clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Faith, family come first for Mormon cowboy

Cotton Rosser has led the life a young Thomas S. Monson dreamed of.His lifelong passion for cowboys, rodeos and the Great American West has brought him in contact with numerous dignitaries and leaders, from former U.S. presidents to governors and church apostles.Even at the age of 82, Rosser produces around 50 rodeos throughout the country each year.One of Rosser's fondest memories came at a recent Days of '47 Rodeo in Salt Lake City with the opportunity to meet President Monson and President Dieter F. Uchtdorf."One of the highlights for my wife and me during our whole rodeo career," Rosser said of the meeting.During this encounter Rosser was reminded of a story from President Monson of how the then-9-year-old future church leader imagined his future."'What do I want to be when I grow up?' Almost without hesitation, I wrote the word cowboy. At lunch that day I reported to my mother my response. I can almost see Mother now as she admonished me, 'You get right back to school and change that to banker or lawyer!' I obeyed Mother, and all dreams of being a cowboy vanished forever," President Monson said in a 1991 general conference address.Rosser has an infectious passion for all things cowboy and is always excited to share this with others.At a recent rodeo event in Utah, President Uchtdorf and his grandchildren were in attendance. The grandchildren were visiting from Germany and had never ridden a horse, which presented an opportunity Rosser could not resist. He excitedly rounded up the willing grandchildren and led them around the arena and parking lot on the back of a horse.Rodeo pageantry, horses and the smiles they elicit are behind Rosser's driving passion as an ambassador for rodeo.Children and family have always been important to Rosser.His own rodeo career included many successes, namely an all-around championship at the Grand National Rodeo in San Francisco in 1951.A tragic tractor accident left him with broken legs and unable to compete.The injury turned into a blessing for Rosser. He sees it as one of his defining moments and one of the best things that has happened to him."The best thing that's ever happened on a tractor," he said.Rosser acquired the Flying U Rodeo Company in 1956 and has turned it into a family operation."Cotton's been fortunate to raise the family in the sport of rodeo," his wife, Karin, said. "We've struggled to make a living but we're struggling together to make that living."Cotton and his wife, a former Miss Rodeo Utah, met more than 30 years ago during the Ogden (Utah) Rodeo Days. Karin Allred grew up in Utah and is a lifelong Mormon.The two married shortly after and now live in California. They attend the Wheatland Ward, Yuba City Stake, and are eagerly awaiting the completion of the new church building for their ward.Rosser took a while to fully come around to his wife's faith before being baptized in 2004.Four years later in November 2008, Cotton and Karin were sealed in the Salt Lake Temple."It's the best decision I've ever made," Rosser said of marrying his wife.The title of a "family man" contrasts starkly with the image of a cowboy in Rosser's adolescence and early career."When I was growing up the cowboy image was so rough-and-tumble, nowadays everything is different," Rosser said. "They're athletes."Rosser has kept his focus on families and showmanship."We strive to provide the best, most inexpensive family entertainment around," Rosser said of his philosophy in producing rodeos.The lifelong horseman has been honored with numerous awards, including the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association Stock Contractor of the Year. Rosser was also recently elected to the Rodeo Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City, Okla., adding to his distinguished legacy in rodeo.