By: Joyce Whitis
Family is a word that defines us from the beginning of time. Those that enjoy a good relationship with members of their immediate family somehow seem happier, more at ease in a complicated world, and especially sure of themselves and their position in the community. The Hampton family is like that. They are a sort of “all for one and one for all” group of high achievers that reflect the best in each other. History tells us about John Hampton, father of Edd Hampton, grandfather of Johnnie Hampton, great-grandfather of Johnnie Wayne and Ronnie Hampton, great-great grandfather of Jackie Johnette (better known as J.J.), Angie and Row Hampton and great-great-great grandfather of Marty Yates and Kason Prince.
John Hampton owned and operated the largest wagon train in this area back in 1919 and his usual run carrying oil well supplies was between Stephenville and Desdemona. His wagons were eight wheelers and were pulled with a dozen horses and mules at a time. Those were the days of unpaved roads, deep mud or deep sand, steep hills to climb and no roadside service. Desdemona was a boomtown, and the drillers were clamoring for supplies and depended upon John Hampton to bring them.
The story goes that on these hauls in the mud, John, who always drove the lead wagon, would watch the team and just before they were going to stop he would yell, “Whoa!” He said this was necessary in order to keep the animals from learning they could stop without his command. He would pretend to inspect the harness and talk to the animals and when he had decided they had rested enough, he’d crack a whip over their heads and get them pulling together until they made it over the hill.
That is a Hampton trait that is still going strong today. When the going gets tough they just unite and pull together. For instance just this past month, Barbara, the mother of J.J., Angie, and Row, along with Angie, took a seat in a double cab pickup, pulling a trailer with seasoned roping horses and drove from Stephenville, Texas to Las Vegas, Nevada with few stops along the way and no sleep. Angie’s son, Marty Yates was roping in an event in California and needed another horse, so grandmother and mother joined together to bring it to him.
“We only stopped for rest where the horses could be taken care of,” Barbara said. “Those animals are special and without a great horse, a cowboy might as well sit in the bleachers and watch. So our rest stops depended upon where we could find rest for the horses. On this trip we also hauled a horse for Jake Corkill.”
After watching Marty rope and tie his calf, mother and daughter took a little side trip from California to Utah on the way back to Texas. When asked to drive into Utah and drop off a horse, the thought that it was miles away and not in the plan to not shower or sleep in a real bed, they simply nodded, got in the cab and stepped on the gas.
When Marty qualified for the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas last December, the entire family loaded up and went out to cheer for him from the reserved seats. The entire family includes 88-year-old great-grandmother Helen Hampton, who took off from her job at Erath County Dairy Sales to drive from Stephenville to Las Vegas. As Marty roped and tied his first calf, the Hamptons in the stands jumped to their feet and shouted and clapped along with the other spectators. Marty had been roping and tying calves for most of his 20 years and had been coached by every Hampton that could get in a word! He grew up dragging a rope around the house, and as a youngster he was roping everything in his great-grandmother’s house. Helen Hampton, or Meme, was Marty’s only baby sitter. He refused to stay with anybody else.
“He was still in diapers and roping everything,” Helen laughed. She looked at the big ceiling fan turning rapidly over the dining table. “He even roped my ceiling fan,” she said. “But he was never any trouble. Marty was a good kid. We taught him to be polite, say ‘yes ma’am’ and ‘no ma’am’ and he still does. Since he has been so successful in the arena, several people have interviewed him and every one of them has remarked how polite Marty is. That makes our family proud. You know Marty’s dad died in a car wreck before he was born, so his granddad, Johnny Wayne, made up for that loss of a father every chance that he got. He was so proud of Marty.”
Johnny Wayne Hampton was a man that you could not get out of your mind once he became your friend. He had so much knowledge of rodeo, and he understood animals and how they behaved and reacted to situations. He had rodeoed earlier in life but when Marty came along, he just gloried in each success of that talented grandson. Hundreds of friends attended Johnny Wayne’s funeral at Cowboy Church in Erath County, and today his name comes up in any conversation about rodeo. It is said that his spirit flys with his grandson to rodeo performances in distant places and that the encouraging presence he always provided is watching from the fence. There is no question but that Marty feels that too and he’s often spoken of it in almost spiritual tones.
In fact, Marty Yates is always quick to say how much he owes to his family that is always there for him. He can get pretty emotional when an interviewer asks him about his family. Angie Hampton Yates is the mother that all professional cowboys would like to have backing them. Many have similar moms and dads, but Angie has been the lone parent that has driven so many miles. Her trips with Marty would doubtless circle the earth. For those not familiar with rodeo lingo, it’s called “haulin,” and Angie has spent a lot of years behind the steering wheel, hauling a youngster to play days at first and then junior and finally senior completion. Her reward was usually watching him claim a winning saddle and a buckle, because Marty Yates was an early winner. Today the trophy saddles won by family members fill a good-sized room in Barbara’s house with a spill over in a room at Barbara Hampton Real Estate office in Stephenville.
