STAFF WRITER JARED FIELDS
He fights bulls and saves cowboys. She cuts hair and promotes Western clothing and boot brands. Together, Cody and Sierra Emerson live an Old West life in the 21st century, raising cattle on their Marble Falls ranch in between pro rodeo and fashion gigs.
Cody rodeos nearly every weekend of every month with a bit of a break in December. He broke into bullfighting as World Champion freestyle bullfighter in 2012 and has been ranked among the best in the world ever since.
Sierra works five days a week at Attitudes Too hair salon in Marble Falls and feeds their 100 head of cattle when Cody is on the road. On weekends, she joins him on the rodeo circuit, posting photos on social media of her Western style choices. She’s a fashion influencer for brands such as Justin Boots, Cavender’s, and Wrangler. Recently, she was one of 30 women picked to take part in a fashion show for RFD-TV’s “The American” at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
“When I’m sitting here thinking about it, it’s super overwhelming,” Sierra said. “But we do it.”
Sierra grew up in Johnson City, the daughter and granddaughter of rodeo royalty. Grandfather H.L. Todd is a legendary World Champion steer roper. Her mother, Kim Todd Hodge, is a member of the Tarleton Rodeo Hall of Fame in Stephenville. Her father, Jimmy Lee Hodge, was inducted into the Ben Johnson Hall of Fame in Pawhuska, Oklahoma. Like his father-in-law, Hodge is a champion steer roper.
Growing up, Sierra idolized rodeo cowgirls in their beautiful turquoise jewelry and boots. Her fashion fancy didn’t stop there. A favorite hairdresser she frequented as a teen sparked her interest in becoming a stylist herself.
“She made me feel more confident,” Sierra said. “I had real curly hair, and she put a straightener on my hair. That thing changed my life. I went from a goofy-looking junior high girl to boys now liked me.”
Sierra attended college on rodeo scholarships for breakaway roping and goat tying as well as academic scholarships. She began cutting hair in Stephenville in 2011, moving to Marble Falls in 2013 where she’s built her clientele through skill and personal charm.
No longer a rodeo competitor, Sierra began dressing up to attend Cody’s competitions. Over time, she realized her platform as the wife of a world champion and daughter of well-known parents and grandparents in the rodeo world could lead her down another path. She became one of the women she admired as a girl, complete with colorful outfits and big jewelry.
“I probably own forty pairs of boots,” Sierra said.
“Minimum,” Cody added.
When a professional isn’t taking her photo, her husband grabs her phone and snaps away, getting just the right shots for her social media posts.
“Cody’s my Instagram husband,” Sierra said with a laugh. “I’ll find a place and get my phone out, and go, ‘Okay, Cody, stand right here.’ He grabs the phone, I get in position, he takes four or five photos, and then I check them.”
She posts the best and reaps a barrage of followers. The way Sierra sees it, if she can leave on a Friday to see Cody and get paid to post about her clothes then, “Alright! Let’s do this!” she says.
Growing up in Jonesboro, Arkansas, Cody roped most of the year while in high school, but he really wanted to be a bullfighter. A magazine ad for a three-day bullfighting school helped make it happen.
“Once you do it a few times, you’re hooked,” Cody said of his experience at the school in 2007. “You’ve got the adrenaline rush in you, and you can’t stop doing it.”
He began working cowboy protection at regional rodeos on weekends while earning a bachelor’s degree in agriculture business.
He soon added American freestyle bullfighting to his resume, a one-on-one, 40-second competition between the bullfighter and a mean, angry animal ready to strike. Unlike Mexican bullfighting, the only one in danger in the arena is the cowboy.
A sport suited for men between the ages of 17 and 21 in peak physical condition, Cody, now 30, is nearing the end of his bullfighting career.
“I’m getting older now, so I’m like, ‘Man, this is dumb,’” said Cody, who, despite his age, finished as the runner-up last year in the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association’s Bullfighter of the Year competition. “I hate freestyle bullfighting until (the bull) sticks his head out of that chute.”
The adrenaline rush brings him back to it again and again.
With only about a year left as a competitive freestyle bullfighter, Cody plans to continue in cowboy protection, a job similar to rodeo clown — funny clothes but less makeup and no need to entertain. As he turns his attention to protection, working bigger rodeos across the country, he also plans to spend more time with his hometown herd.
THE COUPLE’S CORRAL
With all they have in common, Cody and Sierra have very different personalities. Despite his celebrity on the rodeo circuit, Cody prefers to return to his hotel room after a competition rather than hitting the party scene.
Sierra is more of a people person. Her joy comes from interacting with people and helping them look and feel their best.
The couple, of course, met at a rodeo.
“All I ever wanted was to marry a rodeo cowboy that ranched,” Sierra said. “Not everyone is cut out for it.”
It’s an old-fashioned rodeo dream come true in a contemporary world of fashion.