Of Character: Sharon Shoulder's smile and her heart for taking care of others are of enormous proportions
HENRYETTA — The late Jim Shoulders, of Henryetta, won 16 world champion gold buckles in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
But everyone knew not what, but who was most golden to Shoulders — wife Sharon.
He wasn’t the only one who took notice of her unselfish ways.
Although small in stature, Sharon’s smile and her heart for taking care of others are of enormous proportions, close friend Donna McSpadden said.
“Sharon is a kind and giving lady,” McSpadden of Chelsea said. “She is a longtime Sunday school teacher in the Methodist church in Henryetta.
“Also, she is dedicated to helping with the meals for the families of a deceased member following the funeral. She is so strong in this, before Irene Harris and I can make reservations in Tulsa for the three of us to get together, we've begun to check the obituaries in Henryetta, so it will not conflict with Sharon's church commitment.”
‘First rodeo experience’
Sharon Shoulders, 85, was born in Bell, Calif., moved to Oklahoma in 1941 and six years later married rodeo cowboy Jim Shoulders.
“My first rodeo experience was riding in the Madison Square Garden Rodeo parade in New York City in 1947,” she said. “Everett Colborn insisted all girls ride and represent rodeo. I had to borrow clothes from Jo Decker, Norma Shoulders and Jeannie Godshall and felt very important to be included with real cowgirls.”
The Shoulders’ first child, Jamie, was born in 1948 and Marvin Paul was born in 1951, the same year Jim and Sharon bought a ranch near Henryetta. The family continued to grow with Jana born in 1956 and Marcie in 1961.
“One might say I became a 1950’s Pioneer Ranch Woman because I learned the hard way,” Sharon said. “I ran the ranch while Jim rodeoed to pay for it. I learned to saddle and ride to check and gather cattle along with checking fences. I tended a garden previously planted, learned to can vegetables, killed and cleaned chickens for the freezer and drove a tractor to harrow the field.”
At that time, the only vehicles she had to drive while Jim was away was a well-used one-ton truck and an old Jeep without brakes.
“For 15 years I had to do all laundry in town,” she said. “After our children started school, when the roads were muddy I took them by tractor and trailer three miles to catch the school bus.”
Jim started rodeo producing with Neal Gay in 1958, so when he wasn’t competing he would have to travel to Mesquite, Texas. So, he was away from home more than not. However, when school was out, Sharon and their children traveled with Jim as much as possible.
Rodeo and ranching also extended their family.
“Out of necessity I had to learn to be a rodeo timer and secretary and continued working as long as we produced rodeos,” she said. “I judged various PRCA rodeo queen contests including the High School National Finals.
“One time I was surrogate parent to 25 young PRCA members who traveled to Argentina for a benefit rodeo produced by Jim.”
Time for others
Despite all the demands of family, ranching and rodeo, Sharon has found time for others.
During the years of the National Finals Rodeo in Oklahoma City, Sharon assisted her friend McSpadden by doing commentary for the Ladies Fashion Show and Luncheon. Throughout the children’s school years, she held all PTA offices, including president. Early in the 1980s, Sharon was involved with the Oklahoma foster care program. She is a past chairman of the Little House of Henryetta Foundation serving area Girl Scouts.
She has served on the board of directors of the Oklahoma Heritage Association and currently is on the board of the directors of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum’s Rodeo Historical Society. And since 2010, she has presented the Sharon Shoulders Award to the wife of a bull rider from the Professional Bull Riders organization. This award recognizes the women whose work, partnership and faith have been as integral to the sport as the athletes themselves.
McSpadden also pointed out that Sharon also has been a priceless member of another group.
“The H.A.N.D.S. (Helping Another Needy Diva Survive) organization was started in 2003,” McSpadden said. “This is rodeo wives helping rodeo families anonymously with expenses during injuries, illnesses, hard times, and at times staying with a family to help with their household at no cost. There are 50 women throughout the U.S. and one in Canada who are members. We personally donate to H.A.N.D.S. to reach out and up to serve others.
“Sharon was one of the first four people I called with this idea, and she is most faithful and caring. She's what a friend should be.”