Whether it was with wild horses, barrel horses or movie horses, Sammy Thurman Brackenbury lived her life with spirit, a sense of adventure, and a […]
Back When They Bucked with Florence Youree
Written by: Courtesy< Back to Articles
story by Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns
Tiny Florence Price, from Addington, Oklahoma, learned cowboy skills early and well, in the footsteps of her Daddy, John Henry Price, and many other top hands. She cut a wide swath into the world of rodeo and followed it faithfully for decades, claiming amazing victories in equality for cowgirls. Last July, Florence pioneered even more territory for them, becoming the first “Notable” the ProRodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame inducted under the umbrella of the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association (WPRA).
“That was REALLY something! I never dreamed of such a thing,” Florence said. Her “desire for women to rodeo, and to help get bigger and better barrel races for them” was incidental in her mind; and she claims her 2019 induction “just kind’a happened.”
“My folks had box seats at the Fort Worth rodeo, and they always had horseback ‘Musical Chairs’ there,” said Florence about her beginning in rodeo. “I thought that was the neatest thing I had ever seen, but I had never done anything like that! I’d heard about barrel racing, so I got one of Dad’s best pasture (working ranch) horses and started training him.” By the time she was 14 Florence and that horse competed in small rodeos close to home.
Those were pioneer days for women’s rodeo, with some of those events having no set pattern and possibly old, used water heaters for markers if there was a pattern. Possessing foresight beyond her years, such infrequent, novelty events weren’t part of Florence’s vision. She identified a need for organization, standardization, and recognition for girls and their horses – and set out to make it happen.
Florence called her favorite arena horse ‘Chubby’, but the beautiful Palomino Quarter Horse’s registered name was Chubby Dun. “Grandad bought him as a stallion, and stood him for several years. When he didn’t want any more foals from him he gelded him. He was always real nice, and easy to work with,” Florence remembers. “He was a natural at working cows, and he learned the barrels pretty fast. I used a regular little old grazing bit, never needed anything else on him.”
Florence wasn’t the only good cowgirl in her family . . . sister Sherry Price shared the passion for horses and competition. Competing in rodeo was a rare treat for the Price sisters – busy growing up, going to school, and helping on the ranch – yet Florence did everything she could to help promote it, especially for women. Those efforts birthed the pioneering Girl’s Rodeo Association (GRA). “I didn’t travel to rodeos until after Dale Youree and I married,” Florence says. “He was a calf roper, and we pulled two horses behind a car in an old open top 2 horse trailer.” She remembers a storm that came up as they were heading to a rodeo in West Texas. “We pulled into a lumber yard in some little town, and got a big tarp. We tied it on there to cover the top and protect the horses a little,” Florence explained. “And when we pulled into the rodeo grounds Dale said, ‘Let’s just stop out here, I don’t want those people to see what we look like!’”
“We traveled some with Manuelita and Jim Mitchell before we girls joined the GRA. Fay Ann Leach and Billy were also great traveling companions,” Florence says. “By that time we had bought a pickup and a little 8’ camper, so we’d park out in the infield, on the backside of the rodeo grounds. Our kids John and Renee went along from 4-years of age, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. That kind of life was a good education in itself. They learned to meet, socialize and talk to people. We and our kids sit and talk and reminisce a lot about those times today, remembering and wondering about people we used to camp next to – you remember them forever, and wonder where they are now.”
Two Youree’s rodeoing worked so well, they often even rode the same horse. They didn’t even change bridles, as Florence explains, “I rode with whatever he had on the horse’s head. There was usually only a couple or three events between the calf roping and barrels . . . lots of times we just had time to change saddles.”
Rodeo can be a dangerous sport, even in women’s events, but Florence says, “I can’t remember having many bad wrecks.” Then she giggles, “There was that time at a rodeo in Weatherford.” Florence was on Mr. Ed, given to her by R.A. Brown from Throckmorton, Texas; a ranch horse he’d told her she needed, and he wanted her to have. His solid ranch horse background was about to be tested. Florence recalls,
“That day he turned the most awesome barrels, and was making the best run of my life. As we turned the end barrel to come back a big bucking bull escaped from the chutes, coming right at me! I just kept right on running for the line, and the bull swerved around and went behind me . . . I won it!”
