PENDLETON, Ore. — It takes a fair amount of machismo to wear pink almost every day.
Tie-down roper Tyson Durfey didn’t wait until Tough Enough to Wear Pink Day at the Pendleton Round-Up to don the tender shade — he wears pink every time he competes. He added the color to his wardrobe in 2007 in honor of his stepmother’s cancer struggle and never looked back.
Life seems especially rosy for Durfey these days. The roper from Colbert, northeast of Spokane, sits second in the world standings and will marry Australian country singer Shea Fisher in October.
The cowboy, sporting a hot pink shirt, lounged in the west grandstands during the rodeo that runs through Saturday watching steer wrestlers perform on the arena grass. Durfey had roped a calf earlier that morning in 12 seconds flat. Combined with his 14.4-second run of the previous day, he was squarely on the bubble to reach Saturday’s final round.
Durfey didn’t seem anxious about his fate as he cheerfully answered questions about his pink wardrobe, his glorious year and his fiancée.
The cowboy owns about 10 pink shirts at any given moment. When one loses its cowboy crispness, he gives it to a cancer survivor or a wide-eyed kid and gets another from his sponsor, Cinch.
He said his stepmother’s 2007 cancer scare affected him, though her tumors ended up benign. He remembers calling her and vowing to wear pink in her honor at the Canadian finals and the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.
‘Easy to spot’
He followed through on his promise, but reverted to non-pink attire at his next rodeo. When cancer survivors stopped the roper to tell him how much his support meant and to talk about their own personal battles, he decided to wear pink on a regular basis.
Durfey’s fiancée supports his wardrobe choice.
“It makes him very easy to spot,” Fisher quipped, but then turned serious. “I’m a big believer in what he does — it’s really his brand now. He has such a big heart.”
Fisher, who has two platinum albums and four No. 1 singles in Australia, traveled to Pendleton to watch Durfey compete. She is no stranger to rodeo. Her father was a championship bull rider in Australia until about eight years ago, and her mother is a champion barrel racer.
Talk of the couple’s upcoming nuptials brings a wide grin to Durfey’s face. He proposed to Fisher in New York City’s Central Park on New Year’s Eve. Durfey said he originally planned to pop the question in Times Square, but soon realized he would be shoulder-to-shoulder with thousands of others.
“If I would have kneeled down, I would have gotten trampled,” he said.
Instead, the cowboy found a spot near the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park. A few minutes before midnight, he knelt down and launched into a heartfelt proposal. His timing, as it often is with calf roping, was perfect. Just as she said yes, fireworks exploded in the sky. He slipped the ring, which had been in his pocket for a month and a half, onto her finger.
In the months since the engagement, Durfey has been finding plenty of luck in the arena. After failing to reach the National Finals Rodeo last season, he doubled his efforts.
“I rededicated myself and bought myself some new horsepower,” Durfey said, noting his new focus and his faster four-legged transportation.
The refocusing paid off. Durfey placed in most major rodeos this season. According to the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association website, he has racked up more than $95,000 in earnings. All in all, life is good.
“I’m a blessed individual,” he said. “I’m happy to be doing what I’m doing.”