This weekend my family and I celebrated Memorial Day a little differently. We attended a team roping for a friend that lost a battle with cancer. This Memorial Day weekend we celebrated the first annual Mike Felder memorial team roping.
Kendall Stacy, coupled with his Integrity roping productions put the entire thing together. He bought prizes and furnished the cattle for the roping. Towards the end of the first day he spoke about why they were having the roping. He said, “we are honoring Mike Felder not because he was a great roper, but because he was a great man.”
Mike moved into our area about twenty years ago. He played college baseball and drove race cars. He didn’t start roping until he was fifty three years old. He really liked to team rope. He struggled for a good while. Kaleb Kirby really helped Mike get better.
Mike’s easy going disposition coupled with a big grin and ready handshake allowed him to make friends anywhere he went. He was liked by everyone. I hadn’t seen him in a couple of years and I bumped into him at a new church. The first thing Mike said was that boy of yours can really rope. He always had a compliment. He was so encouraging.
Mike ran a warehouse for a company in Poteau that made these little funny looking trucks. Several of his roping buddies would stop by to visit at his office and rope the dummy. Mike kept a dummy in the warehouse, it was a good conversation starter.
Mike always made time for everyone. He was one of those rare people who was at ease with corporate executives or the janitor. He made everyone feel important. He always listened intently when talking to someone.
I can remember a few times it was really, really hot when we practiced roping. Mike would be covered in dust and sweat. He would laugh and cut up even though he had enough dirt on him to stop up the shower drain. That’s how I remember him. Roping and having fun even it was over a hundred degrees in the shade.
The event was held at Kendall Stacy’s arena at his ranch on highway 270 between Wister and Heavener. Over three hundred teams competed in the two day event. They gave away three saddles, about a dozen belt buckles and over twenty thousand in prize money.
Kaleb Kirby was given a special award. A local artisan, Janna Mankin took one of Mike Felder’s head ropes and made it into a clock. Kaleb helped Mike until he took he last breath.
As they were doing the presentation I was reminded of the scene in Lonesome Dove where Gus died. Woodrow and Gus were close friends. Mike Felder was that close to several of us around here.
Memorial Day 2022 was special, it’s one I won’t ever forget. We honored a fine man who was a good friend to those who knew him. He rode a fine horse and lived a life worth remembering. Rest In Peace my good friend, Mike Felder. You won’t soon be forgotten.
James Lockhart lives near the Kiamichi mountains in southeast Oklahoma. He writes cowboy stories and fools with cows and horses.