Craig says bye to rodeo hero

Evan Hertzog wants people to laugh when they remember his dad, rodeo legend Wes Hertzog.

Wes Hertzog died Friday from injuries suffered in a rodeo accident five days before. He was 53.

If he were at the memorial ceremony at the Moffat County Fairgrounds on Tuesday, Evan said Wes would have been the one telling jokes and cheering up people.

That was the way his dad lived, Evan said, and people should celebrate him that way.

"Cry for grief, but laugh for Dad," Evan told the crowd of at least 300 people there to celebrate his dad's life.

A steady wind knocked down pictures of Wes that adorned the stage but didn't deter Wes' friends and family from taking the microphone to share stories about the Moffat County native.

Harry Virden, Wes' former traveling partner, said he could talk for days about Wes.

"There are too many stories, too many good times, too many laughs," Virden said.

Virden grew up in Craig but now lives in Sheridan, Wyo. He was one of many people at Wes' bedside in a Denver hospital last week when he died.

When Virden started competing in rodeos as a teenager, he said he looked up to Wes, who won Pro Rodeo Cowboy Association Rookie of the Year in 1975 before going on to win eight saddle bronc world championships in the National Senior Pro Rodeo Association.

Looking back on Wes' life, Vir--den said one of the things that sticks out was the way Wes always seemed happy.

"It didn't matter what happened, nothing would get Wes down," Virden said. "He was a heck of a guy."

Wes' daughter Robyn read a letter to her father from his children, with her twin sister, Rachel, and her brother, Evan, at her side.

Fighting back tears, Robyn said she and her sibings always were proud that Wes was their father.

Robyn and Rachel wore shirts that read "A legend and a hero" on the back, with Wes' initials.

Wes' brother, Bill Hertzog, served as the master of ceremonies for Tuesday's ceremony.

"He was his brother's hero," Bill Hertzog said about Wes.

Bill Hertzog said his brother once dedicated his ride to the son of a fallen cowboy, saying before the rodeo that he was going to win it.

"As we all know, Wes didn't just talk," Bill said.

Wes went out and won the rodeo and the gold belt buckle for the cowboy's son.

Colt Bruegman, one of Wes' former competitors, said that if Wes could have chosen a way to go out, he would have wanted it to be at a rodeo.

"He told me once, 'I want to go out lifting on my reigns,'" Bruegman said.

A fund has been set up for Hertzog and his family at Moffat County National Bank.

To donate, visit the bank at 435 Mack Lane in Craig or call 824-3600.

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