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KO Rodeo Ground's Oral Zumwalt - by Lee Hames - Part 8 - 'Zoomie’s World Record / Roy King’s Rodeo & Gene Autry / Missoula Grandstands Burn / Overseas WWII and Burma Rodeo'

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Zoomie’s Record / Roy King’s Rodeo & Gene Autry / Missoula Grandstands Burn / WWII and Burma Rodeo

After spending the summer months with Cremer’s rodeos Hames and Zoomie next headed south to California. Zumwalt would set the new record for bulldogging on this trip.

“Our first stop was Palm Springs where Zoomie entered the bulldogging. Some of the California rodeos had a different way of starting known as no barrier or lap and tap. The steer was in the chute facing into the arena while the hazer and dogger were in their boxes facing the opposite direction. As a steer left the chute, the hazer and bulldogger turned their horses around to pursue the steer. A pair of fast horses should be able to overtake a steer in 15 to 20 feet. During this period of time, most outdoor rodeos were giving the steer a 40-foot head start.

“The steer left the chute fast with Zoomie and I making a perfect start, boxing the steer between us. I watched as Zoomie jumped for the horns and as soon as I saw that Zoomie had the steer I reined off to the right to get out of the way. As I was reining my horse to a stop, I heard the crowd roaring. I looked back over my shoulder and saw Zoomie on his feet with both hands in the air and the steer trotting across the arena. This happened so fast I thought Zoomie must have missed the steer. Then I heard the announcer on the loudspeaker say, “A new world record of 2.2 seconds has just been made.” I was in the arena when the world record in bulldogging was made and didn’t see it as I was too busy getting my horse out of the way and had my back to the action.”

Following this they spent several months at various California rodeos where they made enough money to return to Montana for Christmas and “a well-earned rest.”

Here Hames’s life changed again when he stayed in Montana while Zoomie headed for the Denver Stock Show and points south. Hames found work logging and “decided to stay away from rodeo for a while.” With his cousin he leased property where they intended to start a “horse and mule raising business.” He was even considering going into the rodeo production business on his own and was buying bucking horses locally. Some of these horses were related to a Morgan stallion named Freddie Brown who was acknowledged as the producer of a strain of bucking horses that included Trail’s End.

“In 1941, Roy King produced a rodeo at Polson, Montana, and needed some more bucking horses so he asked me to help him with the show. Paul Foot, who had a horse ranch in the Big Draw about 20 miles from Polson, had some unbroken stock (mixed mares and geldings) that he wanted to sell. These horses were sired by a Forest Service Morgan stallion that was related to Freddie Brown (grandsire of Trails End). All of this strain of Morgans was prone to bucking. These horses were supposed to be four or five years old and were never handled other than when they were thrown and branded. King and I bought the horses and trailed them to Polson to use for bareback broncs. There were several good-looking mares in the bunch that I planned to keep for brood mares. One of them was a small Palomino.

“Bill Linderman was in the bareback riding and drew this little Palomino mare. Looking down at the small mare in the chute, Bill remarked, “King and Hames must be hard up for horses when they have to put greyhounds in the chute.” The mare bucked him off, kicked him in the jaw and sent him to the hospital.”

Gene Autry also attended this Polson rodeo and was there specifically to buy stock that had been advertised. King and Hames sold Autry several horses, drove them to Missoula for Autry and then boarded them on a train bound for Autry’s ranch in Ontario, Oregon.

Hames’s next rodeo would be a tragic one for Missoula Fair Grounds, when the stands caught fire and burned to the ground.

“The next rodeo I went to was the Western Montana Fair at Missoula. Time Bernard and Walt Moomaw from Washington were furnishing the rodeo stock. It was top stock and top riders.

“My cousin entered the bull riding and I entered the saddle bronc riding. Walt was bucked off his bull and broke his jaw. I rode my first saddle bronc but did not mark very high. On my second saddle bronc, I was just coming out of the chute when the grandstand erupted in flames. The spectators began pouring over the fence from their seats into the arena. When the pickup man caught my bucking horse, we were completely surrounded by people. It was a wonder no one was injured. The judges had not been able to mark my ride so I had no score. Since Walt was injured, I gave up rodeoing to return to the ranch and care for our stock.

This rodeo was also significant when Hames met his future wife, Lois Dickerman*. “The evening after the first rodeo performance, I was crossing the carnival midway when I encountered my older brother with a good-looking blond on each arm.”

