There are great Cowboys, great Horsemen, great Cattlemen, and great People. All who knew Bill Coy would say that he was all of these. Bill never met a man he didn’t like; you never knew a man who did not like him.
Born June 1, 1919, Bill grew up in Torrington, Wyoming. His parents, Floyd and Bessie Coy, worked and lived on the family’s Goshen County ranch that ran from Torrington east to Henry, Nebraska, and fifty miles north to Van Tassell, Wyoming. Bill’s father supplied rough stock and cows for the wild cow milking and rodeo events to many rodeos in southeastern Wyoming, as well as livestock for the Wyoming State Fair in Douglas.
Bill grew up helping his dad and granddad feed cattle and care for their horses and rodeo stock. Bill was horse back at a very early age. Daily he and his sister, Ila, brought in their sixteen Jersey-Guernsey cows from pasture for early morning milking. After evening milking Bill saddled his horse and pushed the cows back out to pasture. He practiced his bronco riding and bulldogging skills on the milk cows until he could ride anything with four legs.
Not all of the horses Bill grew up on and rode were nice-minded or gentle. Sometimes he’d take his dad’s bucking stock horses that hadn’t made the top string and worked with them until they made good ranch horses. A big red roan rogue gelding with four white socks named Fox was his favorite horse and became one of the Best Coy Ranch horses. Bill started Fox when he was seven and the horse was three.
In his late teens, Bill broke two big longhorn steers to ride and to pull a wagon. They were saddle-broke and carried a bit in their mouths. He could gather his dad’s rodeo stock on them. He and his good friend, George Carmin, from Glendo, Wyoming, rode the steers in the Torrington fair and rodeo parades.
Bill graduated from Torrington High School in 1937. His senior quote in the class yearbook read, “I’m an old Cow Hand.” He had already experienced the Great Depression and Dust Bowl of “The Dirty Thirties,” having helped his dad and his namesake, Grandpa William Coy, kill their thirsty and starving cattle. They had skinned the dead livestock, turning the hides over to the federal government for token reimbursement.
Bill attended the University of Wyoming, but quit in 1939 when he was drafted by the army and sent to Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri, where he was assigned to the cavalry unit. He learned to ride an English saddle and to jump horses, a very different way of riding for a young Wyoming cowboy. As the only son, Bill was called home in 1940. He lost his father, grandfather, and grandmother to cancer, each a year apart.
Bill and his mother, Bess, had a large ranch to maintain. He thought it would be best for the ranch to build up the cowherd with registered
Herefords. At the same time started acquiring registered Quarter Horses. He slowly weeded out all the grade cattle, while his band of good horses grew. Bill spent his youth in a saddle, working cattle, moving pairs and sorting yearlings that always found a way to get mixed up with the cows or the rodeo stock.
Whenever Bill worked cattle, his horse came first. He made sure the horse was aware of which way he was going to take a critter. When he started the little black mare he called Viv, she was really hard to sit in the middle of. Bill said “she was the most athletic and goosiest horse” he ever rode. If they were sorting cattle and Viv spooked and jumped ten feet sideways, Bill just dropped his cow and took the time needed to get this mare’s mind right before finishing the project at hand. Taking all of the quality time he did with her paid off. Bill was an exceptional horseman. All of his horses were well trained in their disciplines, His mare, Viv, was a champion Reiner in hackamore and bit reining. She was so soft that when Bill calf roped on her, he used a small rawhide hackamore and no tie-down, an unheard of accomplishment in the
roping world. Bill had a way of training a horse that stayed. He was always ready to help other horsemen with their training problems and helped them progress in their training skills.
In 1940 (the same year the American Quarter Horse Association was formed) Bill bought his first registered Quarter Horse, a bay yearling stud colt named Keo. Then he bought a beautiful yearling filly, Jackie McCue, who raised outstanding performance horses and halter horses, including Little Chicaro Bill, Viv, and Little Meow. The mare, Little Meow raised the great race mare She Kitty and stud colt Old Tom Cat. Viv won Grand Champion Mare in halter at the Denver National Western Stock Show and the Wyoming State Fair, where she also won the hackamore and bridle bit reining classes.
Bill was recognized as one of the top reining men of his time in both hackamore and bit reining. He also trained horses for cutting, calf and steer roping, western pleasure, as well as all of the horses he taught how to stand for show at halter. Bill always credited Slim McCann’s influence for the way he trained his horses. Bill had numerous clients that brought him horses to ride, train and show. Some of these folks included Dan and Jack Casement, Mavis Peavy, Elmer Hepler, Virginia Purdy, Bob and Lee Jones, Jay and Polly Parsons, Clarence, Stump, and Pat Thompson.
In 1950 Bill married Charlene Kennedy. They had five children, Judy, B. Joe, Phyllis, Brud, and Ila. This proved to be a good year because Bill was also able to purchase two more great foundation Quarter Horses from New Mexico breeder, Elmer Hepler. The stallion, Little Joe the Wrangler, and the mare, Sparky, produced some of the best horses to influence the Quarter Horse breed in Wyoming, the Rocky Mountain West, and the U.S. One of their get, a mare named Sparky Joann, won the 1957 Rocky Mountain All-Around Championship. Winning classes in reining, calf roping, steer tripping, and halter, she outperformed the stallions and geldings. That year she won Reserve Champion mare and the hackamore reining at the Wyoming State Fair. Bill retired the mare and bred her to the great race stud Jaguar. The foal from this union was Coy’s Bonanza. He became a top stallion nationwide in the 1960s and early ’70s. He was inducted into the Quarter Horse Hall of Fame in March of 2015, the 75th anniversary of the AQHA. The great racing mare Joann Wig, out of Sparky Joann and by Wiggy Bar an own
son of Three Bars, earned four AAA’s at four different distances.
As a young man during the 1940s, Bill rodeoed, competing in bulldogging, calf roping, steer tripping, and hard and fast team tying. Some of
his best friends were his rodeo buddies, Spike Miller, Joe Madden, Doc Havely, Bill Poage, Carl Sawyer, and Hyde Merritt.
Being a ranch-raised cowboy, Bill took advantage of the opportunities to train any and all horses that came his way. As Bill branched out in the AQHA show world as an Owner, Breeder, and Trainer of his and other people’s horse, the ranch and its work always came first. Before he ever went to a rodeo or horse show, he made sure the work was caught up and nothing was left to do.
In about 1963 Bill partnered with Elmer Hepler on several appendixbred running Quarter Horses. He had what it took to be a successful
racehorse trainer. With five kids he had stall cleaners, chore girls and boys,exercise riders and his own jockeys. Bill still took some outside performance horses to train, but found he could make a racehorse in 90 days, when it took at least two years to make a good performance horse in more than one discipline. Bill was very successful with his horse racing endeavors.
Bill always strived to raise good cattle and horses. He went from registered Hereford to registered Charolais, Gelbvieh and Limousine. In the
late 1960s he sold his Charolais cattle to WCHF member Jim Hageman. In 1972, Bill was commissioned by Central Wyoming Community College to teach the horsemanship class. In the fall of 1973 he was diagnosed with cancer. He passed away May 26,1974.
In his passing the Quarter Horse world lost a dedicated individual who played a defining part in the development of today’s breed. Bill influenced everything and everyone with whom he came into contact, whether horse or man. Because of his open friendliness and willingness to help, Bill, was held in the highest esteem by all who knew him.
Bill left a legacy not only to the horse world, but also to his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Be the best you can be in whatever you do, whether dealing with people, horses, or other animals. Most of all be God-like and a loving and caring human being .