Rodeo Clown Reunion 2004

 

BEHIND THE CHUTES AND ELSEWHERE

 

By: Gail Hughbanks Woerner

 

            Rodeo developed slowly in the beginning, but as it gained momentum and began to have some consistency in the format, judging and prize money, the sport really shifted in to high gear and it was full steam ahead.  One of the most important parts of rodeo, other than the competitors, was the rodeo producer.  He could make or break a rodeo.  The ‘suitcase’ producers that used to promise big and deliver nothing, by leaving town before anyone discovered their absence, were soon recognized.  Word spread quickly about these shysters and it didn’t take long until they were drummed out of the sport.

            Colonel W. T. Johnson, was the premier rodeo  producer and had some of the biggest rodeos in the country by the 1930.  These included Houston , San Antonio , Madison Square Garden , Boston Gardens , Chicago , St Louis , and many points in between.  All ready a successful and wealthy rancher and former banker, he had a flair for publicity and knew how to attract people who weren’t  rodeo fans to come see a rodeo performance.  He took a paint pony to the top of the Empire State Building with an elevator load of photographers.  He donated proceeds from the rodeo to the New York City Milk Fund for Children.  The one thing Colonel Johnson would not budge on, however, was the amount of money he paid in prize money.  No matter how hard the cowboys argued they weren’t being paid fairly when they ‘got in the money’ Johnson stubbornly would not consider uping the purses.  Because of Johnson’s stubborn decision the cowboys secretly formed the Cowboy’s Turtle Association, and at Boston Gardens, in 1936, when they finally made themselves known and refused to participate,  the manager of the event insisted that Colonel Johnson give everyone attending their money back and abide by the cowboys request for better purses.  Whether this event and the fact that he did have to comply to the cowboy’s wishes broke the Colonel’s spirit and enthusiasm for rodeo, or if he was truly ready to retire and do other things, we will never know.  This was his last rodeo and the following year he sold his World Championship Rodeo, lock, stock and barrel, to Everett Colborn, Bill Clemens, Twain Clemens, and Harry Knight.  The company consisted of 150 saddle horses, 150 bucking horses, 50 Brahma bulls, 100 head of bulldogging cattle, 90 calves, 50 wild cows, 110 saddles and various other equipment. 

            Everett Colborn had been Johnson’s Arena Director as well as a judge for many years prior to the sale.    He bought a 14,000 acre ranch near Dublin ,  and moved the rodeo company to it’s new location called the Lightning C Ranch.  Colborn was a different kind of man than Johnson, in many ways.  Foghorn Clancy, who was considered the very first rodeo announcer and also produced rodeos and  a well thought of publicity man for rodeo, said about Colborn, in an article he wrote in the Hoofs & Horns magazine in December, 1938, “Everett Colborn, a man with a graceful personality – he has climbed to the top of his chosen profession, to the top of the roughest of all rough sports and has carried with him and still retains a most gentle disposition, but as he would say, ‘On with the show’.”

            Everett Colborn was born near DeLama, Idaho , on July 26, 1892 .  His father, Mark Colborn, was a rancher and horse trainer.  At the age of five he was given a pony and a cowboy outfit, a Christmas gift from his dad, with an oversized toy cap pistol, a gift from the ranch hands.  Everett immediately became the self-appointed sheriff of the bunk house and corral.

            Colborn became quite a ranch hand and helped with the branding of the horses and cattle on his dad’s ranch and for neighboring ranches.  Ranchers would sometimes give him a horse in return for his help and by the age of fifteen he owned several horses, which he traded for a dozen calves and started his own herd.  When his dad decided to move to California he bought his dad’s ranch.

            Colborn was a good roper and could win some money at rodeos.  It didn’t take long before the ‘rodeo bug’ had bitten him, and he began to rent his stock to the little rodeos around the Idaho area.  Later he furnished stock to larger rodeos.  He even began directing rodeos for various rodeo committees.