Not long after this, WWII began and Hames found himself drafted into the army at Fort Lewis, Washington. His fascinating army career became the subject of another book, “The Mules Last Bray,” which details the U.S. Army’s calamitous introduction of mules into Southeast Asia.

One story from that period harkens to another noted Missoulian’s overseas career - in Laos during the Vietnam era, when Jerry Daniels of CIA fame too sponsored a rodeo in SE Asia. It wasn’t the first Asian rodeo to be held under extraordinary circumstances.

“I was shipped out to the CBI theater via Australia and India and ended up in Burma in the pack mule outfits. All of the mule skinners had been specially selected because of their civilian background. Most of the men were farm boys, cowboys, rodeo hands, or experienced Forest Service packers. All of us had animal experience so commanding was very similar to bossing a large ranch crew. I encountered a few men I had known in civilian life.

“There was a lull in activities so the cowboys and rodeo hands decided to have a rodeo. Some of the pack mules would buck a little when you attempted to ride them and several of the Aussie saddle mounts were bucking their riders off occasionally so they became our bucking stock. Work steers from the natives’ two-wheeled carts and a few native cattle roped from the jungle were moonlight requisitioned to be our cattle. At Lashio, in central Burma, the men cleared an area for an arena in the jungle that was about 100 feet wide and maybe 200 feet long. Ropes and vines were used to fasten large bamboo and jungle growth to the sides of the clearing to form the arena fence. It did not look like much but one wild horse runner from the sagebrush country of Nevada was heard to remark, ‘It really isn’t good enough to call a corral, but I have seen the time chasing wild horses I would have liked to have had it.’

“There wasn’t any material to build bucking chutes with so the horses and mules were snubbed up old-time style for mounting and turned loose. Most of the cattle were small native wild cattle with the exception of two fair-sized grey steers that a native drove by the army camp occasionally pulling a high two-wheeled cart. We found the cart steers grazing with the native cattle so they became part of our bucking stock too. To get the contestants mounted on the steers, the steers were roped by the head and heels and stretched between two horses. The rider bull rope was placed around the steer’s middle. The rider stood astraddle the steer and when the steer was turned loose to regain his feet, the rider came up with him.

“The first steer roped was one of the big cart steers. A cowboy from Kansas mounted him as he got up. The steer only made about two good jumps and then ran underneath one of the horses. There was quite a pileup of horse, steer and two men, but no one was hurt when we got them unscrambled. Some of the smaller steers tried to buck a little but most of the men were too heavy for them to do very much. The last steer to be roped was the other grey cart steer. By this time, the cowboys were getting better at giving the rider a little better start. Freckles Brown from Oklahoma drew this steer. The steer bucked really good and Freckles made a ride that would have won him some money at a rodeo back in the States.

“The next event was the bareback bronc riding where we used some pack mules for stock. Actually most mules do not buck very hard as they go straight ahead in long springy jumps. Every rider made a good ride making it hard to judge. I thought Dick Keen from Texas made the best ride on a black stocking-legged mule.

“Next came the saddle bronc riding on the Aussie horses. The Aussie horses were called Walers and were about the size of a good Morgan or Quarterhorse. There were a few of them that bucked pretty good, but four or five jumps was about all they would do and only three riders managed to make a qualified ride. Ernie Mutch from Montana made a very good ride on a big brown horse that would have been considered a good bucking horse in any rodeo string.

“Since I was an officer, I was not allowed to compete with the enlisted men so I was the one and only judge. . . This was probably the first rodeo held on the Asian Continent.

“After the Burma campaign, the American forces moved over the Hump into China. I remained in China until the war’s end and then returned home to ranch and rodeo.”

When Hames returned to Montana he found that many things either already had changed, or soon would. One thing that would not change was his love of horses.

*This author's aunt. Lois was my father's half-sister, raised on a dairy farm at the bottom of Miller Creek in Missoula. Their mother, Marguerite Berry Gilder, had been widowed at Mullan, Id. with 4 small children in 1916. A native of Bozeman, Mt., she moved back to Missoula, remarried (Roy Dickerman) and had four more children. She  had attended the University of Montana (class of 1908) and taught school in various places in W. Montana, including Cold Springs in Missoula, Drummond, Augusta, and St. Regis. While teaching at St. Regis she fled the huge 1910 fire  on a railroad boxcar.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 September 2016 23:14