Friends express disbelief over cowgirl’s death
January 28, 2014
Friends have expressed shock during the past several days after learning that a talented cowgirl in the arena and exceptional student in the classroom died Sunday in southern Utah.
Rachel Hendrix, a Nevada State high school rodeo champion who graduated from Churchill County High School in 2013, was found dead Sunday morning in the living accommodations of her horse trailer in southern Utah. She was attending Southern Utah University in Cedar City on both academic and rodeo scholarships.
The Iron County Sheriff's Office said Hendrix died from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning.
Detective Dave Mitchell said the boyfriend, Wayce Pulham, notified the Iron County Sheriff's Office late Sunday afternoon, saying Hendrix would not respond. Mitchell said Pulham was transported to a hospital in northern Utah with carbon monoxide-related symptoms.
“The time that I spent with Rachel both in Vegas and here in Fallon was truly a gift. Rachel was that girl that had the talent and the drive that made her the class act and the champion that she was. Clay and Annette gave me an opportunity to become a part of their family while I was at UNLV. I had the opportunity to see Rachel work hard everyday tying goats, roping with her dad and riding her barrel horses while she was in elementary school.”
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From there, authorities notified the Churchill County Sheriff's Office.
According to Mitchell, the generator that powered the heater was found too close to the trailer. Both Pulham and Hendrix were staying at Kanarrabille, Utah, about 13 miles south of Cedar City. Mitchell said he did not know why they were stopped at that small Utah town of 300.
"This is very tragic for both towns," Mitchell said, referring to both Fallon and Cedar City.
Clay Hendrix, Rachel's father, said he has been in contact with the Pulham family.
"All we know is Wayce is in a hospital fighting for his life," Hendrix said. "His family is very concerned. We talked to them but they don't know everything that happened."
The Hendrix family left for Cedar City Tuesday morning to bring home their daughter's possessions and to see the Pulhams.
Those who work with Clay Hendrix, a member of the Churchill County School Board, were shocked.
"The board and myself are sad for the family," said Superintendent Dr. Sandra Sheldon.
Sheldon said the board and school district wish the best for the children and that their thoughts and prayers go to the family during this time.
"I didn't know her personally, but I have heard great things about her," Sheldon said.
School Board President Ron Evans said Rachel Hendrix was a wonderful young lady. He said it's a tremendous loss to lose a child who had such a great future ahead of her.
Hundreds of competitors and acquaintances from both Nevada and adjoining states have expressed their condolences on numerous Facebook sites since they learned of the tragic news.
Others stopped in at her family's ranch southwest of Fallon on Monday to give their heartfelt remarks.
Kassi Venturacci, who won numerous state and all-around tiles while a student at CCHS, also offered her condolences to the family Monday afternoon. When Venturacci attended UNLV, she stayed a year with the Hendrix family before they returned to live in Fallon.
Clay Hendrix said Venturacci worked with Rachel on her rodeo events.
"The time that I spent with Rachel both in Vegas and here in Fallon was truly a gift," Venturraci said. "Rachel was that girl who had the talent and the drive that made her the class act and the champion that she was. Clay and Annette gave me an opportunity to become a part of their family while I was at UNLV. I had the opportunity to see Rachel work hard everyday tying goats, roping with her dad and riding her barrel horses while she was in elementary school.
"Her parents didn't have to tell her to go practice and ride her horses … she did it all on her own. She always strived to be the very best that she could be and never took for granted the opportunities and talents she had. She was then and always has been a champion of champions."
One of Hendrix's rivals in almost every event was Maddison Jaureguito, who attended school in Washoe County.
"Over and over again I have opened Facebook, written something down, quickly erased it, and logged off," she said. "Sometimes it's your heart that feels so many things at once that even though you desperately want to let it all out, you just don't know how. I've been at a loss of words for a day now."
Although the two competitors weren't close as friends, they developed admiration for each other's sills.
"We all knew you were tough," Jaureguito continued. "You were a winner inside of the arena and out, and proved it time and time again. But, you Rachel, have left behind a gift that most people do not. You have given a substantial group of people the gift of life.
"From the sparkle on those beautiful eyes, to the infectious laugh, the need for victory in your soul, and the warmth from your heart. You have touched many lives."
In a telephone interview Tuesday morning, Hendrix's roping partner at Southern Utah University said Rachel Hendrix was a very competitive roper, one of the best.
"When she ran barrels, she was a tough competitor," said Jake Rocko, a sophomore at SUU. She was very good and a great team roper."
Although they struggled during the first semester in team roping, the Silver City, N.M., native said they performed well during practices and at jackpot ropings.
"We did great," Rocko said. "She was one good person. We got along real well and never had a disagreement. Every time I rodeoed with her, we had great fun. She was a great sport."
Yet, Rocko will also remember one more attribute that made Hendrix special … her smile.
"She was always smiling, always ready to go," he added.
He said the entire SUU rodeo team is traveling to Fallon for Saturday's funeral.
Kayla Norcutt, a fellow high school competitor from Fallon who now attends Feather River College in Quincy, Calif., also looked back on their high school careers.
"When I think back on high school rodeo, I will always remember Rachel and the way that she always saw the positive in things," Norcutt wrote. "Her laugh was one that could make you laugh for no reason. God has taken an angel that we all knew and loved. And soon we will all be reunited in that rodeo in the sky."
Hendrix loved rodeo, and that was evident by her dedication to the sport and the awards she won.
At last year's National Finals High School Rodeo in Rock Springs, Wyo., Hendrix earned third place in breakaway roping and fifth in the All-Around Cowgirl.
"It was a really good week to end my high school career," she told the LVN. "It's been a long four years, but they were all good. Every year I made nationals and I did better each time. I am just happy I could represent my state, meet new kids and have fun."
She qualified for the national rodeo finals in cutting (second), barrel racing (fourth), breakaway roping (fourth) and was the Reserve All-Around Cowgirl. In addition, she also qualified for the Silver State International Rodeo in pole bending (sixth) and goat tying (sixth).
At the 2012 national finals rodeo, Hendrix finished fourth in barrel racing and sixth in the All-Around Cowgirl standings after having a good run at the Nevada State High School Finals that was held at the Churchill County Fairgrounds. Hendrix took the All-Around Cowgirl title and barrel racing at the Nevada State High School Finals Rodeo. She also tied for second-place in pole bending and placed third in cutting to qualify in all three events for the high school finals.