Steamboat Springs Lexie Siegal has always had a soft spot in her heart for rodeo cowboys.
That was evident a year ago when, during Cowboy Roundup Days, she handed a one-of-a-kind belt buckle to a young Wyoming cowboy named Beau LeDoux in the middle of the Brent Romick Rodeo Arena.
LeDoux had just scored an 81-point ride on the back of a rank bucking horse named Mama Mia to win the first-ever Warren Siegal Bareback Ride-Off. The event is a memorial for the cowboy, husband and father who made Steamboat a big part of his life before he died in 2001 at the age of 58.
Lexie and LeDoux had never met before that night, but because of the moment they shared, the buckle's worth seemed to weigh more than the precious metal from which it was created.
"It was really special," Lexie said of the presentation. "Warren rode with Beau's dad a few years back. That made it a lot more meaningful."
She also couldn't help but see a little of her own husband in the 20-year-old rider from Kaycee, Wyo., who was just beginning his career as a rough stock rodeo rider.
"I never knew him," Beau said of Warren. "But he rode back when my dad did in the 1970s and 1980s. I could tell it was special to (Lexie) and I know it was special to me. It was my first professional buckle."
Lexie grew up on a ranch north of Steamboat Springs near the Little Snake River. Her father rode saddle broncs in his spare time and she fell in love with the sport.
As a young woman, she would come to Steamboat to take in the rodeo whenever it was in town, and typically it was a family tradition on the Fourth of July.
The ranch girl loved saddle bronc, steer wrestling and bull riding, but when she was forced to choose her favorite rodeo event, it was always bareback riding.
"I've always been partial to bareback riding," Lexie said. "My daddy was a saddle bronc rider, but I couldn't get over how wild bareback riding was."
When she was approached by a young cowboy after the Fourth of July Rodeo in 1967, it didn't hurt that he was a bareback rider. She admits she was swept quickly off her feet by her 24-year-old suitor, Warren Siegal.
Lexie and Warren were married a few years later in 1973 and over the next 28 years built a full life that included rodeo, horses and Steamboat. Despite his love for rodeo, Warren's career path led him away from dusty arenas and to the courtroom where he built a successful practice as a lawyer. Even with his change of careers and a move to Arizona, where the couple settled, rodeo and the Yampa Valley remained in his blood.
"After we got married, I went on the road with him all the time," Lexie said of her late husband. "We even spent our honeymoon traveling to rodeos, which was perfectly fine with me."
Following his death, Lexie wanted to do something to keep Warren's spirit alive in Steamboat, one of his favorite places to rodeo. Her idea was to present the winner of the Fourth of July bareback riding event with a custom-made Maynard Belt Buckle and an additional $500 to help cover the expenses that come with living on the rodeo circuit.
"Warren won here or was a runner-up several times during his career," Lexie said. "Steamboat was a special place for him."
Lexie will be on hand Saturday night along with sons Morgan, Wyatt and Brett.
LeDoux, the son of 1976 World Champion bareback rider-turned-country singer Chris LeDoux, says he plans to be on hand this Saturday night as well.
"Shoot, I have to be there to defend my title," LeDoux said. "I wouldn't have it any other way."
LeDoux started riding bareback horses when he was 15 and is a rookie in the Professional Rodeo Cowboy's Association.
He said he wants to pick up some more experience at the regional level before turning his attention to winning at National Finals Rodeo someday.
LeDoux said Steamboat has provided him with a perfect place to start his career. It's relatively close to home and he's been good friends with the stock contractors for as long as he can remember.
"I've known Bill and Dona Vold Larsen since I was a kid," LeDoux said.
LeDoux plans to ride in Saturday night's rodeo. If things go well, he hopes to win another buckle to honor a cowboy he never knew but with whom he shares a common love.
Rodeos are scheduled this week at 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. Friday. The final holiday performance will take place at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.