Cowboy Hertzog dies at 53

Wes Hertzog loved rodeo from the first time he climbed on a bronco in the 1960s.

From Texas to Canada, he rode broncos and bulls for 40 years.

The world-champion cowboy died in a Denver hospital Friday from injuries suffered doing what he loved -- riding in a rodeo. He was 53.

He is survived by his wife, Becky; twin daughters, Robyn and Rachel; a teenage son, Evan; and a grandson, Thayne.

Hertzog was born in Maybell and lived in Craig.

His first rodeo was at the Moffat County Fairgrounds in 1964. He went on to win the Pro Rodeo Cowboy Association Rookie of the Year in the 1970s and eight saddle bronc world championships in the National Senior Pro Rodeo Association.

In addition to rodeo, Hertzog ran a trucking company and a gravel pit.

He died from injuries suffered in a rodeo accident Sunday. Hertzog suffered a broken neck, bruised spinal chord and extensive brain damage when he was thrown from a horse and landed on his head during the saddle bronc competition at the Routt County Fair and Rodeo in Hayden.

Witnesses said Hertzog app--eared to be unconscious before he fell off the horse.

After his injury, Hertzog was taken to Yampa Valley Medical Center in Steamboat Springs before being flown by Flight for Life to Denver Health Medical Center.

Hertzog was on a respirator and in serious condition from Sunday evening until he died Friday night.

According to his brother, Bill Hertzog, Wes had a living will that said he didn't want to be kept alive artificially.

Bill Hertzog said doctors told the family that Wes' brain injuries made the situation "totally hopeless."

Friday night, with friends and family at his side, Hertzog was taken off life support.

"He had a great send-off," Bill Hertzog said. "We all got to say goodbye to him, and he's at peace now."

Friends and family say Hert--zog died doing what he loved.

"If he had to come to an early end, that's how he would want it," said Harry Virden, a close friend and Hertzog's former traveling partner.

Virden grew up in Craig but now makes his home in Sheridan, Wyo. He was one of many people at the hospital with Hertzog when he died.

Virden said Hertzog had talked about retiring from rodeos, but he loved the sport too much to walk away.

"He just couldn't bring himself to hang up his saddle," Virden 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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