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William Whayne Jr. with his horse, Donald

William Whayne Jr. is usually up with the sun to beat the impending triple digit heat, but on this early summer morning a rain shower is knocking down the dust on the Whayne family’s roping arena on the north side of their 7-acre plot. The rain will only stay briefly, but the Whaynes have called this north Tulsa property home for decades.

As the rain moves south toward the Osage Casino Hotel tower that can be seen standing above the trees in the distance, Whayne feeds and waters his 33 calves, which he sends to regional rodeos to be roped. The calves are purchased with his winnings, including five new additions he received the day before that will today be roped for the first time.

This is the daily life of the professional rodeo competitor until the weekend when he’s logging hundreds of miles on his diesel-powered Dodge Ram, traveling to compete from one rodeo to the next. The coming weekend he will rope in “Muskogee on Friday. I’m in Jay, Oklahoma, on Saturday, then on Sunday in Moline, Kansas. Then on Monday I’ll drive to Granbury, Texas, where these cows will be,” he says as he fills their water trough. A friend will drive them down to Texas while he works the weekend rodeo circuit. 

Overall, he will compete in 75 to 100 rodeos this year, including the 2022 Cheyenne Frontier Days in July for the first time. On Aug. 12, he will return to the 67th annual Roy LeBlanc Okmulgee Invitational Rodeo, where he won the buckle eight years before. The Roy LeBlanc is the oldest continuously held Black rodeo in the United States.

The Whayne family arena where he practices his roping is older than he is. His grandmother, Lynne Hill, was a barrel racer who, along with her late rodeoing husband Bimp Carter, encouraged his father, William Whayne Sr., to start roping when he was a teenager. As for Junior, he’s been swinging a rope as long as he can remember. 

“Since the day they put a rope in my hand it’s been like, that’s what I have to do,” says the 29-year-old affectionally known since birth as “Humpty.” Whayne says he knows he will be able to compete for as long as his body holds up, so he is working hard to drop 50 pounds. He’s currently down 30 to 265 pounds. 

Whayne attended Booker T. Washington High School where he took advantage of his size as a defensive tackle and fullback for a Hornets team that won state championships in 2008 and 2010. 

“That was like winning the Super Bowl for me,” says the 2011 graduate who accepted a rodeo scholarship at Connors State College. “I didn’t want to go play college football. I just wanted to do this. My heart has always been into roping calves. That’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.”

In late 2021, Whayne applied and was selected to be on the rodeo reality show competition “Guts and Glory,” which he won earlier this year. That earned him a belt buckle, $25,000 and an entry into March’s The American Rodeo in Arlington, Texas. He fell short of the $2.1 million prize, but American owner Thomas Tull gifted him Donald, a powerful 6-year-old quarter horse that has even boosted the confidence of the rising star who dreams of one day soon competing in the Prairie Circuit Finals, and then ultimately the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. 

“When we talk about the full package, Donald’s got it. He’s big and strong, and he’s fast,” says Whayne as he saddles the horse and prepares to escort the calves to the roping arena to condition them for competition. “Everything this horse does makes calf roping easier than it’s ever been in my life. I don’t know how I got blessed enough to get this opportunity. I just thank God for it every day.”

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