Back When They Bucked with Lydia Moore
Written by: Siri Stevens< Back to Articles
Lydia Moore was raised in a rodeo family in Missouri. Her parents, Hazel and Percy worked for many rodeo and wild west show companies traveling the country with her older sister, Maudie, and younger sister, Percyna in tow. Maudie was a trick rider and roper and Percyna had a goat act. In fact, Percyna was actually born in a tent while on the road for the Colonel Jim Eskew Wild West Show.
Lydia was forced to stay home most of the time as a tot with her grandfather, John Hickey, due to poor health. “I had no stomach lining when I was born,” said the 80-year-old, who now resides in Wayne, Oklahoma. “I drank goat’s milk and built up my resistance.” She finally grew out of the condition when she was ten years old and learned the art of trick riding and roping. “My dad taught me trick roping and my mom taught me trick riding,” she said. Rodeo season back then didn’t last all year like it does now – her parents were gone from April until September and the other months they were home. When they were home, they trained horses that went on to perform in wild west shows, movies, circuses, and elsewhere.
Her parents, Hazel Hickey Moore, a noted circus equestrienne, who gravitated towards the wild west show side of entertainment when she married her husband, saddle bronc rider, and steer wrestler, Percy Moore, both instilled in Lydia a love of horses and all things western. Famed trick roping performer, calf roper, and steer wrestler, Billy Buschbom, also helped Lydia with her trick and fancy roping and gifted her with her first set of ropes. “The Buschbom’s and my family were very close friends and worked for many different wild west show companies.” As a youngster, Lydia performed with her family in dressage and trick roping acts, and won many talent contests as a teen with her skills.
Lydia’s dad, Percy, broke his leg while competing on a saddle bronc, Preacher, Dun, at a rodeo produced by Monty Reger. The rodeo was in a resort called Sylvan Beach in Kirkwood, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis. The family settled there while Percy recuperated, and afterwards was hired to manage the boarding stable. The entire family worked at Sylvan Beach. Young Lydia and Percyna worked as lifeguards, took riders from the boarding stable out on trail rides, as well as running pony rides. They also performed different circus and wild west show acts that Percy, Hazel, and Lydia were in.
Lydia was introduced to barrel racing by accident. “The annual St. Louis Fireman’s Rodeo produced by Tommy Steiner, was in town around the early 1960’s. Wanda Bush, Fanny Mae Cox, and Boots Tucker, all barrel racers from Texas, were in town for the rodeo. They didn’t have enough barrel racing contestants, which was a new event for the rodeo. Wanda reached out to a local horse facility, Valley Mount Ranch, since Wanda knew they were starting to have barrel races at that arena. Lydia was one of the ladies invited to enter.
Lydia went to a few barrel races, but due to her own family responsibilities, she was unable to pursue it. “I wasn’t driven like the other girls were. I was more interested in the administrative side.” In the early 1960’s she helped form the first chapter of the Girls Rodeo Association. “A group of barrel racers in the St. Louis area got together, and since we all worked full time, we had some administrative skills and used the guidelines of the GRA to form the chapter. We had advisors that we knew could help us, and they were instrumental.” While living in St. Louis she met one of her mentors – famed rodeo secretary June Ivory. Lydia learned to secretary and time rodeos from June, and over the years worked for many stock contractors like Beutler & Sons, David Bailey, and Jim Shoulders’ rodeo companies, and is a longtime PRCA gold card member.
After Percy Moore passed away in 1962 from emphysema, Lydia’s mom, Hazel, moved in with Lydia and her toddler daughter, Linda. (Lydia only has one daughter, Linda). Percy had been a lifelong smoker. He started smoking as a teen like most young men of that era. He either rolled his own or smoked non-filtered cigarettes. He was even hired as a young man to model for a few Chesterfield cigarette ads.
When Lydia made the move to Oklahoma City in 1967, it was with her mother Hazel, sister Percyna, and daughter Linda. She worked as a secretary for an oil field company upon her arrival. Before moving to Oklahoma, June Ivory had introduced Lydia to Stanley Draper and Bobbie Steenbergen from the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce who worked with Clem McSpadden, Buster and June Ivory as the group managing the National Finals Rodeo. “It’s hard to imagine, but during the early years of the NFR in Oklahoma City, there was little interest in the Finals. When it first moved there, tickets didn’t sell well – we had dinners and parades in downtown Oklahoma City to sell the event.”
