“I’m pretty talkative and used to edit a magazine, so it just made sense to write a book,” said Roy Lilley, the 90 year old […]
Back When they Bucked with Ladd Lewis
Written by: Siri Stevens< Back to Articles
Ladd Lewis loves to tell stories, and he’s got lots of them.
After 88 years of living, a hundred-thousand miles, thousands of bucking horses, ranch horses and mules, and a family, there are a lot of memories milling in his mind.
He was born on March 12, 1926, to Glenn and Esther Lewis, a half-mile west of Eureka, Kan., in the “horse and mule days.”
Agriculture, at that time, relied on horse and mule power and his dad was a trader. Since before he could remember, Ladd was outside, helping with his dad’s business. He spent his days breaking the mules and horses his dad bought, putting harness on them, leading them to the field, while someone else plowed and disked with them. When his dad brought home new livestock, Ladd was on horseback, bringing them home with a Johnson halter.
When he was fifteen years old, the world was changed with the Pearl Harbor bombing. Ladd announced at the dinner table that as soon as he was old enough, he’d join the U.S. Navy. His mother didn’t want him to, but his dad didn’t say anything. Two years later, Ladd went off to the Navy. He got his GED during that time, and came home in March of 1946. A month later, he married his high school sweetheart, Mary Waltman.
Ladd began his rodeo career as a youngster, competing in the kids’ events. When he was 21, he joined the Rodeo Cowboys Association, riding bareback horses, saddle bronc horses, and bulls. Ladd was a student of anything he began, including rodeo. He studied the livestock, and he developed his own abilities as best he could. He made more money riding barebacks and saddle broncs than bulls, but when he drew well, anything could be a good ride. “Part of it is a drawing game,” Ladd remembers. “You got to draw the ranker stock to win the money. You’d be drawing good bulls for a while, and when you draw those better bulls, it gets you deeper into development of that ride.”
Studying the bucking horses and bulls was part of Ladd’s strategy. When he knew what he’d drawn, he’d watch for that animal. “If you had a chance to where you could watch that sensational horse or bull buck, you’d get to where you could see it the best you could, so you could study what was going on.” Studying livestock was something Ladd had done since he was a child. “When you’re raised as close to livestock as I was, it’s like reading people when you meet them. You look at their eyes, and watch them.”
Ladd went to rodeos mostly in the area, from western Colorado to North Dakota, south to Oklahoma, and in Kansas. He stayed close to home, but he rubbed shoulders with the best, competing alongside Jim Shoulders and Casey Tibbs, among others. One of his fonder memories is riding a Roberts Rodeo Co. horse named School Boy. School Boy had thrown off all his previous riders, and Ladd rode him twice in one year: at Pretty Prairie, Kan., and at another rodeo which has escaped his memory, and winning both of those rodeos.
Full story available in the October 15, 2014 issue.