Gerald Young inducted into the Utah Cowboy Hall of Fame
If you go:
Utah Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum Hall of Fame
10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday
Union Station, 2501 Wall Ave., Ogden
Gerald Young was 5 or 6 when he saw his first rodeo, but by then, he was already comfortable in the saddle.
It was 1930s Oakley and a group got together to put on a rodeo just down the road from Young’s home, the YR Ranch.
“It was great,” Young recalled recently. “I thought I’d like to do it.”
So he did. What started as bucking steers with friends when nobody was looking turned into a brief stint in bareback bronco riding. But he soon decided he’d rather be the one putting on the rodeos rather than riding in them, and he started Young and Young Rodeo with his uncle.
While he remembers his first rodeo, he doesn’t recall learning how to ride a horse. That came so early and naturally, he can’t picture a time when he couldn’t.
Whether it was ranching or rodeos, the cowboy lifestyle has been a part of Young’s identity his entire life. And earlier this month, he earned another accolade for his lifetime of work.
On July 13, surrounded by his children and members of his family, Gerald Young was inducted into the Utah Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum Hall of Fame in Ogden.
When he heard the news, he was sort of surprised.
“Well, what the hell? How come me?” Young, 88, said with a laugh. “I feel pretty honored over it, especially this late in the game. Who knows what made them decide now.”
Gerald Young (pronounced with a hard “g,” like “gumption”) was born in 1930, graduated from South Summit High School in 1948 and remembers quieter times on the East Side.
“Gee whizz, you’d be fortunate to see one or two cars in a day,” he said.
He’s played an integral part in shaping the city’s growth, serving on the Planning Commission for decades and as the chairman of the Oakley Independence Day Rodeo Committee. As a citizen, he said, he doesn’t like to see growth come to his hometown. But as a commissioner, he said he has to see things from the city’s perspective and judge what’s in its best interests.
He’s also been instrumental in growing the Oakley Rodeo into a premier event on the national circuit, drawing world champions to compete for one of the larger overall purses. In 2005, the city opened a $3 million rodeo grounds complex.
Young still hosts the stock for the four-day rodeo at the YR Ranch, which this year came from the Bar T Ranch.
He said the key to a good rodeo is having good stock, which he would supply for the rodeos Young and Young produced.
Animals, like people, are athletic, Young said.
“Your bucking stock, you treat ‘em as good as your saddle horse,” Young said. “I think, I hope the good ones enjoy bucking.”
Young and Young became famous around the state, producing 40 rodeos a year in its heyday, from smaller, one-day affairs to some that lasted four days. Young opened the gate for pretty much every bucking animal and cowboy for the operation’s 25 years of service, he said.
It was a year-round occupation, Young said, involving contracting with the barrelmen, announcers, clowns and specialty acts, arranging the feed and travel accommodations and balancing a schedule where many events happen in a short window of time.
This was while running the YR Ranch full time, which Young said always took precedence.
“It was my base,” he said. He remembered arriving home at 3 or 4 in the morning after driving from the rodeo and being up in the morning to take care of ranch work.
As a young man, he could do it without much trouble, but as the years went on, it started to take a toll. That, and he got tired of dealing with the public.
But he remembered the time fondly, and even though it was difficult work, he said he found most of it fun.
“It was hard, but you grew right into it,” he said. “There was no choice, it was your living. In my day, you did everything that had to be done.”
These days, in addition to his work for the Oakley government, he works the ranch alongside one of his sons, whom he says has mostly taken hold of the operation.
Now, when people visit the Utah Cowboy Hall of Fame, they’ll see a finely embroidered flank strap with the Young and Young logo on it as part of the exhibit. Reflecting on the honor, Young said it wasn’t something he ever aspired to.
“Well, I’ve been a cowboy all my life,” he said. “It wasn’t a rich life. … It was something I loved, I wanted to do.”
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