Gauge McBride has found success in the rodeo arena as well as the wrestling floor. He finished his senior year at Kearney High School as […]
Written by: Siri Stevens< Back to Articles
John Stokes was raised around an auction barn in Lubbock Texas that his dad owned. “Somebody was always daring you to do something you don’t normally do,” said John. “I was an aggravating kid back then.” He shared a story about shooting a bow and arrow at the neighbor kids after watching Little Beaver do it at the movies. “I got a good spanking.”
Born in 1939, he enjoyed life and as an only child, he tried many things at the sale barn that led him to raise, ride and fight bulls. “My dad sold cattle, horses, and calves and I remember we got 17 head of bucking horses, and 17 head of bulls that belonged to Gene Autry. They were there for Everett Colborn’s rodeos that were held in the college football field. My daddy trucked them over there.” Clyde had a trucking company as well as the auction barn on the north side of Lubbock. The auction barn had a straightaway race track and on Sundays they would have horse races. “My mule, Josephine, could outrun most of them,” he said. “I thought it was a neat deal – they would bring in bulls and calves and horses and we’d rope and ride.” He picked up his dad’s livestock trading skills and took it on with him into the rodeo world. “When I was rodeoing I’d buy bulls from one producer and sell to another one.”
He started competing in 1953 at Rising Star, Texas, as a small open rodeo. He entered the bull riding at the age of 13. Two years later, at the age of 15, he had his first “gig” as a clown/bullfighter at that same arena. When they came out with the Rodeo Cowboys Association permits in 1956, he ended up with one. “If you won money, you had to buy a card for $25. The First RCA rodeo I entered, in Taylor, Texas, I entered two in one weekend. It was a two head in the bull riding – I won $15, so I had to buy a card.” Like many bull fighters in his time, he showed up to ride at rising star event and the bull fighter didn’t show up, so they asked John to do it. “After that, I would get on my bull first, and then I’d fight bulls for everyone else. Some of those rodeos down in South Texas there would be thirty or forty bull riders – and I was the only bull fighter – I was pretty skinny and pretty quick.” He won many rodeos as a bull rider.
John attended Tarleton College in Stephenville, and in 1958 he was instrumental in helping form the first rodeo club at the school. That year he entered the Tarleton rodeo in bull riding, wild horse race, bulldogging and bareback – winning the All Around
He married Lynn Kirby, the girl down the street, who he had known since junior high. The two will celebrate being married for 50 years this coming January. They settled on a ranch near Sonora, Texas, ranching 90 miles from the border. Lynn went with him to all the rodeos after they were married.
John was drafted into the military, but he couldn’t serve due to his lack of hearing. “I got hit by lightning when I was 12 and that started my hearing problem. We had a rock barn, with jersey heifers. I’d come in from school and was down at the barn. Lightning hit the barn right next to me – I had a bad taste of sulfur in my mouth for six weeks – it killed a bunch of the heifers.”
He continued a trade that he started in high school “I got paid .35 an hour for welding when I was in high school, and I could see how gates worked from growing up in the sale barn and being around my daddy (Clyde Stokes).” John built a set of metal pens for a friend and that’s how his welding business started. “Over the period of years we built four different auction barns, repaired a large feed yard – all while I was rodeoing and ranching.”
Lynn and John had one daughter, Tamara Shane. His welding business ended up employing 20 people – 15 of them rodeoed. His bull fighting and riding slowed down, but he still wanted to go and rodeo – so he took up team roping and steer roping. “I learned how to rope as a kid – .it’s something I did every day of my life when I had cattle, sheep, and goats. It wasn’t hard to take what I did every day and put it in the arena. I roped left handed for a long time, but I got my finger mashed in a door, and had to start roping right handed.”
John not only went to ropings, he and Lynn started producing them in the 1978. “Our first roping we had at the ranch we had a progressive after six and we had two kids, one was 13 (Guy Allen), one was 14 (Tee Woolman), won the roping.” They produced ropings for fifteen years, and after they quit, John continued roping until he was 70. “I roped and tripped until five years ago,” he said. “I spent 53 years in rodeo.” During that time, he endured 88 broken bones.
He is still involved in the industry, raising bucking bulls – he has six coming two-year-olds that will be entered in futurity derbies for ABBI and UBBI. “All my cows are registered. All the bulls are out of our cattle and I trained them all. When I sell one for $5,000, I think I’ve made a lot of money! I train them and gentle them up. You can’t sell a mean one. They are just like people – they’ve got their own little thing.” John and Lynn enjoy their life on the ranch. “We ranched all our life, I don’t think we’ll ever get away from it. As long as the Lord lets us, we’ll be in the cattle business.”
Story is also available in the September 15, 2014 issue.