DUNCAN — Editor's note: Story has been revised to reflect Marlee Holt's proper school and grade.
As Clark McEntire looked at a custom-made belt buckle with his name featured, his eyes watered.
Clark’s had a lot of buckles — and saddles — over the years. After all, he’s 85 years old and was a world champion roper, earning the title three, if not four times. There’s just a little bit of a question on how many times he’s won the top title. He won the Pendleton Round-up four times and he’s the father of four children. Jacqueline, his wife and life-long companion, the McEntire one hardly hears much about — was by his side Tuesday, when he was presented with the Living Legend Award on behalf of the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Rodeo Finals.
“This is just beautiful,” Jacqueline said. By this time, she had a firm grip on the buckle. It features the Prairie Circuit states of Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska, and a diamond chip represents Duncan on the map. Along with Clark’s name is the award name and 2013.
The presentation was made by Mike Anderson and Joe Henderson, co-chairman of the local rodeo committee, his brother, Pat Anderson, and Marlee Holt, a 12-year-old Duncan Middle School student. Holt is a National Junior Honor Society member and in seventh grade. She is also Pat’s granddaughter.
They traveled nearly three hours to Texas to make the presentation because they knew Clark would probably not be able to make the trip to Duncan for today’s opening night rodeo. In 2011, Clark suffered a stroke. On Tuesday though, he was doing well and was more than excited to have visitors from Oklahoma.
“We wanted you to be our first recipient of the Living Legend Award,” Henderson said. He then introduced Pat and told the McEntires that Pat was the “check writer” for the gift.
“I’m more than happy to do it,” Pat said to Clark.
The McEntires are best known for superstar daughter, Reba, but, for this visit, the spotlight was solely on them — their life together, as parents of Alice, Pake, Reba and Susie (in that order) and for their rodeo history. Henderson presented Clark with the buckle which is housed in a shadow box.
“I’m sure glad you’re helping making me famous,” Clark said, with a slight chuckle.
“You made yourself famous,” Henderson said.
The Living Legend Award was created to honor someone who has made a significant contribution to the rodeo world. Mike Anderson said there are many individuals who fit the profile, but the idea was to highlight the elder generation of cowboys and cowgirls with hopes of making the younger generation aware of what it took to make rodeo what it is today.
“We just wanted to show you, we’re proud you did it,” he said to Clark.
For the McEntires, their rodeo history goes back to 1944, when Clark was 16 and started roping for a living. In those days, a cowboy was lucky if he made $2,500. Today, payouts can be more than 10 times that amount.
While Jacqueline never participated in a rodeo as a contestant, she spent her years making sure her husband was able to go and enjoy them. She stayed home, taught school, encouraged their children to follow their dreams and taught them to sing.
And even though there were lots of times Clark was away from home, she said they had plenty of fun and she enjoys rodeos. She’s a fan of rodeos even today.
“We’ll have a grandson-in-law that will be competing at the finals,” she said. That would be Justin Smith, steer wrestler, and he is on the list of competitors for this year’s rodeo.
During the two hour visit, Clark and Jacqueline talked of many things, with the focus mostly on rodeo.
“Rodeo got a poor start,” Clark said about its early years. Making the road trips was much harder in the 1940s then it is today. Both he and Jacqueline agreed they wouldn’t change a thing.
“You meet a lot of wonderful people,” he said.
“I think one of the best ... special things that happened to him, was being chosen a charter member when they started the PRCA Hall of Fame. He was one of seven inducted,” Jacqueline said.
While the McEntires don’t have many connections with Duncan, they do have a few. Jacqueline said her daughter, Alice Foran, is good friends with Jewell Darst. Son Pake, over the years, has competed a time or two at the Velma Old Settler’s Rodeo and they even came to Duncan once many years ago looking for one of Clark’s old saddles. They had heard a rumor there was one for sale at one of the stores.
Yet, the buckle Clark received Tuesday, may take the place of that missing saddle.
Mike Anderson said that seeing the joy on their faces was reward enough.
“We just want the young ones to realize what they have done for rodeo. There’s a lot of them out there that need to get this award. We are going to give two out next year."