Today, Angie takes horses to her son, or more recently, stays at home and takes personal care of Chicken, Marty’s champion roping horse that was chosen 2nd Tie-Down Roping Horse of the Year in 2014 by competitors and announced at Nationals Final Rodeo.
“Marty left today for Reno,” Angie typed in a message on Facebook. “I was planning to go too but Chicken needs a little more R&R so I’m staying home with him.”
There go the Hamptons again. Where there is a need, there is always a family member to pick up the slack. So Angie will stay at home, taking special, personal care of horses and run her insurance business in between.
All of the Hamptons are very familiar with hauling horses and occasionally cattle to rodeos as that sport has always played a large part in their extended family. Johnny Hampton’s dad, Mr. Ed, liked racehorses and spent a large part of his life training and racing them. Johnny liked bulldogging, and Helen says that he had a great horse that he rode in rodeos. Ronnie Jack and Johnny Wayne both liked roping and competed in that event. Ronnie Jack competes in team roping, which is extremely popular around this area.
Johnny Wayne and Barbara (Richards) Hampton’s children; Angie, Row, and J.J. were hauled all over the country as they were growing up and competing in Junior Rodeo events. They won a lot of buckles and saddles as youngsters, but it was J.J. who decided to play hard and win it all!
J.J. has won more trophies than any woman that ever competed in rodeo events. There are probably more than a hundred saddles as well as dozens and dozens of silver buckles, rosettes, ribbons, trophies and banners. A complete list of her accomplishments in the arena is almost beyond belief. World Champion Titles in the Professional Women’s Rodeo Association include: 6 All Around Cowgirl titles; 4 Tie-down Calf Roping; 3 Breakaway Calf Roping, and 4 Team Roping Header. She has also earned 4 Breakaway Calf Roping Champion titles in the United Professional Rodeo Association, 6 World Titles in Cowboys Professional Rodeo Association, and 2 Extreme Calf Roping Champion Breakaway Roper titles.
As a fitting tribute to her expertise with a rope, J.J. has been inducted into the following halls of Fame: Cowboy Capital Walk of Fame; Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame; Texas Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame and Tarleton State University Rodeo Hall of Fame. But like the rest of the Hamptons, J.J. didn’t accomplish her awards without help from other family members.
Barbara Hampton once said that she didn’t rope or ride, she just opened the chute gate. Knowing Barbara, you immediately become aware that she is the driving force behind everybody. Row said his mother is the “Warden” and keeps everybody in line.
Meanwhile Barbara Hampton Real Estate is flourishing. “After we went out of the dairy business, I decided that real estate would be my choice because I could set my own hours and could take kids to school and pick them up. I could still be pretty independent.” Barbara has won countless awards in her chosen field, as has her daughter, J.J. who joined the company in 2001. Since that time, J.J. has 5 years as Top Producing Agent in the Stephenville Association of Realtors plus other multiple awards including Platinum Multi-Million Dollar Producer and is the first ever agent to produce over $33 million in sales.
J.J. does this as her paying job but on holidays and weekends she ropes calves and wins other awards.
Johnny Woodrow, known as Row, is brother to Angie and J.J. and has won several events in arenas roping calves. He teamed up with Trevor Brazil in team roping as a teenager. The young cowboys won the Texas High School Championship in 1994. Trevor, the winningest professional cowboy ever, is a close friend of the family and has visited with the Hamptons often through the years. He and Row are close friends.
Angie says, “I was 2 months pregnant when my husband was killed. My family took care of me. My mother, my grandmother, my dad, my sister and brother, they were all there for me all the time. The day that Marty was born there were 50 or 60 people in the waiting room! Without the support of everyone life would have been really hard. I am so appreciative of everyone’s help.
“When Marty showed that he wanted to rope, local cowboys took him to teach. Cody Ohl picked him up from kindergarten and took him to rope. Later Trent Walls helped him by teaching him more control.”
Kason, J.J.’s son, was born in April 2009. Although he isn’t showing that he cares much about roping, he is there for many events and made the trip with the rest of the family to Las Vegas for the National Finals in December.
After watching Marty win another round and ready to face yet another interviewer, he looked at his family gathered around, smiled and said, “Let’s say a prayer.” “OK, go ahead,” someone said, to which Kason, clutching his hero’s hand said: “Thank you, Lord for Marty getting the money, and not breaking the barrier, and for getting a good calf.”
And all the Hamptons gathered together for one of their own, added a heartfelt, “Amen”.
Photos provided by the Hampton Family