            In 1935 he formed a partnership with J. C. ‘Doc’ Sorensen in Idaho and produced rodeos throughout the Northwest.  Two years later he formed another partnership with Knight and the Clemens brothers.  Gene Autry was also a partner at one time and performed at the Colborn rodeos, as did Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, and many other Hollywood and musical persona.

            Colborn had a string of good bucking horses.  He had an ability to recognize a potentially good bucker although he made no special fanfare about them.  There was Hells Angels and Chief Tyhee, who were both chosen for the Honor Roll of Great Bucking Horses.

            Many rodeo people highly respected Everett Colborn.  Gerald Roberts called him the greatest rodeo producer of all time.  Glenn Ohrlin said, “He was a classy guy running the classiest outfit there was.”  Many commented that he never made a scene, but sat quietly on his horse in the arena and observed.  He hired men that he knew could get the job done, and then let them do it.  Some of those men were Alvin Gordon, Pete Kerscher and Charlie Ben Bradberry.

            In September of 1928 he married Ava Lenon of Blackfoot, Idaho .  They had two daughters, RoseMary, and four years later, Carolyn.  Both girls were active in the rodeo.  Carolyn was selected by the American Milk Foundation to be photographed for their advertisements promoting the benefits of milk for children.  Her beauty and healthy good looks was the key.  RoseMary  rode in the Quadrille, one of Colborn’s specialties, a square dance act on horseback, during the rodeo and eventually married Harry Tompkins, World Champion All-Around Cowboy.

            Everett Colborn was well thought of in the rodeo world, by the competing cowboys and cowgirls, the people who worked for him, and the various people around the country who were on rodeo committees that dealt with him.  He retired in 1960 and spent the rest of his life in Dublin .  He died March 20, 1972 .

 Click here for article on the Dublin Rodeo Heritage Museum

The Dublin Rodeo Heritage Museum is having a dinner on November 13 to give the Dublin Rodeo Honors awards to the following recipients this year;

     

Mitzi Riley – daughter of Tad Lucas, who was in the rodeo arena when she was one year old.  Mom, Tad, put her in her big hat and rode around the arena with her.  Mitzi got her first paycheck at the age of six by trick riding with her mother.  They trained their own horses, made their own costumes and traveled the country from their base in Fort Worth .  She later married Lanham Riley, a calf roper, and they continued to rodeo for some time.  Both have spent a life promoting rodeo.

      Berva Dawn Taylor – daughter of Doc Sorenson, Colborn’s first partner.  She grew up in rodeo and thinks her first grand entry was when she was age four at Salt Lake City .  Later she carried the colors during rodeos with her sister, she also worked the rodeo office.  In 1949 she was chosen as a sponsor girl to go to New York and promote the Madison Square Garden rodeo.  She and Gene Autry went to schools and hospitals to promote the rodeo.  She married Dan Taylor, a rodeo cowboy, and they moved to Texas to work for Everett Colborn’s World Championship Rodeo       

      Dan Taylor – born and raised at Doole , TX .  He learned to rope early and won his first rodeo prize at Midland .  Later he worked for Everett Colborn and he and wife, Berva Dawn, moved to Dublin to assist.  He won many roping contests, was pickup man and chute boss.  He has been chute boss of Chute 9, the roping and bull dogging chute,  at Cheyenne Frontier Days  for fifty some years.  He now is the fourth generation of Taylors to run the family ranch at Doole. 

      Mary Ann Mayfield Stephen was a trick rider, rope specialist and member of the Quadrille,  appearing at the Dublin Rodeo many times.  Born and raised at Dublin she promoted the rodeo throughout the area.  She was chosen as a Sponsor Girl to go to New York and promote the rodeo there.

      C. Buck Evans, worked as a pick up man and chute boss for the World Championship Rodeo, traveling on the Rodeo Train from Dublin to Madison Square Garden and on to Boston Gardens .  In the off season he was foreman of the Lightning C Ranch, Colborn’s rodeo stock ranch, near Dublin .  He was also a rodeo competitor and made a significant contribution to rodeo.

              Please plan to attend this affair.  For further information contact Amy McDonald at 254-445-0200 or 254-445-4333.

 

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