Fifty years ago, the 10th annual Last Chance Stampede Rodeo, set numerous records, including most rodeo contestants, biggest prize monies, most parade entrants and the largest spectator attendance.
The Stampede was the brain-child of Bill Carson and Homer Phillips, with the inaugural event taking place in 1961. Phillips served as chairman for the 1970 Last Chance Stampede & Fair, while Duane “Moose” Lindstrom was his co-chair.
Back then, it was a four-day rodeo, running Thursday through Sunday, with most contestants competing in at least three go-rounds. The final round took place on Sunday, and the rodeo’s event champions were determined on an average basis, that being the combined total of two to four rounds, depending.
The record field of nearly 240 cowboys and cowgirls 50 years ago, was composed of at least 11 past/current/future world champions, including Doug Brown, George Paul, Gary Leffew, Enoch Walker, Dean Oliver, Larry Mahan, Roy Duvall, and Bill Kornell; and Montanans Benny Reynolds, Shawn Davis and JC Bonine.
The LCS Parade, which consisted of 134 entrants, was under the direction of grand marshall Clyde Burgan. The parade was led through town by a herd of about 20 Texas longhorn steers.
Also included was plenty of music, consisting of six drum and bugle corps, summer band, grand band and two musical floats. There was an abundance of horses as well, composed of seven mounted groups, in addition to multiple horse entries.
Dee Dee captures Miss LCS
In the Miss Last Chance Stampede contest before the rodeo, Dee Dee Dear, Miss Jaycee, was crowned the new queen of the rodeo. Deer, a 19-year old soph at Colorado State University, raised and trained quarter horses at the family ranch in Simms.
Miss Buttrey Osco, Karen Hicks was selected first runner-up, while Roxanne Score, Miss Exchange Club, was named second runner-up, and the Congeniality award went to Miss Union Bank Colleen Edwards.
Walter and Doris Marshall were the LCS queen contest’s coordinators. Among the Stampede’s other committee chairmen were Gib Goodman (Fair), Chuck Forest and Leon Schneider (Parade co-chairs) and Carl Schiller (Parade Marshalls).
The rodeo’s entertainment was highlighted by a Buffalo Bill Wild West Show, complete with cowboys, Indians, stage coaches and covered wagons. And world renowned Rodeo Clown Chuck Henson, assisted by John Wilson, acted as what later became known as the “bull-fighters.”
There was also a barrel race between Keith Herrin on his horse, and motorcyclist Jack Black from Great Falls.
The main rodeo events were bareback bronc riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, steer wrestling, calf roping and ladies barrel racing. Interesting to note that team roping did not become an official LCSR event until later in the decade.
The side events consisted of the Amateur bareback riding, Wild Cow Milking Contest, Kids Steer Riding (ages 10-13) and girls barrel racing.
Wurthier all-around champ
Warren Wuthier of Banner, Wyoming, won the average all-around, pocketing $1048, and placing runner-up in both of his events. In bull dogging, he threw three steers in 20.7 seconds, and he posted a 39.8 for his three calf-roping runs. Wuthier entered the Last Chance sitting No. 3 and No. 5 in steers and all-around in the PRCA rankings, respectively
The rough stock champions were Chris LeDoux (Kaycee, Wyoming) in bareback bronc riding, with 277 points for 4; saddle bronc’s Dennis Reiners (Clara City, Minnesota), at 218 for 3; and Melvin Fields (Coffeyville, Kansas) at bull riding, with 144 for 2. Reiners’ victory protected his lead in the world standings.
Two-time world bull riding champion Larry Mahan finished fourth.
Winning the average timed events titles were former Montanan Bob Ragsdale (Cowchilla, California) in steer wrestling, in 19.4 for 3; and calf roper Buzz Peth (Bow, Washington), at 39.2 for 3. Dean Oliver, the seven-time PRCA tie-down titlist, did not qualify for the finals.
Cindy Rosser (Marysville, California), the 15-year old daughter of Flying U rodeo producer Cotton Rosser, garnered the barrel racing, spinning the pattern in 52.3 seconds for her three runs.
The top Montana finishers in the average were Calvin Hatch (Augusta), second on bulls; JC Bonine (Hysham), third in saddle bronc; bulldogger Russ Dolvin (Dillon), third; Benny Reynolds (Dillon), fourth in bareback; and Lila May Stewart (Missoula) and Dorry Lou Carraher (Anaconda), who tied for fourth in barrels.
Steer “slips,” costs world champ Reynolds bulldogging win
The late Benny Reynolds (1936-2014), 1961 PRCA all-around world champion, was leading the bull dogging heading into the final round at the Fairgrounds. And although he got his last steer “down in a hurry,” a judge ruled the animal “slipped and fell instead of being thrown” by Reynolds, and he was forced to take a “no time.”
Reynolds, who was inducted into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in 1993, was the father-in-law of Helena steer wrestler Jesse Peterson, a 3-time Montana circuit titlist.
Two years later, East Helena’s Marvin Joyce garnered the 1972 NFR saddle bronc average championship. But he came empty-handed at the 1970 LCSR.
Former Helenan, Willson Pate (Roberts, Idaho), who captured the first go of the bareback with a 69-point ride, was the younger brother of Tex Pate. In 1962, Tex was the first local LCSR champion, winning the bull riding event.
Florence barrel racer Della Ogilvie finished in the top-4 in rounds 2 and 3, but just missed cashing in the average, 50 years ago. Della is the mother of former local college greats Shyla Epler (Montana Western hoops) and Colter Epler (MSU-Northern football).
The amateur bareback contest was captured by Skip Joseph of Augusta, who rode three broncs for a total of 166 points. Rounding out the top-4 were Jerry Crisman, Dave Theriault and Bob Graveley.
Blixt wins kids’ steer riding
Young Steve Blixt claimed the Kids’ Steer Riding, covering three steers for a combined score of 159 points. He finished ahead of Mark Bushnell, and brothers Stanley and Larry Johnston.
Blixt went on to a fine pro rodeo career, winning Circuit and NRA steer wrestling crowns. His father, Don Blixt, was recently inducted in the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame, and his daughter, WPRA barrel racer Shelby (Blixt) Gill, placed runner-up at the 2013 Last Chance Stampede.
The junior girls barrel racing was claimed by Sally Jane Walker.
When the final accounting was tabulated, the 1970 Last Chance Stampede Rodeo paid out $16,225 in prize monies, the equivalent of about $110,000 in today’s market.
Curt Synness can be reached at 594-2878 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He’s also on Twitter @curtsynness_IR