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October 13, 2013

Recognizing a steer roping legend

CT Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo Committee to honor Clark McEntire with 1st Living Legends Award

DUNCAN — No one around Duncan really knows Clark McEntire. The name may ring familiar and maybe a few old cowboys competed against him, yet, he’s a legend.

His history and humbleness is the reason the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo Committee will be honoring him when the rodeo opens Thursday at Stephens County Fair & Expo Center.

Mike Anderson, who is executive director of the SCFEC and a chairman on the CTRPCF rodeo committee experienced meeting McEntire about 30 years ago.

“He impressed me at being real humble. He’s a three time world champion steer roper and you would think he had nothing. He just wanted to talk about his ranch, his kids and how they had the desire and workability,” Anderson shared this week.

McEntire’s children’s names probably are a bit more familiar — Alice, Susie, Reba and Pake. Yes, that Reba. But this is one story that is not about Reba, but about the man who is the legend behind the superstar.

“You know, when he talked about his kids, it wasn’t about all the great things they were doing (publicly), but about them going after their dreams and how proud he was of them. He said rodeo gave him the opportunity to get his ranch and help his children go after their dreams,” Anderson said.

Clark was born Nov. 30, 1927 in Graham, Okla., and somewhere along the way, met Jacqueline and they married in Atoka.

Ranching became their way of life, but rodeo was Clark’s passion. In those days — 1950s and 1960s — there weren’t endorsements by name brand companies. A cowboy had to go it alone and winnings were tough to earn. For Clark, professional rodeo was the thing which helped him earn his living.

Anderson, who said he’s been in conversation with Clark’s oldest daughter, Alice Foran, said the stories are rich with history and very inspiring. The money Clark earned from winnings was put into buying land or cattle, which was then used to put food on the table. Clark’s ranch grew to encompass more than 7,000 acres of Oklahoma land.

Anderson said cowboys like Clark are the ones with the stories that the younger generation need to hear.

As the rodeo committee began coming up with ideas to enhance the three day event, they started thinking about honoring an older cowboy with a “Living Legend Award.”

“We wanted to do something special,” Anderson said.

The idea started formulating about three years ago, but some issues interrupted it in the first year of the Finals coming to Duncan (last year). After clearing the books and starting fresh for this year, the idea renewed.

It was Anderson’s brother though, Pat Anderson, who was the person who stepped up and said he’d cover the bill. At that time, they still didn’t know who they’d choose.

“It needed to be someone older, who won more than just buckles,” Mike said.

The recipient had to be a legend. Pat Anderson said it’s an honor to do something for someone from the older generation.

Clark’s legend includes induction to the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 1979 for steer roping, and winning three world champion titles, 1957, 1958 and 1961, according to the ProRodeo Hall of Fame website.

His father, John McEntire, won the World Champion Steer Roper title in 1934.

Clark, now approaching his 86th birthday, is in an assisted living facility in Texas. He suffered a stroke in 2011, but is a survivor.

It’s because of that reason that Anderson and others with the rodeo committee want to make the presentation to Clark. Because of his health he will not be able to travel to Duncan as originally anticipated. Some of the Chisholm Trail Prairie Circuit committee members will be traveling to Texas prior to the rodeo’s opening Thursday, to honor Clark.

A special belt buckle was commissioned, with Red Bluff Buckles out of Continental Divide, New Mexico, which works with Native American artists and silversmiths. Sterling silver and gold, it features an image of McEntire roping a calf, generated from an old photograph shot of him in action at the Pendleton roundup one year. There are diamond and ruby chips, with one of them larger marking Duncan on a red, white and blue map featuring the three states on the Prairie Circuit — Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. The belt buckle is housed in a shadow box, but is a wearable buckle.

“We’re going to honor him, whether he can be here or not,” Mike Anderson said. “He’s a humble man. A legend.”

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