Classic Cowboys / Rodeo

Picked Up In The Rodeo Arena: Freckles Brown

Flashback to rodeo athletes that made their legacy in the arena.

Robust Brahma bull riding is rodeo’s acknowledged number one action event and, like dessert, it usually is the last course on the schedule. This scheduling, particularly at the larger rodeos, continually poses a problem for the automobile driving fan from afar. This fan has a constant decision to make: whether to remain in his seat and see all of the bull riding, or whether to slip out a bit early and get to the parking lot ahead of the crowd.

At the conclusion of a performance, which is generally after the final bull and rider has been turned out, the exit rush is on and then, in the resultant confusion, getting one’s car off a parking lot with all four fenders yet intact and still in possession of an even temper and unfrayed nerves is sometimes quite an accomplishment. In fact, at sizable car corrals adjacent to many rodeo plants, just locating one’s car is often a rather ingenious feat.

Program listed rides by top cowboys on infamous rowdy bulls are the ingredients generally conducive to keeping the. knowing fans glued to their seats till the completion of a long performance. This is the way it was at a Sunday matinee performance, October 21, at the Pacific International Rodeo in Portland, Oregon. Of special interest on that afternoon was the fact that Freckles Brown, Lawton, Okla., the big money-winning bull rider of 1962, was to be out on the fierce Black Smoke bull of National Finals fame.

Through the years, the adventurous Freckles Brown has undoubtedly ridden more outlaw Brahmas than any cowboy in the country. He contested at his first rodeo when he was 16, though at that time he appeared to be even younger; currently, he admittedly is 41 years old. A majority of the brave and brawny riders of bulls are in their 20s.

Freckles Brown
Photo Courtesy of Western Horseman Archives

Freckles paid his first entry fee to contest at a rodeo in Willcox, Arizona. That was the start, back in 1937. The United State’s involvement in World War II temporarily interrupted young Brown’s budding rodeo career. Freckles went into the army. In camp, how-ever, before going overseas, Freckles and some of his soldier-cowboy buddies were able to occasionally contest at a weekend rodeo. He and one or another of his buddies usually managed to win some of the purse money. Two of his army camp pards were the featherweight rough string rider Harvey Faulkner and the late Wayne Louks, bronc rider. Of those early army training camp days, Faulkner says, “Brown, Louks, and I had one particular problem – walking.”

Eventually, Freckles and his favorite girl friend were married. They now have one child, Donna, who is a teenager today. After Brown, Louks, and Faulkner, with some outside assistance, won the war; Brown and Louks returned to rodeoing. Years later, Wayne Louks was killed in a bronc riding mishap at a Texas rodeo. Harvey Faulkner, out of uniform, went back to working cattle and breaking and training horses.

An all-around hand, Freckles Brown contested in bulldogging and in all three stock-riding events. Along the way, he figured in some hectic arena wrecks and sometimes came out from under with broken bones and other painful wounds. These injuries, though, never kept the rugged Brown out of action for long.

Freckles never did win a point award title, but he did win a wide and varied assortment of individual rodeo titles and trophies. Not as showy or as fancy as some cowboys, he, never-theless, has always been rated as a top hand who could win at anybody’s rodeo. Year in and year out, in the arena, he steadily did all right for himself and his family. The Browns have a nice little outfit out of Lawton, with horses and an ever-growing amount of stock.

Then, in the past several years, instead of slowing down, Freckles appeared to be consistently riding better than he had as a gay young galoot. This was especially noticeable in his bull riding efforts. He had always done his best on every rank mount he got down on, but now he was doing it all a shade better, contesting at more rodeos, and upping his take home win-nings. In 1961, as an all-around cow. boy, Freckles won a total of $22,652.

Freckles Brown riding a bucking bull
Photo Courtesy of Western Horseman Archives

The spectators in Portland at that Sunday matinee performance watched one of rodeo’s outstanding cowboys come out of a side delivery chute aboard the rank Black Smoke bull. Freckles made the ride and the aroused fans gave him a big hand. He got off the bull and then suddenly the fast Black Smoke was charging and he was butted hard twice. Brown was down and it was apparent to all that he was seriously injured.

The unconscious cowboy was rushed to a hospital suffering from what was later diagnosed as a crushed vertebra.
He would not, as planned, again ride at the St. Louis Rodeo, at the Cow Palace Grand National, or at the RCA National Finals event. The season, for Freckles, had come to an abrupt and calamitous end on October 21. He had, however, to that date won an impressive $18,675 riding rough bulls in rodeo arenas around the country in 1962. This sum was some $5,000 more than Ronnie Rossen collected in 1961 to win the RCA bull riding title.Brown’s closest bull riding competitor for 1962, Bill Rinestine, was $6,035 below him in winnings on October 21.

