Oakley honors local legend Gerald Young

OAKLEY, Utah — Oakley City unveiled a mural Friday ahead of the Oakley Rodeo that honors esteemed resident Gerald Young.

Photo courtesy of Oakley City

Biography of Young:

As a young boy, Gerald and his best friend, Ken Woolstenhulme, had their first initiation to rodeo when they walked over to the meadow just east of what is now known as Stevens Grove, to discover a makeshift arena.

The arena was formed by a snow barrier fence on one end and several vehicles with spectators on hoods and in the backs of pick-up trucks. Here, Gerald watched the impromptu rodeo where cowboys rode bucking horses across the field.

Gerald was enamored and went home to tell his mother how much fun it was “watching them cussin’ and smokin’ and drinkin.”  She informed him, “Well, you won’t be going back again.”

Lucky for Oakley City, his love of rodeo never faded as that first imprint is the forebear of the now famous, Oakley Rodeo.

As kids, Ken and Gerald would practice dreaming big by riding calves and getting big money for their efforts, 50 cents if they stayed on and 25 cents if they were thrown off—more money than they had ever seen.

By his own account, Gerald’s riding career never amounted to “a hill of beans” and his efforts soon turned to providing the livestock for rodeo.

In the early days, Gerald found a herd of ten young, unbroken horses in Utah’s West Desert and paid 35 bucks a head. They bucked “pretty well” the first time out but were domesticated a little too easily and Gerald looked to sharpen his horse-trading skills.  He rubbed shoulders with the likes of cowboy legends Bus Atkins, Swanny Kirby and Neil Gay.

Before long, Gerald’s leadership skills, determination, and ranch provided him with the opportunity to start his own rodeo production and stock contractor business. “Young and Young Rodeo” produced its first rodeo in the mid 1950’s and eventually produced rodeos throughout the State of Utah from Manti to Farmington.

Gerald Young rides his favorite horse through the hills north of Oakley back in the day.

Gerald’s talent for purchasing quality stock, organizing events, booking superb acts, and producing a high standard of entertainment for the public was evident throughout the rodeo arena. At its peak, Young and Young Rodeo contracted over 40 rodeos annually, with Lagoon’s weekly rodeo being his favorite location.

One of Gerald’s most notable feats is his leasing of Antelope Island for grazing in the early 1980s.  At the time, the Great Sale Lake water levels were higher.  Gerald remembers, “Trouble was, the causeway was flooded and there was no way to get the livestock there.”

Gerald’s determination led him to a river guide who helped tie three large banana boats together, creating a large barge.  On this makeshift barge, they shipped over 800 cattle, 50 at a time, across the 9-mile expanse of the Great Salt Lake to Antelope Island.  The State employee who leased Gerald the land later told him, “I told you I’d rent it, I just didn’t think you could do it.” After five years of grazing cattle there, Gerald and his crew helped build the bison corrals that are now used in their annual roundup.

For years, Gerald, along with Ken and Dutch Woolstenhulme, were the rodeo committee.   Gerald remembers that they weren’t really appointed, “we just started it up, not to make money, but to just have a little fun.”  However, in 1999, Oakley City Councilman, Dick Woolstenhulme, officially appointed Gerald Young as Rodeo Chairman.

Gerald is also known for his service to the local and national rodeo industry, local civic community, and Summit County.   He helped form and organize the Rocky Mountain Rodeo Association (RMRA) which led to the RMRA Outstanding Service Award in 1961 and Stock Contractor of the Year (1966). Gerald has served in a civic capacity as the chair of the Oakley on the Planning Commission for over ten years and as a Summit County Commissioner from January 1979 -January 1984.

He was awarded Co-operator of the year for the Kamas Valley Soil Conservation District in 2014.

Gerald is heralded as one of Oakley City’s most esteemed residents. The City has honored him and his wife, DeLora, as Grand Marshalls for their years of service to the town at the 1992 Oakley Independence Day Celebration and Parade and again with his dear friend, Ken Woolstenhulme in 2019.  Gerald was honored at the 2011 Ogden Pioneer Days Rodeo, as the Summit County recipient, of the National Day of the American Cowboy and was inducted into the Utah Cowboy Hall of Fame the same year,

At 91 years old Gerald’s still “standing up and breathing” as he works every day on his cattle ranch.  If you get the chance, take a moment to shake the hand of a legend and thank him for all he has done for Oakley City and the Oakley Rodeo.

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