The kings of saddle bronc rodeo hail from remote country in Southern Utah. The Wrights have been ranching there, near the town of St. George, for 150 years. Their rodeo ring dominance, and the growing pressure on ranching as a lifestyle, are at the heart of the latest book from John Branch, a Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times sportswriter and Colorado native.
Branch talked to Colorado Matters about “The Last Cowboys” and his time with the Wright family dynasty. Bill Wright has 13 kids, seven of whom are boys. All have competed in professional saddle bronc riding and four are world champions. The Wright family travels thousands of miles each year from rodeo to rodeo, where saddle bronc rides last just eight seconds.
Ranches like the Wrights’ won’t die off tomorrow, but the world is shifting around them. Climate change has caused increased droughts, which change breeding and sale seasons and force ranchers to find new grazing grounds. The Wright ranch’s proximity to Zion National Park also means tourism and development are encroaching on the lands the family needs to graze its cattle.