Barrel racing with grit and Valor – Dona Kay Rule on Breaking the Barrier

Few people can call themselves professional athletes in their lifetimes, and even fewer people can do so at 63 years of age. Dona Kay Rule, professional barrel racer and Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier, is proving that dreams have no expiration date. 

Rule, who spent most of her life as a horse trainer and saddle maker, has grabbed life by the reins: qualifying for the NFR three times in the last three years. After being unable to compete at the 2020 NFR because of a positive Covid-19 test, Rule made the most of her 2021 NFR experience. 

“When I got to the NFR this year, I was just excited to be there,” Rule said. 

Though older than her competitors at the NFR, Rule’s grit and humble confidence is unmistakable.

“I never thought I couldn’t do it,” she said. “Once my kids got bigger and we sold the saddle shop, I just decided I was going to start.”

For Dona Kay, success is about more than just talent and aspirations. It is about action and quality horsemanship. Her horse, Valor, a 12-year-old gelding and two-time American Quarter Horse Association and Women’s Professional Rodeo Association horse of the year, has carried Rule to the highest level the sport of rodeo offers. Making sure he is well taken care of and in good shape is her top priority.

“You ride when it’s cold, you ride when it’s hot, you ride when you don’t feel like it,” she said. “The end goal is to be the best you can be, and for your horse to be the best they can be.”

Whether she is making runs at the NFR, or competing in a small local rodeo, Dona Kay Rule is a fan favorite – and it is not hard to see why. 

Hear more of Dona Kay’s story and journey as a competitor on this week’s episode of the Breaking the Barrier podcast, hosted by Rebel Sjeklocha.

Listen here:

Eclipse Movie filmed in Gering now showing on Amazon Prime

On Aug. 21, 2017, thousands of people from across the world gathered in Scotts Bluff County to witness one of nature’s most breathtaking sights: a total solar eclipse. South of the monument, local landowners Lisa Betz-Marquez and husband Frank Marquez, prepared to welcome eclipse lovers to their Gering farm for an unforgettable weekend.  Little did Betz-Marquez know, it was about to become even more memorable.

“We were busy preparing to receive campers from around the world, not knowing quite what to expect,” said Betz-Marquez. “I was thinking of every conceivable safety issue I could and determining tent sites, when two unexpected opportunities popped up,” she said. 

The first of those opportunities was to host a South Dakota-based member of the Lakota tribe, Ricky Grey Grass, for drumming, storytelling, and communal meals. The second, was to host a feature film cast and crew for a location shoot on the farm.

“Frank had National Guard duty in Wyoming that weekend, so my friend Rae Ann Schmitz offered to co-host.  It was Rae Ann who reached out to the Lakota.”

Together, Schmitz and Betz-Marquez worked hard to cook meals that would be shared among the many visitors to the farm that weekend. 

“We were crazy managing all of those details, and then I received a call from local filmmaker Becky McMillen, who was scouting locations for a film about the eclipse.” McMillen was working with producers Debra Lord Cooke and Elissa Piszel, also the movie’s leading actresses, to find the perfect location for the film’s main characters in the pinnacle scene, the viewing of the Great American Eclipse.

“How could I say no?” said Betz-Marquez.

With Dome Rock and the South Bluff as a backdrop, Valley View Farm offered the perfect site. With only two days to prepare, Betz-Marquez also agreed to include the cast and crew in the communal meals.

An actress herself, Betz-Marquez was offered the bit part of a Nebraska farmer offering directions to the main characters when lost on the back roads. Chief Gray Sage and his companions also were added to the film.  The scene that featured Betz-Marquez fell to the cutting room floor after the Maine Film Festival requested the film be shortened but she was pleased to earn an actor’s listing on the IMDB database for film professionals. 

In The Moon’s Shadow (ITMS) is a comedic drama about two estranged sisters, Lisa and Karen.  Older sister Lisa is a workaholic from New York City, and Karen is a recent widow holing up in the family’s summer cottage in Maine.  In response to Karen’s plea, Lisa joins her at the cottage, where the two decide to go to Nebraska to witness the upcoming rarity of a northern hemisphere total eclipse of the sun.  Karen’s deceased husband Tom had been an eclipse chaser and their estranged daughter Emily joins the two women in Nebraska to distribute her father’s ashes.

“It’s a gorgeous film, full of heart and authenticity,” said Betz-Marquez. “It is a huge thrill to see the local landscape featured so prominently and beautifully in the film, she said. “My favorite scene is the eclipse scene. It’s like being there and reliving the eclipse all over again, complete with goosebumps.”

The film is now available at no cost for Amazon Prime members. Betz-Marquez recommends it highly. “It is the story of estranged sisters, of healing, and the joy that comes after, told in a meaningful, human way.” 

 The film is artfully directed by Alvin Case, who also co-wrote the script with his brother, Edward Case. Scottsbluff resident Becky McMillen, of Insight Creative Independent Productions, was Unit Production Manager; and Scottsbluff resident James Patrick Maag served as production assistant. Local couple Jake and Sharon Santero hosted the cast and crew during their stay in the area.

The film was nominated for Best Feature at the LA Femme International Film Festival.