Express Ranch Big Event 2016 and a Visit with Dean Smith

Welcome back. Continuing from where I left you last week on the historic Chisholm Trail near Yukon, Oklahoma I was there on last Thursday night as a crowd of roughly 150 people celebrated a man’s birthday. Governor Fallin was there along with her husband Wade Christensen who has recently released a cookbook. I got the chance to visit with him about the book and there were lots of other dignitaries on hand like past Governor George Nigh who was a featured speaker along with Governor Fallin who led the crowd in singing Happy Birthday. The famous cowboy Billy Etbauer was there as was the well-known professional ice hockey coach Doug Sauter. All this under a tent atop a hill overlooking a valley that back in the 1800s was part of the Chisholm Trail, the “trail that fed America.” Three time Governor Nigh spoke of how two men crossed the Chisholm Trail through Oklahoma and made history. One, John Christen kept going, and the other, Bob Funk stayed.

Governor Fallin also praised Funk for his spirit and dedication not only to Oklahoma but also to his mission of helping the people he employs reach their goals in life. The life size bronze statue of Funk on horseback looking down the trail which was dedicated on Thursdaywas a surprise gift for his 75th birthday funded by friends and family. A model of the sculpture was unveiled at his birthday party last year and I felt fortunate to have been invited to that party as well.

Of all the celebrity types I got to visit with over a three day extravaganza, where even the legendary star Kenny Rogers was hanging out, one person I met you may never have heard of or remember and it is my pleasure to tell you a little bit about him.

Dean Smith is 84 now. With the body of a 40 year old, Smith was a Gold Medal winner at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics and he looks to me like he could still set a few records. He’s in the Texas Longhorns Hall of Honor among many others and had a long and successful career as a film star and stuntman during Hollywood’s so called Golden Age. Smith acted and performed stunts in some of the biggest movies of the day. John Wayne used him in a dozen films but he also doubled for Roy Rogers, Robert Redford and even Maureen O’Hara. A personal friend of Ben Johnson, Dale Evans and many other big name stars I can tell you if they were all as nice as Dean Smith it’s no wonder they call it the Golden Age of Hollywood and friends it must have been some party. Dean has a book out about his life called Cowboy Stuntman: From Olympic Gold to the Silver Screen. I’ve got one and it’s a good look back in time, check it out.

Saturday and Sunday found me signing books with Joe Washington at the Great American Gun Show in Tulsa. With the political climate and what seems to be an uptick in home invasions promoters tell me they expect big crowds at all their upcoming shows. I’ve discovered that there are not only gun dealers at these shows but also many talented artists. You can find a lot of interesting things and if you look closely you might find a bargain while meeting some nice people.

Till next time I’ll see you down the road……

 

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Bob Funk & The Chisholm Trail Part I

Its been a great four days and now I’m winding down the second day at the gun show…..

Welcome back. For Will Rogers fans, last Saturday morning marked the anniversary of his death and every year a celebration is held in his memory at the Dog Iron Ranch. A grass air strip sits next to the house Will was born in and planes of every kind fly in from all over the country for the event. This is a regular layover for me if I’m in the area and this year the good weather drew big crowds and lots of planes. There were bi-planes, planes from World Wars I and II, experimental ultra-lights and even several helicopters. With plenty of food vendors, Will Rogers souvenirs, guided tours of the house, trains rides for the kids and dozens of tame animals all wanting to be petted, people of all ages had a great time. If you missed it don’t worry, this is an annual event and friends this party doesn’t cost a dime to attend.

On the road this week I’m traveling the same trail that Texas cattlemen followed going north to Abilene, Kansas back in 1853 when cattle prices for longhorn cattle in Texas were $4 a head compared to over $40 a head in Missouri. It was a rough life and a dangerous job for those cowboys as encounters with vigilantes, rustlers and hostile Indians were common. According to Wikipedia, by the end of the civil war most cattle drives started at the Red River in College Station, Texas but other historians claim that this famous cattle trail started further south around San Antonio. By now, with over 27 movies out about it, I’m sure at least some of you know I’m talking about the Chisholm Trail. If you believe the film versions, I’m riding down the same trail that John Wayne and Montgomery Cliff took in the 1948 classic movie Red River. Walter Brennan and Randolph Scott fought rustlers along the trail in the 1938 film The Texans and dozens of songs have been written about the trail by the likes of Gene Autry, Woody Guthrie, Tex Ritter and Roy Rogers.

I also learned that there are at least eight schools named Chisholm Trail and several towns along the trail hold big festivals that last for days. Ok, so what am I doing here? Well here’s a little news you may find interesting. By next week’s column, a life size bronze statue of Oklahoma philanthropist and businessman Bob Funk sitting on his favorite horse will have been dedicated at a site along the original Chisholm Trail just outside of Yukon, Oklahoma. I’ll grab a photo and bring you all the details next week. I’ll also be telling you more about the world’s richest cow sale which starts Friday outside of Yukon and where music legend Kenny Rogers will be performing for guests. After all that what else? Well during the day Saturday and Sunday I’ll be with OU great Joe Washington at the Grand National Gun Show at the Tulsa Fairgrounds. With everything going on with the upcoming election, show promotors tell me they expect big crowds.

I hope to see you somewhere along the way but if not, tell next time I’ll see ya down the road….