Kevin Whaley Talks Ranching and Rodeo with Silver Spurs
Kevin Whaley is out working cows, raising bulls, or training horses just about every day. He even has to defend his herds against modern-day cattle rustlers once in awhile. That’s right – he’s a 21st Century cattleman. A cowboy. The real deal. Kevin, 57, is also a long-time Silver Spurs Club member and grew up in the club his family helped found in the 1940s. He continues the back-breaking work ranching still requires today. But make no mistake, it’s a labor of love, just like his volunteer work with the Spurs.The Whaley family has cattle (and had citrus, too, at one time) at their ranches in St. Cloud and Kenansville for more than 100 years. This pioneering family has always worked hard, enjoyed the simple pleasures of rural living, and has proudly contributed to the country’s food supply.Life now seems to revolve around technology. But Kevin cut his chops in the ranching business and rodeo before the advent of computers and decades before Central Florida became an international vacation destination. He’s worked in the family business all his life and got his start in the Spurs at age 6, riding the club’s famous quadrille – a square dance on horseback.Despite advancements in breeding and equipment, ranching hasn’t gotten any easier over the years. The business (like the sport of rodeo) is tough, always has been. But it remains the same in all the ways cattlemen relish, like working outdoors instead of toiling behind a desk and commuting by horseback rather than sitting in traffic. Ranching and rodeo go hand-in-hand. The sport sprung from the work that’s required of the people who raise livestock for a living, including the Whaleys and many of the Spurs’ other founding families.The Whaleys settled on the east shore of Lake Tohopekaliga in the 1860s and pioneered the cattle and citrus industries in Osceola County. Kevin and his wife Debora have been married for 25 years; they have four children, and now, five grandchildren. They settled farther south in Kenansville, an old hitching post of a town. The family still manages their ranching business together, running hundreds of head of cattle on thousands of acres in between St. Cloud and Kenansville.Roping calves, racing barrels, and taming wild horses and bulls are common job duties that naturally lend themselves to rodeo. A love of animals is also commonplace. Ranchers and rodeo performers alike know how to read animals and often can predict their behavior.“Every horse has a story,” Kevin said. “These horses are like family to us. We know this one’s mama and this one’s daddy and that one’s grandmother.”Kevin is part of a small group within the Silver Spurs who raise livestock for the club, which competes in the Spurs’ two annual rodeos and in contests throughout the state and country, including the National Finals Rodeo!
He became an official member of the club in 1980, and like many in the tight-knit group, Kevin can’t remember a time when he wasn’t part of the Silver Spurs. From their old outdoor venue to the multimillion-dollar namesake arena at Osceola Heritage Park, Kevin’s been there through it all. Big Boss in 1998 AND 1999, Kevin is the only member to ever be elected two terms. Like its name implies, the Big Boss runs the club’s two annual rodeos and is the public face of the Spurs throughout the year. He also served many years as Ranch Rodeo Chairman, helping groom the next generation. His passion and dedication to the cattlemen culture is service-minded just like the Silver Spurs, which always has functioned as a nonprofit organization and gifted its profits to Osceola County charities.“My goal is to keep this tradition alive for the next generation and maybe the next.”So look out for Kevin, say howdy and ask him about life on the ranch and the sport of rodeo. He can give you an earful from the heart.