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An angel in the saddle

Steve Ranson
sranson@lahontanvalleynews.com
Friends and siblings euologized Rachel Hendrix as a caring girl who loved her family and rodeo competition.
Picture This Photography by Tyree Thacker |

Speakers described Rachel Hendrix as a young lady who loved the thrill of competition in the rodeo arena and was devoted to her family, her church and studies.

More than 1,000 people attended the funeral of the 18-year-old Hendrix at the North Taylor Street Church of Latter Day Saints Saturday to pay their final respects to the Southern Utah University freshman who died Jan. 26 as a result of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning.

Wayce Pulham, her boyfriend who was also overcome with carbon monoxide poisoning, remains in a northern Utah hospital in fair condition.

Many mourners, including the SUU rodeo team from Cedar City, traveled hundreds of miles from both Nevada and adjacent states to honor the legacy of a young cowgirl who became a Nevada State High School Rodeo champion and a top five finisher two years in a row at the national finals.

Traci Miller offered a looking glass into her younger sister’s life beginning with her toddler days to when she left for southern Utah last year. Miller said Hendrix’s first horse was obstinate, but it eventually made her sister a competitor in rodeo.

“Rachel has this talent to get on a horse and make it successful,” Miller said, adding her sister had a very special bond with her barrel racing horse.

“Hard work created a champion,” Miller added.

Hendrix respected her competition, and because of that, Miller said her sister never complained. When a Colorado newspaper interviewed Hendrix, Miller said the cowgirl preferred to discuss her family and their support instead of her accomplishments.

“She was such a humble winner,” Miller said.

Hendrix grew up in Las Vegas until her family moved to Fallon in 2007, natural roots for her father, Clay, who graduated from Churchill County High School in 1980. Miller said Rachel was amazing as a student, carrying a 4.0 or better grade point average and always studying and doing her homework.

Or how she achieved her Medallion, which showed the progress she made as a young lady in the Mormon faith.

Miller related a telephone call she received from Hendrix last fall telling her of a conversation she had with her boyfriend. According to Miller, Hendrix said her boyfriend told her he loved the Fallon cowgirls.

“I was so happy someone loved her so deeply,” Miller said.

Kelsie Leas was both Rachel’s competitor and later a teammate at the National High School Finals Rodeo. The Las Vegas cowgirl said Hendrix always talked about her family, her mother’s cooking, her likeness for steak and potatoes and the opportunity to meet new people.

Leas reflected on a time when they were watching television one night.

“She (Rachel) said she wanted to dye her hair, we went to to Walmart, (and) she picked a color she liked,” Leas said.

When it came time to dye her hair, Leas said Rachel gave her the box with the intent to dye her friend’s hair.

“‘Here you go,’ Rachel told me.”

Likewise, Brittany Berry said Rachel was a personable person when they first met several years ago.

“At the national finals in Gillette, Wyo., Berry said they didn’t know each other well, but at the end of nationals, they were inseparable.

“I will always remember her laugh and the good memories with her,” she said.

Younger brother Cord Hendrix said his sister worked harder than anyone else because she enjoyed winning.

“She worked hard to get it right,” said Hendrix. “She practiced and practiced and practiced.”

Cord Hendrix, though, also showed his sister’s gentle side when helping novice cowgirls. At one rodeo, he remembered Rachel helping a girl who was having problems in her event.

“Rachel stepped in and explained to her how to swing this rope right,” Hendrix explained.

Hendrix said he and his sister may have had their differences, but at the end of the day, he said they loved each other.

“I will miss Rachel and will always miss Rachel,” he said, his voice choking.

Richard Hutchings offered the spiritual remarks for Hendrix. A longtime friend of the Hendrix family, he talked of Rachel’s love of family and church and of the friendship his son Scott had with her. Hutchings emailed his son, who is in Scotland on a mission for the church, of her death; Scott replied the news was too much to bear.

Social media responses also caught Hutchings’ attention, especially the comments left on Facebook.

“Amazing what the people have posted,” he said. “This gives me confidence that Rachel is with God.”

Hutchings also said Rachel Hendrix knew how to handle a horse and did her best in performances.

“At 18 Rachel accomplished a lot,” Hutchings said.

During his remarks, Hutchings was periodically overcome with grief yet he reaffirmed everyone’s love for Hendrix and how fragile life is.