Remembering a rodeo legend, Gore inducted into Rodeo Hall of Fame
Wheatland – Les Gore is remembered by many for his success in rodeo and his contributions to the rodeo world, but his wife, Kay Gore, says, “Rodeo was basically his life.”
Though Les passed away as the result of a four-wheeler accident in 2016 at the age of 91, the Wheatland rancher was inducted into the Rodeo Hall of Fame during a ceremony in Oklahoma City, Okla. on Nov. 10, 2018.
“This is a wonderful honor for Les. I wish he could have been there to accept the honor himself, but his family and I all went to Oklahoma to accept it for him,” says Kay. “It’s really a big honor in the rodeo world.”
Les began competing in rodeos very early in his life, starting his rodeo career with the Rodeo Cowboys’ Association (RCA), which is now the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA). He purchased his first card in 1950, but Les began competing in rodeos in 1946.
“At that time, there were only 30 rodeos in which to compete,” describes Kay. “Les worked both end of the arena, competing in all three rough stock events, steer wrestling and calf roping.”
Les traveled from Calgary, Madison Square Garden and Boston to San Francisco, Fort Worth, Texas, Tucson, Ariz., Dallas, Texas and Oklahoma City, Okla.
As a college student, Les won the National Intercollegiate Rodeo in San Francisco, and he kept climbing the rodeo ranks.
In 1949, Les won the amateur bronc riding at Cheyenne Frontier Days – a ride that was memorialized by John Mariani in a painting, as well as a bronze sculpture.
In a rodeo at Fort Worth, Texas, he won the bareback riding title after winning in all four rounds in 1956 and then won the steer wrestling average at the RCA Rodeo in Las Vegas, Nev.
“At one point in his career, Les had scored on 73 bull rides in a row,” Kay comments. “Les’ first NFR qualification came in 1963, but due to injuries from a rodeo in San Francisco, he was unable to compete.”
It wasn’t until 1965 that he returned to rodeo, where he won in the first round and then placed in three other rounds. Injuries in the seventh round meant he was unable to compete on his eighth horse.
“It was a disappointment, but Les shrugged it off, saying, ‘That’s the way it goes,’” Kay explains.
Diversifying his career
In 1949, Les also took a step to diversify his rodeo career, partnering with Pete Burns and Jim White and forming Summit Rodeo Company. The company provided bucking stock for the first NFR.
Les briefly sold his share of Summit in 1954, purchasing it back in 1957, along with Pete McKee’s bucking stock. The two operations were combined to form Rocky Mountain Rodeo Company.
“In all, Les spent 10 years providing bucking stock for PRCA rodeos,” says Kay.
When Les turned 55, he decided to stop competing, but he continued to support the sport, directing and judging a number of large rodeos.
Les also formed the National Old Timers’ Rodeo Association in 1979. Known as the Senior Pro Rodeo Association today, Les sat on the association board for many years.
“That’s how obsessed he was with rodeo – he just wanted to keep going,” Kay explains. “Les and I continued rodeoing every weekend.”
“When the Senior Pro Rodeo started, we continued to stay involved,” she continues. “He continued his success, with many wins. Les finally quit competing at the age of 64, after winning the all-around in bareback and steer wrestling at his last rodeo.”
Kay continues the friendships and relationships Les formed through rodeo lasted for many, many years.
“Les rodeoed with all the world champions through the years,” she says. “He could have been a world champion himself, but injuries always set him back. He broke his leg in 1965, the year he was on track to be the world champion.”
She reflects back on one particular instance that stands out in her mind, when Lane Frost approached the couple as they were sitting in the stands at Cheyenne Frontier Days.
“Lane came up to us and said, ‘You’re Les Gore. I had to come up and shake the hand of one of the greatest bareback and bull riders,’” Kay reflects, adding that Les and Lane’s father Clyde rodeoed together for many years. “It sure made an old cowboy feel good to have Lane, Clyde’s son, come and shake his hand.”
“Then, Les went down, stood on the chutes and gave everyone a thumbs up. From then on, Les would give everyone a thumbs up when he met them,” she says. “It was fun.”
When Kay looks at the walls of their home, the many honors Les won with the National Old Timers Rodeo Association and more line the walls. At ages 89 and 90, he won buckles recognizing that he had the second oldest Gold Car at the NFR.
In 2015, Les was inducted into the Wyoming Cowboy Hall of Fame, an additional honor that his family cherishes.
Kay comments, “We’re all still involved in rodeo, and this honor is something that gives generations of the Gore family to look back on through the years.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.