Preserving Western Heritage Is Her Passion
As a Wallowa County native, horses, ranching and rodeo run deep through her veins. Daughter of a renowned horse trainer and riding instructor, the exhibition arena was as much home to her as the ranch where she grew up.
The natural progression was to become a winning rodeo contender, taking her first award in the cutting horse competition at the American Junior Rodeo Association (AJRA).
While a freshman at Enterprise High School, Judy also wore a princess tiara on the regional court for the AJRA. She held her first office with AJRA and when she was just ten years old, Dan Marks and Judy were crowned the Duke and Duchess of the very first junior rodeo held in Wallowa County.
When Judy and her family moved to Clarkston, WA, for her junior year, Ted Grote, President of the Chamber and beloved family friend refused to allow her to bypass an opportunity to be on the royal court for Chief Joseph Days Rodeo. Determined to keep her in the running, he insisted on flying her from Clarkston to Joseph on his Super Club, so she could attend rodeo events. Her companions on the 1958 Chief Joseph Days Court were Queen Janice Dougherty and Princess Judy Begley.
That same year, when the court members’ fathers went to saddle the horses on parade day, they were met by a big surprise: The corral was empty! Whisking in to hunt down the escaped horses, Ted Grote took off in his plane to comb the countryside from the air.
He spotted the horses heading toward Imnaha running down Sheep Creek Hill. Not surprisingly, Judy’s mount, Blackie, a wild horse her father had purchased from the Marks family, was ringleader of the bunch urging them back to their old stomping grounds.
Ted radioed the men who fired up the truck, chased down the renegades and hauled them back to the parade route in the nick of time. Wild-hearted Blackie who had been trained by Judy’s father, was a masterful working and exhibition horse, winning many competitions with Judy on his back, was later memorialized by her sister in a poem:
“Forty dollars and a fifth of Whiskey was the price Dad dickered and paid.
He said many times through the years to come, it was the best damn buy ever made.”
While in Clarkston, Judy modeled for Panhandle Slim Western Wear and later met her future husband, J. Shirly Bothum, as they worked together on a rodeo committee. Before long, they found themselves married, homesteading a primitive ranch on the Grand Ronde and starting a family of three girls. Developing the property to be a productive beef operation, the husband and wife team won the Cattleman of the Year Award for Asotin County in 1968.
Judy’s husband competed in Saddle Bronc riding in the RCA (today known as the PRCA) from Calgary to Cheyenne, taking home numerous buckles and cash awards. He spent one year judging events after retiring from the rodeo circuit.
Then came a turn for the team. Putting his artistic talent to the test, Judy’s husband steadily gained recognition as a foremost western bronze artist and, over the next 30 years, they traveled around the country to exhibit his works.
Acknowledging her husband’s standing as an eminent sculptor, the City of Joseph placed his bronze, “Tracking the Intruder”, on Main Street in Joseph, in front of the Sports Corral.
After selling the ranch the family was based in Clarkston where Judy continued her involvement with 4-H as a leader, FFA, and of course, rodeo. With a flair for fashion and a love of Western culture, she took on the mantle of designing the Lewiston Roundup Court’s outfits.
The tradition continued when they moved the family back to Joseph in 1989 where her daughter Kathy was crowned queen of Chief Joseph Days Court in 1993. Here she became the fashion designer for Chief Joseph Days Court for the next 20 years.
Creating an identifiable style for her royals when they traveled the region was a goal for her when she accepted the role of designer. To this day, Chief Joseph Days is recognized by their signature suede outfits featuring a split-skirt. She also instituted the tradition of dressing the young women in custom boots, which she designed each year and were the envy of every other court in the region.
In 2003, Judy was the recipient of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association John P. Justin Standard of the West Award.
During her tenure at Chief Joseph Days, Judy developed sponsorships for court accessories from tiaras to spurs, the latter of which she continues to sponsor each year. Other supporting roles that she has played at CJD include the organization of the Bingo fundraiser for the rodeo scholarship fund, served on the Board of Directors for one year, and create the “Wildest Ride Contest” in memory of her husband, sponsoring it for six years. She also continues to sponsor the etiquette dinner for the court, their chaperone and Teah Jones, who assumed the role of fashion supervisor after Judy’s retirement.
Teah first worked with Judy as Chief Joseph Days Princess in 1991, from which she jumped off to become Miss Rodeo Oregon in 1992, and compete in Miss Rodeo America, finishing second runner-up.
Throughout her travels that year, Teah had her mentor by her side as a companion and fashion designer for all the competition events and pageantry.
For the 60th Anniversary of Chief Joseph Days Rodeo, Judy was called on to work with Pendleton Wollen Mills to design the souvenir commemorative blanket.
Judy also enjoyed her stint at the Sports Corral where she coordinated and staged their annual style show. Among other recognitions, she received the 2010 Wallowa County Chamber of Commerce Employee of the Year Award.
The West’s legacy of individualism, rodeo, ranching, and independence is still a passion for her. Describing her long association with rodeo and promoting Western Heritage, Judy said, “I feel so blessed to have been able to share faith and built so many strong Christian relationships in the PRCA throughout the years.”
From the ability to incorporate that heritage though design and continuing traditions by working for Chief Joseph Days Rodeo, to commemorating her husband’s artistry in the form of the Cowboys’ Riverfront Retreat, Judy is committed to honoring the values America’s West and passing them down to the next generation.