as chair, Harper even offered this year to pick up a sign for display at the rodeo. She recalled the day she took her husband's truck and drove to the sign place.

"I thought I was only picking up a little banner. When I got there, they told me to back up the truck (for loading)," Harper said.

Then about 20 large metal signs were loaded into the bed of the truck. "They were hanging off and sliding out, and I thought, 'I'm going to go to jail,'" Harper said about driving through town with the truck full of signs.

Leann Balcer came to the aid of her husband one year when he forgot the meet and greet passes; he'd left them at home.

"He called in a panic, and I made a rush trip to the rodeo grounds," Balcer recalled.

Balcer has done other "running" for her husband and the Jaycees before. One year they needed a tent and she searched around town to find one.

"Other than that, I just try to keep his jeans clean," Balcer said.

But Wendy Cox knew what she was getting into when she married her husband, Jimmy, 24 years ago. The two started dating when she was 16, and Jimmy was an up-and-coming Jaycee.

"His dad was a past rodeo chair and he was working in concessions. We went out and helped him run the snowcone stand," Cox said.

For years, Cox and her husband worked in the concessions. In 2000, he served as rodeo chair, and today they work in the sponsors building.

"My thing was jump in with both feet and help them out -- and that doesn't work for some of the wives. That was my way of doing it," Cox said.

The couple have four children ranging in age from 9 to 23 who can be found helping around the rodeo grounds.

"We made it part of our life. It's for the kids' lives. Hopefully, one day if they come back here, they'll be involved. Jimmy was second generation Jaycee. Maybe my kids will be third generation," she said.

With four children ranging in age from 1 to 15, it's kind of hard not to have a stressful week during rodeo, Harper said. Plus, three of the four children have birthdays before, during and after the week of the rodeo.

"He's really great though and tries to be there," Harper said about her husband. "It's going pretty smooth though and he's not having any problems."

For Balcer, her introduction to the rodeo was a little different. Balcer and her husband, Scott, moved to Sikeston from Illinois about 15 years ago.

"He got in the Jaycees to meet people, and we've made great friends through the Jaycees," Balcer said.

Over the past 15 or so years Balcer's husband, Scott, has been involved with the Jaycees and the rodeo, he's missed family events such as reunions or vacations. The Balcers have two sons ages 12 and 16.

"When the kids were younger, it was tough for me (during rodeo week). School starts around the same time, and I work. I'd have to get school supplies and register the kids for school," Balcer said.

Like many of the Jaycee wives, Balcer hasn't seen her husband much this week or the previous, but it's OK, she said.

"I'm real proud of what they do," Balcer said.

And that seems to be the running theme among the wives.

"We know it's coming up and we just don't sweat about it," Balcer said. "The rodeo does so much for the community."

The experienced Jaycee wives advised women whose spouses or boyfriends are just getting into the rodeo scene to have a little patience and understanding.

"I was kind of northern girl when we moved here, I had no clue about rodeos. Now I think I enjoy it more because I understand it," Balcer said "And as the kids get older, you get more relaxed."

Plus, it's not like the Jaycees are out there having fun the entire time, Balcer said.

"They work their butts off," Balcer said. "Those guys are out there working and not playing -- and do it all year round."

Cox said she would like to see other spouses or significant others get involved with the rodeo.

"This is a very important part of the community. It's a very important event for the Jaycees ... It puts so much back into the community," Cox said. Harper has endured the rodeo for the past 10 or so years, and it's always been OK, she said.

"I like to come out here (to the rodeo) and enjoy it," Harper said. "I'm just his wife -- not his mom. I can't tell him what to do. This is his hobby and he enjoys it so much and he works so hard."

Besides, Harper said, her husband could have a worse hobby.

"He's doing a good thing for the community," Harper said with a bit of pride. "It's so selfless."