With the NFR’s move to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma barrel racer Florence Youree worked with Stanley and Bobbie to bring on the barrel race as one of its standard events. Florence’s pitch worked and the event was sold as – “pretty girls on fast horses,” Lydia said. Needing a liaison for the barrel racers, as a go between to handle any issues barrel racers had, Lydia was hired. She worked in that capacity until 1985 when the NFR moved to Las Vegas.
Adding to her jobs at the NFR, Lydia was hired by NFR manager McSpadden and stock superintendent Ivory to handle all secretarial duties in preparation for the National Finals each year and also ran the NFR press room with Arlene Worley. “Two weeks before the finals as the livestock came in, Buster and Clem needed someone to type the stock lists, so since I lived there, I’d take my vacation during the Finals and type the lists as the contractors came in.” “It was fun – Buster and Clem were wonderful. It was great to be part of it. They were so super to work with. And I knew all the contractors from secretarying and timing rodeos.
Lydia also received the task in those early years of the NFR as the GRA Awards Chairwoman for the barrel racers garnering thousands of dollars of awards for the ladies each year. “I wrote letters to various companies and everybody I saw that had a business, I asked for awards. I was even able to get a car and a horse trailer donated. Imogene Veach Beals who owned a large western store, Veach Saddlery, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was the first donor I got.” Lydia’s dedication came from her interest in doing something for the girls.
Continuing her interest on the business side of women in rodeo, she served five years on the GRA board of directors as Bull Riding and Southeastern Region Director, before being hired as the executive secretary in 1973. “At that time, the GRA had all of the rodeo events – we had a lot of all girl rodeos – we used to have approximately one a month back in the day – we had a lot of great girls. Unfortunately, they don’t have any all girl or women’s rodeos anymore.”
GRA president Margaret Clemons hired Lydia on a six month trial basis to be the secretary of the GRA – that tenure ran for two years and every two years they had an election. “I was at the meeting as the Southeastern Director and was hired by the board. I was able to quit my day job and I really became involved in the women’s rodeo part there.” Since her position came up for renewal every two years, there wasn’t a lot of job security in it. Her job ultimately lasted nearly 25 years.
When she got the job, she converted her garage into an office. “There were a few boxes of records, 400 members and $800 in the bank. (A GRA card cost $25 in 1971, for example.”) (The WPRA card cost $150 in 1995, the last year we were in the WPRA office). When she left there were 2,000 members and the association was financially secure. “We ran a very efficient office and did everything we could for the members – Jimmie Munroe and Pam Minick were great at promoting the association.” She enlisted the help of her daughter, as well, along the way. “We all enjoyed working in the WPRA office,” said her daughter, Linda Clark. “Percyna and I did the newspaper and we are all a very close unit. We’ve always worked together. I typed envelopes on an old IBM Selectric electric typewriter when I was 13 – I totally loved it.”
“She was the glue that held the WPRA together,” said Pam Minick. “She ran the association like she ran her household – she tried to save all the money she could. It was a 24 hour a day job for her.” Pam went to her house every October to help stuff envelopes for all the contestants. A prized honor she received in 1991, known as the WPRA Coca-Cola Woman of the Year, was awarded to Lydia for her years of service, passion, and devotion to women in rodeo, and rodeo in general. “I was absolutely thrilled. When Coca Cola put together that award for our association it was fabulous. Wanda Bush was the first honoree, Jimmie Munroe was the second, Pam Minick was the third, and I was the fourth.” The coveted bronze statue was created by artist and NFR qualifier Karen Galemba. Lydia feels fortunate to have seen firsthand the phenomenal growth in the sport of barrel racing that it enjoys today-barrel racing as a standard rodeo event, equal money at rodeos, and equal money at the National Finals Rodeo.
Her second award will be received in November when she will be inducted into the Rodeo Historical Society Hall of Fame. “I feel absolutely the same about this one – I’ll be emotional to be recognized at this chapter of my life. I help Linda in her business and enjoy what I’m doing. I’m blessed with good health and it’s great. I’ve been very blessed. I have a beautiful daughter and granddaughter that I love. They and their families help take good care of me.”