Back When They Bucked with Arden Clement
Written by: Michele Toberer< Back to Articles
Winston Churchill said, “We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give,” and the life of Arden Clement of Kinder, Louisiana, has been all about giving to the future of rodeo. With a Cajun heritage, speaking only French until starting school, Arden began training colts in his youth and quickly became a go-to cow horse trainer for many of the local farmers. In high school, he competed in the inaugural Louisiana High School Rodeo Association rodeo in 1950; and in 1951, riding a sorrel horse Red Man, in cutting, calf roping, and bulldogging, he finished the year as the LHSRA Reserve Champion Calf Roper, Reserve Champion Cutter, and Reserve Champion All-Around Cowboy. Red Man, owned by Sidney Marcantel of Welch, Louisiana, was sold to Wild Bill Elliott, who campaigned the horse in his shows for several years before selling him back to the Marcantel family for his retirement. After high school, Arden dedicated his life to training horses and kids for their own futures in rodeo, retiring from it in 2004, at the age of 72. He stepped back into the training arena in 2011, when his young great-grandson, Cole Ford, came to him with aspirations of becoming a calf-roper like his great-grandfather, and he was happy to get the fourth generation of cowboys started just right.
Born in 1932, just after The Great Depression, Arden began training horses on the rice farm where his family worked, to ride the fields and doctor cattle. His knack for breaking young horses for work led him to training horses for many local farmers, charging them $10 per month to break their 2-year-old colts. Arden’s parents, Elza and Minnie Pearl Clement, counted on Arden to help on the farm, along with his three younger sisters, Rena, Dewanna, and Veronica. “I would break horses to make a little spending and rodeo money while I was in high school. My sisters would help me some, Veronica competed in rodeo through high school and would help work the cattle and the chute as I was training roping and cutting horses. Rena would help unless I raised my voice at her, and she’d head straight back to the house. At the end of the day, when I was done training on the colts, my sisters would ride them in the shade of a pecan tree grove by the house to cool them off, it was a pretty sight.” Arden would load horses up a ramp into the rice truck beds rigged with cattle racks to go to rodeos. “We also used old Chevy one-seater cars with 70-75 horsepower engines that would only pull at about 30-miles-per-hour, to haul trailers with no springs and wood boards on the sides. One time we were going to a rodeo and looked back when we heard something, to see boards falling off the trailer. We just picked them up and tied them back on, so we could make it to the rodeo.”
After high school, Arden worked for a short time managing a hardware store in Elton, before being hired by George Grimshaw of Bunkie, Louisiana to train roping and cutting horses. “Mr. Grimshaw asked me if I needed someone to help me with the horses, and I introduced him to my good friend Billy Duhon. I had taught Billy how to rope and train horses, and he worked there with me until I left that job.” Billy Duhon was a lifelong friend of Arden’s and ended up spending his life training cutting and roping horses as well as competing as a steer wrestler for many years before his retirement. “I made the mistake of teaching Billy all I knew about competing and training, and after that I couldn’t beat him. He was athletic and knowledgeable, he just took to it like a duck takes to water.”
Arden worked for Mr. Grimshaw for a year before leaving, “I went to work for Calcasieu Marine National Bank and started from the bottom up. I worked my way up to assistant vice president and manager of the bank during the 38 years I worked there before retiring.” While working at the bank, Arden continued to rodeo and train cutting and calf roping horses; and found a true enjoyment in helping aspiring rodeo athletes get a start in rodeo. He had a friend build an indoor arena for him at his farm, so he could give lessons year-round. “I could have a bad day at work but get home and ride or train on a horse and it would just relax me.” Arden and Billy remained friends but also worked together to help many get started in rodeo; including Arden’s son from his first marriage, Brent, and Billy’s son Steve Duhon. Steve went on to become a three-time world champion steer wrestler, and Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame Cowboy. Brent competed as a steer wrestler and won the champion title in the Louisiana Rodeo Association in 1981. The two friends were also instrumental in helping world champion steer wrestler, Mike Smith get started. “We both helped them, but Billy was really the champ teaching steer wrestling, I did most of the hazing.”
Arden helped form the Louisiana Rodeo Association, now known as the Louisiana Rodeo Cowboy Association, remaining a member for many years. He competed in the PRCA for two years as a calf roper before a knee injury kept him home. Arden also competed in the Old Timer’s Rodeo Association, formed in Texas, and although he was one of the oldest in his group, he enjoyed competing in the association for several years before his retirement. Arden remained supportive of the LHSRA from its beginning and was honored at a LHSRA state finals rodeo a few years ago. His son, Brent, explained, “My dad has been active in rodeo his whole life. He’s helped people, trained horses, loaned horses, and let many come rope at his arena. At the LHSRA state finals, at least 50 to 70 people of all ages stood up that he had personally helped, and there have been so many more. He did it because he loved it.”
Arden married his second wife, Betty, in 1970, and helped raise her children, Michael and Bill Creasman, and Sally Daigle. He was glad to share rodeo with them as they were raised, as well as several of their friends. Brent, who after competing in the LHSRA, amateur-rodeoed and college-rodeoed for McNeese State University, had a son, Cody Clement, who also competed in LHSRA as a saddlebronc rider. Cody’s stepson, Cole Ford, currently competes in the LHSRA as a calf roper. “Cole came to me and said he wanted to calf rope, so I started him on the dummy and he just took off, I was really glad to get him going in rodeo. Now Shane Hanchey has taken him under his wing and has really brought him along to where he is now.” Shane found Cole a new strawberry roan calf horse named Thumper, that Cole has had quite a bit of success on. When Arden checked Thumper out, they were surprised to discover that Arden had trained the gelding’s mother over 20-years-prior, as well as the gelding’s sister; and now the offspring of that mare is putting his great-grandson in the winning ranks of rodeo; evidence of the lasting effects of what Arden has given to a sport he loves.
“Rodeo has changed so much over the years, there are better schools, better equipment, and better horses. Kids can go learn more about roping in a 3-day clinic than I learned in 6 years. What hasn’t changed is how good it is for the kids. I hear people say all the time that horses and rodeo fees are so expensive, but I tell them, ‘would you rather pay fines to get your kid out of trouble, or pay rodeo fees to keep them out of trouble?’ When it comes down to it, paying fees is cheap.”
In his retirement, Arden enjoys going to the coffee shop to drink coffee with friends, reading the paper and taking naps after dinner. He still goes to the LHSRA rodeos that are close to home and enjoys seeing many of the results of the help he’s given over the years, especially his great-grandson that is starting down his own rodeo path.
Looking back, Arden appreciates Zack Marcantel for furnishing him good horses and taking care of him throughout his rodeo career; and Doug Habert and family for furnishing his indoor arena for 20 years before he retired.
“I’ve gone to every rodeo I ever wanted to go to in my life, except Calgary. I had a good career, met a lot of people, and saw a lot of things, I can’t complain.”