It would appear that though Freckles Brown is hospitalized and unable to finish out the season, he very likely could end the year as the RCA Champion Bull Rider of 1962. No cowboy ever tried harder, or longer, or was more deserving of championship honors.

Portland rodeo event winners were: saddle bronc riding, Winston Bruce, Calgary, Canada; calf roping, Ben Finley, Vancouver, Wash.; bull riding, Ken Stanton, Sisters, Ore.; bareback bronc riding, Eddy Akridge, Midland, Tex., and Daryl Hobdey, Peck, Idaho, tied; and bulldogging, Dean Oliver, Boise, Idaho. Now Oliver is beating the ‘doggers, too.

Five nights after the Portland rodeo run was completed, and with the St. Louis rodeo still on, the Cow Palace Grand National got underway in San Francisco. On the following Wednesday night—Halloween—Casey Tibbs, holder of more saddle bronc riding titles than any past or present cowboy, was put down by a powerful hunk of horse known as Knott Inn. In the spill, Casey hung up in a stirrup —the phobia of all saddle bronc riders—and was dragged halfway across the arena. Later, doctors at the Peninsula Hospital reported that the 33-year-old Tibbs suffered extensive bruises and a fractured thoracic vertebra.

Casey Tibbs comic
Photo Courtesy of Western Horseman Archives

Casey had just recently returned from Japan where he had produced a long series of wild west show exhibitions and a contest rodeo. In entering at the Grand National, he listed his home address as Hong Kong. Probably no rodeo cowboy has been as well known and as well liked by the public as is Casey Tibbs. For a long time, an awesome feeling of gloom was prevalent throughout the huge Cow Palace after the mighty Casey struck out.

Grand National rodeo event winners were: saddle bronc riding, Winston Bruce, Calgary, Canada; calf roping, Glen Franklin, House, N.M.; bull riding, Bill Rinestine, Amarillo, Tex.; bareback bronc riding, Jim Houston, Omaha, Neb.; and bulldogging, Mark Schricker, Sutherlin, Oregon.

The following report was received in the mail from Jack McCracken, Mc-Arthur, California:
“Read with much interest the story on Otto Kline and also about Guy Weadick. I was on the 101 Ranch show as an eight horse team driver in 1910-11-12-13-14-15, and had many friends on the show, especially among the performers. I was well acquainted with Otto Kline, Chet Byers, Tommy Kirnan, Bee-Ho Gray, Hank Durnell, and all of the others on the 101, and they were a really fine bunch of people.

“I just returned from a trip through Oklahoma and Texas. I visited the wife of Clarence Schultz (a long time 101 Ranch cowboy) at Marland, Ok-lahoma. Mrs. Schultz is the former Martha Allen (a noted cowgirl of past years). Also visited what is left of the 101 Ranch and the graves of Mollie Miller and Joe C., George L., and Zack T. Miller. Mollie Miller (an early Indian Territory pioneer and mother of the three famous Miller brothers) and (sons) Joe and George are buried in the I.O.O.F. cemetery at Ponca City. Zack (the last of the Miller brothers who died in Waco, Tex., January, 1952) is buried on Cowboy Hill, which is just across the Salt Fork River bridge. Alongside Zack is the grave of Jack Webb, noted trick rider and roper, and an expert rifle shooting act performer.

“Then I visited the grave of Bill Pickett. Bill is buried on a knoll in a cow pasture between the Schultz home and the town of Marland. Buried beside Bill is ‘Big Charlie,’ the cook for Mrs. Miller at the 101 Ranch ‘White House’ (headquarters ranch house)—also, White Eagle, an Indian who was with the show for a long time, and James Smedley, better known as ‘Curbstone Willie.’ Smedley used to drive four yokes of oxen on the 101 Ranch show, and earned the nickname ‘Curby’ because he would always have the wheel oxen push the front wheels of the wagon against curbing to act as a brake on downhill grades.

“The only marker is a rough boulder with the inscription Bill Pickett, no date or data, and the other three oldtimers have only the tin plate which funeral directors put on a grave. The weather over the years has obliterated the names and any details.

“I then went to Iowa Park, Tex., and visited the graves of Tommy and Beatrice Kirnan, who are both buried in Highland cemetery. The Kirnan’s have a nice headstone with the plaque that Beatrice won for bucking horse riding at the 1929 Madison Square Garden Rodeo mounted on top of the headstone.

“I learned that Bessie Herberg of the 101 (of high school horse fame) was burned to death in a fire that destroyed her home and store. Bessie now also sleeps the long sleep in Ponca City.”

This article was originally published in the January 1963 issue of Western Horseman.

Man on a bucking horse
Photo Courtesy of Western Horseman Archives

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