BEHIND THE CHUTES AND ELSEWHERE

BART CLENNON

LAST OF THE SIGNERS OF THE COWBOY TURTLE’S PETITION

            When the top cowboys of the day signed the Petition to form the Cowboy Turtle Association and demanded better pay offs from rodeo producers things for cowboy competitors got much better.  The Petition, signed by sixty three top cowboys was presented to Colonel W. T. Johnson, premier rodeo producer of 1936.  This was done at the Boston Garden the first day of the month long rodeo.  The only living signer of that Tetition, Bart Clennon, of Tucson , Arizona , will be ninety seven years old on November 5th  of this year. 

            Bart was known as the cowboy’s cowboy.  He rode saddle broncs and won many rodeos across the country.  He was born in Aberdeen , South Dakota , to Bart and Edith Clennon and had four brothers.  Bart was the middle child.  Father Bart, put on rodeos at Ash Creek on the 4th of July for years when young Bart was growing up. By the time he was eighteen he was competing in bronc riding at Ash Creek.  The family built the chutes and small corral and the cars of the spectators made the arena.  The festivities always included a baseball game in addition to the various locals who would ride a bronc someone would bring to the event.  Bert’s wife and others would make a meal for everyone.  Young Bart went on to compete at Grindstone and Belle Fourche in South Dakota , and by then the rodeo ‘bug’ had bitten him – good.

            Bart spent over twenty years as a professional rodeo bronc rider and hit all the big rodeos and many of the little ones, too..  “I played and lived with the greatest bunch of buys in the world,” said Bart.  Although he never kept records his memory of the horses he has ridden and how they bucked is amazing.  Bart truly has a phenomenal memory when it comes to bucking horses.  He learned ten years back that I had been raised near Sterling , Colorado , and he competed at the Logan County Fair & Rodeo there in 1938, and won the All Around.  He wrote me a letter giving a full account of his experience there 69 years ago.

            A few years back I received an inquiry asking:  There was a Canadian bucking horse named Tumbling Mustard in the 1920s that became very famous as a bronc later under a different name.  What did they change his name to?”  I had no idea.  I had never heard of Tumbling Mustard, but I knew if anyone would know it would be Bart.  I called him and asked him and he said, “God damn, Gail, I haven’t thought of that horse in years.  Give me a little time and I’ll think on it.”  Within the hour he called me back and told me that the horse’s name had been changed to Five Minutes to Midnight ,  a very famous bucking horse.

            Bart won the Saddle Bronc event at Madison Square Garden in 1945 after fifty performances, Cheyenne Frontier Days in 1949, Sidney, Iowa, twice; Livermore, CA, once; Elko, NV twice; Fort Smith, once; Burwell, NE once, Hershey, PA once; San Angelo, TX twice; Deadwood, SD once; Kissimmee, FL once; Salt Lake City, once; Nampa, ID twice; Boston once; and many more wins, too numerous to mention.  Although he never kept records he knew he made a living riding broncs!

            Some of the horses he rode were:  Hells Angel, Conclusion, Mighty Mite, Y Bar Me, Home Brew, White Pelican, Nicotine, Wildfire,  Scene Shifter, tracy, Top Hat, Trail Tramp, Will James, Pikes Peak, Lee Ryder, Pearl Harbor (later named Lee Ryder), Duty Bound, Hell N Set, Crying Jew just to name a few.  And if you have a chance to talk with the former bronc rider he could tell you just how each one bucked.

            Bart has stayed active in rodeo his whole life by attending the National Finals yearly, as well as Cowboy Reunions whenever possible. He has been inducted in to the Rodeo Historical Society Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum . These days he doesn’t get far from home, however.  My hat is off to this cowboy who is truly a living legend.  Happy 97th coming up, Bart!

            {If you care to send a card to this ‘Cowboy’s Cowboy’ from the 1930s through the ‘50s.  Send it to my address:  4807 Park Lane , Austin , TX 78732 , and I will see that they are forwarded on to Bart.}

CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS OF BART FROM HIS RODEO DAYS

BACK