Ozona, county seat of Crockett County in far west Texas, holds just over 3,000 people. Zane Coates grew up there, in the friendly town where everybody knows everybody. The shock of the 19-year-old cowboy’s death in Stephenville last week sent waves of grief through the neighbors on both sides of the street.

Dean Wadsworth had known Zane Coates since they were in first grade.

“We graduated high school together in 2006. He enrolled at Southwest Texas Junior College in Uvalde with a rodeo scholarship and I came to Ranger to join their rodeo team,” Wadsworth said. “We made a lot of the same rodeos and on the night he died, we had made plans to drive to Jacksonville to a rodeo, make the Mesquite rodeo and then head out for Cheyenne.”

Those plans died in highway dust as Coates’ white Dodge dually pickup crashed into a milk tanker truck near the intersection of FM road 8 and U.S. highway 281 on Thursday afternoon.

“I just talked to him a couple of hours earlier,” Wadsworth said. “He was riding so well and we were just excited about rodeo and making plans and everything. I can’t believe that he’s gone.”

Zane Coates came from a cowboy family, not professionals but ranch-type folks who encouraged the youngster in his chosen profession, rough stock riding. Zane rodeoed from the time he was old enough to stick on a sheep, through ProYouth, through high school, and earned a rodeo scholarship to Uvalde College. He qualified for the Collegiate Finals this past season and equipped with a PRCA card in his pocket, was enjoying the prospects of a very successful career.

Just a few days ago, Zane moved to Stephenville where he planned to be better located for the drive to rodeos throughout the area. He was on a roll and had recently won the saddle bronc riding at rodeos in Bandera, Helotes, and Belton. He was doing everything right and getting the good horses to show his stuff. Zane’s view of the rodeo world looked great until that fatal moment when he saw the two rear axels of the trailer truck coming at him as he turned onto 281 from FM 8. Those massive truck tires were the last thing the young cowboy saw.

“I called my boys when I heard about Zane,” Kathy Crowley said. “‘Boys, please be careful,’ I told them. You just never know. They are here one minute and then gone. Please, please, Lord, watch over my boys.”

Both of Crowley’s boys rodeo and Jacob is a member of the TSU rodeo team.

“Every mother’s prayer is that her children will be safe,” Crowley said. “The very worst thing any parent can hear is that her child is dead. I just know that I’d never get over that.”

Would Zane Coates have become a champion? Would he have won the World? He was used to success. Some say he had it all at 19, but that was before that inattentive moment in time when all those dreams vanished in a devastating accident.

Graveside services for Zane Dalton Coates will be held at 2 p.m. today in Cedar Hill Cemetery in Ozona. Survivors include his parents, Deklyn and Fleet Coates of Ozona, and Grandparents, Lonye and Pat Cain also of Ozona.

“Zane will be missed by his friends,” said Jacob Crowley, who has competed in rough stock events along side Zane for the past five years. “He was really doing good and had a great future.”

“We were all just shook up when we heard that it was Zane (in the wreck),” Harve Stewart, champion bull-rider and member of the TSU rodeo team, said. “When we heard it was a white Dodge dually, we just hoped that it wasn’t Zane. Now all we can do is pray for his family.”