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An interesting exhibit at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center features a rodeo legend — Clyde Burk. And while the photos, belt buckles won in the arena, saddles and other mementos are the material possessions he left behind, it isn’t all that is left of him. Burk died Jan. 22, 1945 during an event at the National Western Show in Denver. He was only 33 years old. But he had already achieved four World Championship titles for tie-down roping — 1936, 1938, 1942 and 1944.
His legacy lives on, through his family, rodeo history and fans who hear of his achievements.
And a first time ever Legends Rodeo Reunion Saturday night at the Simmons Center helps preserve his legacy along with other area greats. His nephew, Roy Burk will be a guest speaker and the Burk family is legendary in the rodeo world.
Born in Comanche on June 13, 1913, his history reveals his tenacity. Clyde was inducted posthumously to the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 1979 for tie-down roping.
He was only 19 when he was orphaned and his strength came through as he worked to keep his siblings together as a family — two brothers and two sisters. It was the Depression era and living in southern Stephens County presented its own challenges.
Rodeo life was the way of life for many a Comanche youngster and also throughout Stephens and Jefferson counties.
Burk’s first two titles were won on a sorrel gelding he trained — named Bartender.
Yet, it’s the story of Baldy that captures the attention in the exhibit at the Heritage Center. Look closely at the large photograph and the details are revealed to the curious viewer.
Baldy was a chestnut quarter horse and Clyde became his owner in 1941. He paid Ike Rude $2,500, but Baldy had suffered some misfortune prior to that. In 1936, Ike and another man were on the road, transporting the horse from Winnipeg, Canada to Burwell, Neb., when a lit cigarette was tossed from the window. It landed in the hay in the trailer and Baldy was burned from head to hoof on his left side. A veterinarian though took great care and Baldy survived.
In 1944, Burk won the World Championship riding Baldy. That $2,500 horse later earned a combined $43,000 for three men. The complete story is shared in the exhibit, along with many other tales and cowboy poetry dedicated to the life of Clyde Burk.
One of the most fascinating pieces in the exhibit is a wagon wheel coffee table made in 1921. It is filled with rodeo belt buckles. Other pieces of the exhibit include Burk family members who have followed in the footsteps of Clyde. After all, the Burk name is legendary not only in Oklahoma but across the country and into Canada. Each has a lengthy history, titles claimed and many other honors.
The exhibit will remain up through October and more is expected to be added to it in the coming week, said Cova Williams, CTHC museum coordinator.
The Burks will be among the Legends honored at the reunion, which starts at 7 p.m. It is a fundraising event for the upcoming PRCA-sanctioned Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo set for Oct. 17-19 at the Stephens County Fair & Expo Center.
Mike Anderson, one of the committee chairmen and director of the Fair & Expo Center, is hoping anyone who loves history and rodeo, will attend the Living Legends Reunion.
“This may be a once in a lifetime opportunity — to get to meet the rodeo legends of the world,” he said.
The list includes Clyde Burk, Jiggs Burk, Dee Burk, Barry Burk, Blair Burk, Roy Burk, Ote Berry, Spud Duvall, John Farris, Mildred Farris, Gary Ledford, Morris Ledford, Junior Garrison, Zane Tibbets, Joyce Loomis-Kernek, Kathie O'Brien, Greg Winham, Tom Walker, Willard Moody, Richard Stowers, Florence Youree, Sherry Combs (Johnson), Janae Ward (Massey), Missy Long, Carol Goostree, Kurt Goulding, Ryan Jarrett, Shawn Frey, Howard Council and Charles Pogue.
For information and ticket prices for the dinner event, call Joe Henderson, 580-252-7388. Anderson said people can just show up and buy tickets at the door.