Clear Lake, South Dakota

By Jean Wayt

We made a lot of rodeos in South Dakota but there is one that has always been foremost in my rodeoing memories. We were at Clearlake, South Dakota for the 4th of July rodeo in 1949 and the reason I can remember the date so well July 1st was mom and dads 25th Wedding anniversary and dad had given mom a beautiful set of silverware which one of my nieces still has.

Clear Lake sit up in the north east corner of South Dakota about 10 miles west of the Minnesota line surrounded by grass covered rolling hills. It reminds me of the sand hills of Nebraska, one of my most favorite places. The rodeo grounds sat about 4 miles from Clear Lake at the producer’s ranch, which was built on the slope of a hill. The arena was a depression in the ground just the perfect size for an arena and the spectators sat on the ground in ready-made bleachers.

We got there a day or two early and got acquainted with the owners, (sure wish I could remember their names) but they were very nice and friendly. I knew that he had some trick riders but I asked if he needed another one as we had Trigger with us and he said no but he would be happy if I would ride in the parade in town and he would pay me $20.00. Now $20.00 may not sound like much now days but in 1949 that was pretty good money just to ride in a parade so I agreed to do it

We didn’t have a very fancy horse trailer back then. It was wooden and real sturdy with bows across the nose and top to hold the canvas cover on. The divider was a round pipe attached to the manger and the other end had a devise on the tailgate to sit in to hold it up. Believe it or not this is the type of trailers that a lot of cowboys pulled. So the day of the parade I loaded Trigger up and went to town. The first 3 miles from the ranch was gravel and the other mile was asphalt. When the parade ended I loaded up and started back. The road was hilly just like the rest of the area and I hadn’t had much experience driving on gravel. I came up over the top of the hill and as I started down I hit the breaks to slow down. I found out real fast that is the worse thing to do on loose gravel. The trailer started to whip and The next thing I knew I was at the bottom of the hill with the pickup turned sideways in the road and the trailer turned over in the bar ditch with Trigger in it. “Oh my God I was scared to death.” About that time some guy came by and I said go get dad and Milt. By the time they got back I had Trigger out of the trailer. I got in the trailer with him and somehow got him turned or maybe backed him out with the tailgate still shut. Still don’t know how I did that. Some guys helped roll the trailer up on its tires and got it hooked back on the pickup and I loaded him back up and Milt drove on to the ranch. They still couldn’t figure out how I got Trigger out of the trailer with the tailgate shut, but I did!

The next day I was brushing Trigger and discovered a large bump about 8 inches long where the front cinch ring sits. I rubbed my hand over it and he almost fell to his knees. When the trailer tipped over he fell on the divider bar and really bruised his side. He was pretty stiff and sore for a few days but with a lot of T.L.C. he got well. But I’m telling you I sure learned a lifelong lesson that day about driving on loose gravel. I felt so sorry about hurting my old buddy Trigger like that.

I know most cowboys like to play cards but the bad thing about it is they don’t know when to quit. A game got started in one of the barns one afternoon and it lasted all night and lasted up until rodeo time the next day. One of the cowboys, a calf roper, had parked his rig pretty close to us and tied his horse to his trailer. He had a feed bucket tied on the trailer and threw some hay on the ground .The owner never came out of the barn to feed and water even once. Dad grained him and kept hay and water in front of him all that time because he couldn’t stand by and let the poor horse suffer. He didn’t even say thanks to dad.

One evening we decided to go to the movies in Clear Lake so Milt and I and our cousin Earl and wife drove in town to see “The Boy With Green Hair". We took our pickup and Earl took his. About half way through the movie it started to get real warm in the theater so Milt and Earl went to see the manager to see what, if anything was wrong. They looked out the theater door and seen the sky had a reddish glow. So they went outside and it was warmer still and every thing was real still. No breeze at all. Milt said “Let's get out of here“! They came in and got Earl’s wife and me and we loaded up and started for the ranch. About half way there a terrible wind hit. Earl pulled his pickup next to us just as close as he could without hitting us and we kept the motors running. We were a pretty scared hopeless feeling bunch. I kept looking down at the deep bar ditch out the side of the pickup. That was the hardest wind I had ever been in. Finally it let up some and we hightailed it to the ranch. The next day we heard there had been a tornado touch down near Clear Lake and we must have been just at the edge of it.

Well folks I’ve got to say that was the most exiting rodeo I’ve ever been to and it nothing to do with what went on in the arena.