Chase Outlaw is a bull rider. Chase Outlaw is his real name and bull riding is his real job. Chase Outlaw sprinkles sentences with “yes, ma’am,” “no, ma’am,” and punctuates them by spitting tobacco juice on the floor. Chase Outlaw is from Arkansas and speaks with an accent that could serve as a second piece of I.D.
Chase Outlaw is at the Calgary Stampede, where his name is nothing special. Here, 23 per cent of the rodeo’s cowboys and cowgirls sport names that start with hard or soft “C” sounds. Think Clayton, Clint, Ky and Kimmie. Think CoBurn, Cade and Kassie. Ryan Dirteater and Stetson Vest are fine cowboy names, but they are castaways in this rodeo’s alphabetical ocean.
“Now that I think about it,” Mr. Outlaw says, “there are a lot of Calebs and Codys.”
Cody is the most common name here. Five of the 120 adult competitors at Stampede are named Cody, including Alberta boy Cody Cassidy. He’s a steer wrestler, like his brother Curtis. There are two Calebs in the mix.
“Chase is a pretty good cowboy name,” Mr. Outlaw says, “because it is my name.” He doesn’t say it in a conceited way. It is a logical deduction, backed by facts. He’s ranked fifth in the Professional Bull Riders’ world standings and has won $110,795.63 at PBR events so far this year. He’s attempted to ride 63 bulls in 2017, making it eight seconds 26 times, according to the PBR. The bulls have had the better of him at Stampede, though. Mr. Outlaw must win Saturday’s wild-card draw in order to qualify for Sunday’s finals.
Cowboy characteristics extend beyond the leaderboard. Mr. Outlaw started riding calves when he was four; his dad was an amateur bull rider. The younger Outlaw has a daughter named Cashleigh Blake Outlaw. They call her Cash. She’s five years old and rides ponies. Her one-year-old sister is named Chloe. At Stampede, the 25-year-old Mr. Outlaw spits chew into a disposable Coke cup when he has too much in his mouth to casually discard on the floor. He wears spurs. A junior rodeo competitor asks the bull rider to autograph his flak jacket.
“It is all I’ve ever known,” Mr. Outlaw says. “If I wasn’t a bull rider, I don’t know what I’d be in this world.”
Confirmation bias helps explain why Coles and Kirstys clutter rodeo corrals, according to Duana Taha, an author who wrote The Name Therapist. Parents, perhaps unconsciously, nudge their newborns toward certain worlds before they even leave the hospital.
“If you choose a name like CoBurn or Cort or Kimmie or Katie, there’s a little more of an idea of who you’d like those children to be that lines up a little more with rodeo,” she says. “Charles and Catherine are very similar to Chet and Katie, and come from the same root, but have a very different attitude attached.”
Conscious decisions also play a role. If, for example, a kid with an upper-crust name who grew up in New England without any connection to cowboy culture decided to run away and join the rodeo, picking a new handle would likely accompany the makeover.
“You’d change your name from Patricia to Patti pretty quickly,” Ms. Taha says. “Or maybe Trish. Trish could ride in the rodeo.”
Common names emerge in professions across the spectrum. Ms. Taha researched patterns at Harvard University and found people named David stuff its faculty at an exponential rate. Meanwhile, commentators keep their eye on the annual Western Hockey League’s bantam draft for emerging trends. “The age of Kaiden/Aiden/Braiden/Slaiden/Jaiden will not go quietly,” Ryan Lambert of Yahoo! Sports wrote after analyzing the 2017 results. The same goes for the C-crowd at the Calgary Stampede.
Coincidence is not part of the equation. Cayla Small, a 19-year-old barrel racer, is in Calgary with her parents. Ms. Small’s mom was a pro barrel racer and her dad was an amateur rodeo participant. They riffed off their son’s name when naming their daughter.
If you choose a name like CoBurn or Cort or Kimmie or Katie, there’s a little more of an idea of who you’d like those children to be that lines up a little more with rodeo.Duana Taha, author of The Name Therapist
“My parents named my brother Colton, so they just wanted to name me something with a C,” Ms. Small says.
Cort Scheer’s parents named him after an ancestor, although the details are fuzzy. “Cort is kind of a family name from way back so they said, ‘That will work, I guess,’” he says. “I don’t know what relation it is to me.” Mr. Scheer’s sister Kema also shoulders a legacy, albeit a new one. Their parents – Kevin and Pam – combined their names when she came along. The third Scheer sibling, a brother called Clete, is the outlier, free of heritage. “Who knows what they were thinking that day.”
C Z37, a bucking horse known as Zoria Hills, did not treat Mr. Scheer well earlier this week. The 31-year-old saddle bronc rider stuck it out for eight seconds, but didn’t collect enough points to win any day money. “Hopefully, I have a nice dance today,” the Nebraskan says before his next go-round.
Camaraderie is a key ingredient in this lifestyle. Nearly two dozen rodeo contestants mill about Stampede’s locker room, sharing black and red chairs and couches, before taking their turn in the ring. They watch their buddies on a flat-screen TV. They thumb their cellphones. They fiddle with their saddles. They wish each other luck. One is shirtless, with a bag of ice on his left hip. Faded photos of rodeos past are framed on the walls.
Cody DeMoss, a saddle bronc competitor even though his dad rode bareback in his day, knows he keeps good company. “Some rodeos, there’s been five or six Codys,” the Louisianan says. “Dime a dozen.”
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