The Duncan Banner
Charles Foster has been breaking and riding horses around these parts in southwestern Oklahoma for years.
Ask around and you’ll find that cowboys young and old look up to him, and not just because he’s on a horse.
“He has been a role model to all the cowboys in the area,” said Shannon Williams, whose voice boomed over the loudspeakers Saturday at the Old Settlers’ 123rd Annual Picnic in Velma. “All of the youngsters still gather at his place sometimes.
“He just wants to see the cowboy heritage preserved and we sure think a lot of him.”
Shortly after 1 p.m. Saturday, with scores of folks lining the edges of the rodeo arena in Velma, Foster was presented with a towering trophy naming him a Living Legend, the highest honor given each year at the four-day bash.
It was Foster’s 48th year to compete at the event and the crowd greeted him with roars of applause. It got even louder when Foster’s wife, Darlene, was driven out on an ATV to join him in the arena.
It was easy to tell that none of it went to Foster’s head.
“I’ll tell you what, I’m just mighty thankful for all my friends,” Foster, still on horseback, said after riding out of the arena into some shade.
Foster first competed at the Velma event in 1965 at age 14, a few years before he graduated from Velma-Alma High School. He and a friend were quite good at ropin’ and ridin’ that day.
“We were just kids but we actually won a little money,” Foster said with a laugh. “It was enough to really enjoy the rest of the picnic.”
Foster was born and raised in the Velma area and spent many of his initial years as a cowboy working for Lloyd Ely, who was among those who joined him Saturday for the award presentation.
Foster’s daughter, Sandy, also was there, as was Rocky Allred, who Foster said was as dear to him as a son.
“It makes you feel good sitting in this place, folks thinking a lot of you,” Foster said.
Williams said the crowds during the four-day picnic were great and that was certainly true Saturday. Cars and pickup trucks – mostly trucks – packed the outside of the park and rodeo arena and were lined up on a few streets for blocks.
The cowboy events kicked off Wednesday night with the Cowan Ranch winning the Ranch Rodeo. There were 368 rodeo entries during the four days, an all-time high for the picnic.
There was a dance every night and a carnival midway was up and running each night. There was plenty to eat, of course, with watermelon an obvious hit.
Skies were bright and the sun had only started to do its thing early Saturday afternoon but nobody seemed to mind.
“The heat doesn’t keep anyone away, they’re used to it,” Williams said. “They’re going to be here whether it rains or shines, really.”