Learning the Ropes


Whether he’s busting broncs or corralling converts, Zane Davis is a champ in life’s arena.

The chute burst open and a raging, bucking bronco leaped high into the air. A cowboy sat atop, in perfect form, his spurs above the point of the shoulders, the rhythm of each move matched to the twisting and turning of the wild horse.

But then the crowd rose to its feet and gasped as the massive animal came crashing down on its side, all of its weight crushing the left foot of its rider.

Zane Davis picked himself up and hobbled over to the chute. When he got his boot off, the foot began to swell. The crushed bones eliminated his chances to continue in the competition, but that didn’t keep Zane down.

Less than a month later he was back in the saddle, working his way to the title as top college rodeo rider in the United States.

Now Zane is serving a mission in Brazil and teaching the gospel to people in Portuguese. And he says, “I wouldn’t trade this mission experience for anything—even a national professional rodeo championship.”

Top College Cowboy

It was in June of 1990 that Zane Davis secured the award as the national collegiate all-around cowboy of the year in the College National Finals Rodeo in Bozeman, Montana. Although only a freshman at the College of Southern Idaho, Zane didn’t get to the number one spot by simply riding a few wild horses and winning a few competitions. Zane’s training started before he could walk, when his father, Shawn Davis (a three-time National Finals Rodeo saddle bronc world champion), took him along to rodeos across North America.

At the age of three, Zane insisted that he be allowed to ride in the rodeo against the 8–12-year-old cowboys, but since he was underage, he was only allowed to ride exhibition. Undaunted, he put on his hat, boots, rope, and spurs, and climbed aboard a cranky calf. Zane says that the next thing he knew he was on the ground and a clown was standing over him fanning him with a giant fly swatter. Apparently, he had ridden the calf almost to the whistle before falling off.

He entered his next rodeo when he was only five, and this time a pony bucked him off. But he still walked away with third-place honors. Hundreds of rodeos later, Zane had accumulated an impressive array of saddles, belt buckles, trophies, and cash prizes. The success came as a result of hard work.

And a Little Fear

Each day at his parents’ ranch in Wyoming, Zane’s exercise routine included 80 sit-ups, 20 pull-ups, and 400 push-ups. In addition, his riding included roping 10 to 20 calves and practicing once a week for each riding event. Also, before each rodeo, Zane asked his father for a father’s blessing. Zane says, “I feel that these blessings kept me from getting injured on many occasions, and when I was injured, I recovered remarkably fast.”

Zane adds that obeying the Word of Wisdom has been a great blessing in his life. “Other cowboys who drink and do drugs may be good for a very short time, but they never last long,” he says.

Another reason Zane has done so well is because he has learned to face challenges. At one rodeo he drew a bull that had thrown all the college kids off who had tried to ride it. But Zane, at only 13, got on the bull and rode him three out of five attempts. “I don’t remember ever being really frightened at a rodeo,” said Zane. “A little fear is always good for you, but too much fear is not good. If you have a little fear you plan a little better. If you have too much fear you may get out of control.”

Going on a Mission

One of the hardest decisions Zane ever had to face was whether or not to go on a mission. He had colleges all over the nation soliciting him, and although he had always planned on a mission, the final decision was really hard. “But I decided I had to go on a mission to try to pay the Lord back for some of the many blessings I have received,” he said.

Zane recently wrote from his mission and said, “I’ve learned many things. I’ve changed a lot. I thought riding three head of stock at each rodeo all summer long was tough, but it wasn’t anything as tough as serving a mission; nevertheless, it has been good for me.”

In his life, Zane Davis has ridden a thousand wild horses, roped a thousand more calves. Rodeo became easy to him, second nature. But perhaps the best thing about the sport was the chance to be with his father. Shawn was always there, watching him, helping him stay safe.

A mission in Brazil has not been as easy. There have been problems learning the language and culture. But Zane is improving daily. And, best of all, his Father in Heaven is always there, watching him, helping him stay safe.

[photos] Photography by Brian Kelly and courtesy of Davis family

[photos] Growing up on a Wyoming ranch probably gave Zane a leg up—that, and the fact that he started training before he could walk.

[photos] Zane with his mother, Jeana, and his father, Shawn. Zane learned valuable rodeo skills from his dad, a national three-time bronc-riding champion. Both parents taught him to keep the Word of Wisdom and to rely on the priesthood.

[photos] After he won the collegiate title as a freshman, Zane faced lots of pressure to continue a rodeo career. “But,” he says, “I decided I had to go on a mission to try to pay the Lord back for some of the many blessings I have received.”