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Young cowboy’s legacy stays strong

Family and friends continue to gather to share Manitoba cattle producer’s passion for horses, kids, and rodeo

The legacy of Casey Brown lives on, as family and friends continue to share his passion for horses, kids and rodeo.

The Lenore, Man.,-area cowboy and horseman was well known for passing along his know-how to the younger generation before the 34-year-old’s life was cut short in an automobile accident in 2011.

The following year, and every year since, the Brown family has honoured Casey’s memory in their own unique way — by hosting a team roping competition — an event near and dear to Casey’s heart.

The Casey Brown Memorial roping weekend has evolved over the years and has grown to include two team roping events, barrel racing and lots of events for the kids including dummy roping, machine roping, live cattle kids roping and peewee barrel racing.

Family members credit Casey as being one of the best horsemen, instructors, and cowboys they have ever known.

The entire group gets involved, with brothers Lonnie and Shane and their wives Jessica and Robyn, and Casey’s dad, Lyle, and his wife, Kathy, doing most of the planning. Other family members and friends help out where they can. Family is important to the Brown clan.

They do it for Casey, but one of the other reasons is for the kids.

At the conclusion of this year’s event, held on a soggy June 15, cowboys gathered in the barn at the Virden, Man., fairgrounds awaiting the awards presentations. The kids, undeterred by the damp weather outside, took turns simulating their heroes in team roping runs with the wheeled roping dummies inside.

Les Brown makes his winning run in the rope-off at this year’s event. | Brenda Hunter photo

“Casey would have loved this,” said Cathy Gerrand, a long-time friend of the Browns, as she watched the young cowboys.

“He had such a gift with the kids.…If you were ever at a high school rodeo or roping somewhere and you couldn’t find Casey, you just had to look for the kids and there he’d be, roping right along with them and helping them out.”

It was thanks to Casey that the Brown brothers roping clinics were resurrected some 14 years ago. Lonnie and Shane still continue to carry on the family tradition each year, which originally started with their dad, Lyle and their uncle, Les, who taught the team roping clinic years ago.

“I hope to expose kids to how much fun roping can be, but that it doesn’t come without hard work and determination,” said youngest brother, Shane.

Shane and Lonnie love to spend time with kids while sharing their passion and knowledge of roping and rodeo.

“If I can share my roping knowledge with a kid, not only am I hoping to teach him/her how to get better at roping, but hopefully instill a thought process in their mind that will help them work through other challenges that come their way,” said Lonnie.

“Even if a kid is never that successful at roping, if they can gain even a little bit of cowboy mentality and integrate that into the way they live their life, hopefully it will help them be more successful.”

Ironically, and fittingly, in a field of 131 teams, their Uncle Les won Hi-Point Roper in a rope-off at the 2019 edition of the Casey Brown Memorial roping.

Casey’s memory lives on in another way, thanks to artist Shannon Lawlor, originally from Kenton, Man., who now lives in Nanton, Alta.

At the time of Brown’s accident, Lawlor was working on a large-scale painting of a Percheron-like draft horse, yet unnamed. She knew it was going to be a special painting for her in a unique way.

“I knew when I was painting it, that it would be a significant piece for me,” said Lawlor. “It was an important piece in my collection before it was even finished, and with that, I knew it needed a title of significance that was easily recognizable.”

Lawlor’s mother called her the next morning to relay the tragic news of the accident, and after sitting in silence and crying for Casey and the others for a moment, she suddenly knew what she would name the painting awaiting her finishing touches on the easel.

“I had known Casey since he was a baby. I wasn’t close to him, but thought highly of him and the entire Brown family for their contribution to the agriculture, equine and rodeo worlds alike,” said Lawlor. “Casey’s father, Lyle, raised Percherons; it just made sense to me in that moment of loss and sadness to honour Casey in some way that I could.”

“I took the original painting out in public once,” said Lawlor of what she still considers one of her best works to date. “It was showcased at the 2011 Calgary Stampede and was purchased by a private collector almost immediately. It is one of my top 10 pieces out of the hundreds of paintings I have done, even to this day.”

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