There was no room for weak hearts in the barrel racing arena . . . but there was a lot of class and color, flash and pizzaz! A new fabric called “stretch lame’” sparked the rodeo fashion scene in the 1950’s. Tailored lame’ pants, electrically shiny as tinfoil and rainbow in color, fit cowgirls like a second skin.
“Manuelita Mitchell was the first person I saw wearing that fabric,” Florence remembers. “She lived over there by Maude McMorries who sewed fashions for Manuelita, and June Ivory and Jo Decker. I had her make mine also.”
She did join the fledgling GRA in 1951. She became a Director, then 1960-1964 President. During many years as Secretary-Treasurer, Florence was instrumental in the National Finals Rodeo (NFR) approving women’s Barrel Racing as a sanctioned event. “I loved working in the GRA office . . . I knew all those names from typing rodeo results, over and over! This year, in Colorado Springs for my Induction, I met Wanda Cagliari. I knew that name and had written it forever. I was honored to meet her!”
Somehow, along with doing all that GRA business, Florence and her fast horses raced their way into the GRA’s annual Top 15 six times! She then transitioned with GRA into the WPRA and captured their All-Around title in 1966.
Ever willing to share their talents and knowledge, Youree’s instituted a program for youth. “We held horsemanship camps here at the ranch for 14 years. We also held them other places – all over. We’d fly out of here Friday morning and go wherever, have a lecture that night and teach all day Saturday and Sunday; and then get home as fast as we could for Monday morning,” Florence explains. “We were training horses for the public and if a day passed we didn’t ride your horse, we’d only charge you for feed. We’d have as high as 18 or 20 horses in the barn, and after we got bigger Martha Tompkins and Sandy Hickox Bowden came and lived with us and rode for us, also Connie Combs fom Comanche.”
“When we got enough others that could help with the training, I backed off and did the cooking,” Florence explains. “Now Renee has three daughters and they all train here every day, and I cook lunch for them.”
Florence started a family tradition of barrel racing excellence and is proud to say, “My granddaughter Janae Ward Massey won the World title in 2003, and also won the National Finals Average. During the time she was in Vegas for that NFR, she had to complete the Finals Exams for her college degree. The teachers sent the tests out there to the University and she went and took them. She made it, and won the College National Finals barrel racing average, also.”
Barrel racers revere Youree for elevating the status of their event. “Jack Buschbomb was the RCA President when I met with them and convinced the Board to rule that any barrel race held at an RCA rodeo would have to be GRA approved. I asked for 10% of the approved purse, too, and that happened. Before that, we might go to a rodeo and all we’d have to run for would be $50 or $100 the committee had put up.”
The National Finals Rodeo incorporating Barrel Racing was another major Youree coup. “It was like a dream come true, we were very grateful. I met with Stanley Draper and Clem McSpadden and convinced them the NFR needed pretty girls and fast horses. They needed the GRA . . . they needed some color!”
She’s still pushing and providing NFR color. “Last year my granddaughter Kylie Weast went to the NFR, so my daughter and I bought white Wranglers and dyed them purple, red, brown, green, all bright colors. She had a sponsor out of Canada who sent her a dozen shirts in all colors, too,” Florence says.
All Girl Rodeos is another avenue that Florence and Dale explored. “Dale and I produced some all-girl rodeos years after they’d quit having them,” Florence remembers. “When we started doing that at Duncan, in the 70’s, we got some of my Daddy’s young beef bulls and flanked them for buckin’ bulls. We took all our barrel and pasture horses and used them for bareback broncs. We didn’t have any better sense but to try and do things! And as long as we were doing, we had a very blessed life!” she says.
“We’ve had happiness, and I’ve had the best husband a girl could ever have. My life has been a blessing, and the most wonderful thing. My success, I think, is because I had God with me all the time, and still do! Without Him we are nothing . . . and He’s not through with us yet! I am 86, and Dale is 91 . . . he’s kind’a tired this afternoon, he just got done sowin’ his wheat…”