Down The Road with the Original Buffalo Dale
Welcome back. With tickets now on sale for Elder Care’s big fund raiser of the year, The Good, The Bad and The Barbeque I thought I’d focus on cowboy history this week and the life of a man who sure enough lived it.
Although Clem McSpadden died of complications from cancer on July 7, 2008 his influence lives on in the memories of his thousands of friends and the many stories that were written about him. A rodeo cowboy turned announcer turned politician turned businessman, like his uncle Will Rogers Clem never forgot where he came from. Today he is buried less than a mile from where he was born. Long before there was a highway named after him and before his career in politics, Clem was just your average kid growing up on a farm, riding horses, hunting and fishing. In 1944 he signed up for the navy to support his country, reflecting a patriotism that continued until he died. Another pillar in his live was his family. He was married to Donna Casity on February 11, 1962 in the First Baptist Church in White Oak. The couple had one son and they traveled the world promoting rodeo and serving as good will ambassadors for Oklahoma.
I met Clem several years before he died while researching a writing project. When you were in his presence, you knew this man was special. Clem was the General Manager of the PRCA National Finals Rodeo in Oklahoma City, a State Senator from 1954-1972 and the founder of the Busheyhead Roping Arena where the world’s richest roping competition was started in 1975. Two years later the event expanded to become the world’s richest roping competition and western art show. Donna created the art show to entertain the wives who attended the rodeo. Their energy and vision was unstoppable and the event quickly exceeded their greatest expectations.
As an elected official, Clem facilitated the construction of the McClellan-Kerr Waterway, working with the Oklahoma Water Resources to insure state participation in the huge federal government project. He also launched Reba McIntyre’s career when he hired her to sing the national anthem at the National Finals Rodeo.
One of Clem’s personal highlights is described in a new book about his life, Spring Will Come, the Life of Clem McSpadden by Bob Burke and Joan Rhine. In the book Clem’s widow Donna remembers a bull called Tornado and Clem’s friend, rodeo legend Freckles Brown. Tornado was an eleven year old, 1800 lb. bull with pitch black eyes. He had never been ridden and many cowboys just passed on their ride when they drew him. Tornado had thrown off over 200 riders by the time he met up with Freckles Brown at the Oklahoma City Rodeo in 1961.
Most people thought the 46 year old Brown would be the next rider to get tossed but not Clem. After announcing Brown’s successful eight second ride, Clem would claim that this was the greatest legend making event in rodeo history. Later singer-songwriter Red Steagall approached Clem for all the facts about the ride before writing his hit song, The Ballad of Freckles Brown.
I could write much more about Clem McSpadden but I’m about out of space. Before I go let me give you a scoop: Clem’s widow, whom I’ve also interviewed, will be a guest at the Elder Care barbeque this year. Donna is just as nice as Clem was and is always happy to visit. Till next time I’ll leave you with an excerpt from the cowboy prayer which became Clem’s signature:
“Help us, Lord, to live our lives in such a manner that when we make that last inevitable ride to the country up there, where the grass grows lush, green and stirrup high, and the water runs cool, clear and deep, that you, as our last Judge, will tell us that our entry fees are paid.”
With that I’ll see ya down the road..