Kaycee hosts LeDoux dedication
Kaycee – A crowd tripling by 10 the usual population of Kaycee was on hand June 19 to witness the unveiling of the tribute to cowboy and musician Chris LeDoux, and the proclamation by Governor Freudenthal naming June 19, 2010 as “Chris LeDoux Day” in Wyoming.
At the center of the tribute was a life-and-a-half sized bronze of LeDoux’s world championship ride on the bronc Stormy Weather, with a base composed of a replica of his favorite Guild guitar. The bronze, entitled “Good Ride Cowboy,” was created by Buffalo sculptor Mike Thomas, and now resides in Kaycee’s Chris LeDoux Memorial Park.
“When you’re Governor, there’s nothing better than having an ambassador like Chris LeDoux,” said Freudenthal in his address to the crowd. ”He personified what we love about the West, and what we’re so proud of in Wyoming. He wasn’t a drugstore cowboy. He knew what he was doing, and his music spoke from the heart. When you’re Governor and you’ve got that ambassador out there, someone proud to be from Wyoming, you can’t expect to have much better.”
“I envy people who have the capacity to take music and words and turn them into a message, because those messages will live on far longer than any speeches I or anybody else might give,” continued Freudenthal. “Chris LeDoux has a lifespan that will live on in and annals of America that none of us can match.”
Chris LeDoux’s manager and a Western Underground band member Mark Sissel shared a letter from Charlie Daniels with the crowd: “No matter how great Chris LeDoux’s musical star shined, he never forgot he was a cowboy. He walked like a cowboy, he talked like a cowboy, he was a cowboy. He never got away from it. Even on stage he’d jump on that mechanical bronc and show folks why he was a champion rodeo man. Chris was a friend, a man who rose to the top in two separate careers and left a rich legacy in both of them. It’s fitting this bronze tribute is life and a half size, because that was the heart of Chris. Long live the spirit of Chris LeDoux.”
Sissel went on to say, “I consider Chris LeDoux to be one of the greatest entertainers of our time. He was focused, determined and creative, all behind the big, broad, stoic cowboy veneer, powered by practical joke playing and the fun-loving heart of a kid.”
Of LeDoux’s songwriting and musical style, Sissel said, “I’d never met someone who described their music with such imagery, and had no concern about the technical aspects of music, only the strong desire to paint a picture in a song to tell a great story.”
“The same determination he used to ride bareback horses he threw into his music,” said Sissel of LeDoux’s contract with Capitol Records and touring thereafter. “Before we knew it, we were headed down the road with full-blown rodeo rock and roll.
“One night after a show, he asked me, ‘Why do you suppose all the people follow a raggedy cowboy around to these shows?’ And I told him they believed him, and his honesty, integrity, loyalty and trust. And he said, ‘Aw, shoot.’ He was successful in rodeo, successful in music, successful in life, and all without ego. In 16 years running down the road, I’m forever grateful for what he gave to all of us.”
“Chris and I started our rodeo careers about the same time,” said Stormy Weather owner Bobby Steiner of Austin, Texas. “We all knew each other before any of the winning started. Chris had just as much fun, and was just as happy, and was the same guy before as after. I never heard Chris gripe or complain the whole time I knew him, or say a bad word about anybody. He just pulled his hat down real tight and went about every ride like it was his last one.”
Steiner recalled that LeDoux had “unbelievable survival skills” early on in the leaner times of his rodeo career. “He could do more with 25 cents than the rest of us could do with $25,” said Steiner. “He pulled into a rodeo one time with just enough money for entry fees and the gas to get there, and no money to eat on. He pulled into a roadside diner, went up to the counter and got to talking with a nice waitress and asked if she could fix him up with crackers and a glass of water. She brought a tray of crackers out, and water. He asked if she’d bother to heat some water, and bring him a spoon. She brought him the hot water, and Chris dumped ketchup in and stirred it up. When he got to the rodeo, he said he didn’t know if he’d have made it over without the waitress, the bowl of crackers and the good hot bowl of tomato soup, and I don’t know that I remember talking to Chris about anything that he didn’t end it up with that great big grin.”
“Everybody loved Chris so much because he was such a great guy all the time,” said Steiner. “Chris was a great guy from the first time I met him to the last time I saw him, and there’s a lot of things that happened in between there. It could have changed him, but it didn’t.”
“I enjoyed going to work every day on this piece,” said sculptor and friend Mike Thomas. “Knowing Chris, he’s a little embarrassed, but proud just the same.”
“In every picture when he was riding a bronc, he was gritting his teeth the same way, and if anything scared me on this project, it was that,” said Thomas of the bronze. Of including the Guild guitar, Thomas said it was an afterthought. “Chris had a lot of loves, and I thought I could at least get two of them in the bronze. Then it was so large, it needed something around the sides, and I was listening to Chris that day, and the words ‘Beneath these Western skies’ came out, so I thought that was very fitting.”
“Naming the sculpture was really easy, because the Garth Brooks song ‘Good Ride Cowboy’ summed it all up,” said Thomas.
Christy Hemken is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.