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FLASHBACK: Don’t miss that first loop and don’t get bucked off today - Odessa American: Celinda Hawkins

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FLASHBACK: Don’t miss that first loop and don’t get bucked off today

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Posted: Sunday, January 12, 2014 5:00 am

The annual SandHills Stock Show and Rodeo is an Odessa legend for sure, and there’s sure to be a lot of action this weekend when the cowboys and cowgirls saddle up for the 81st annual event, which ended Saturday and brought thousands of folks to Ector County.

But 40 years ago, a legend was born at the rodeo when filmmakers shot scenes at the Ector County Coliseum for the 1972 movie “When the Legends Die,” starring Richard Widmark and Frederic Forrest. Folks remember Widmark, the academy award-winning actor who died in 2008, for many roles. But Forrest, a Waxahachie native, may be most remembered for his role as the evil Blue Duck in “Lonesome Dove.”

“When the Legends Die” is adapted from the book by Hal Borland, once a staple of required high school reading, and it may still be.

It traces the life of Thomas Black Bull, played by Forrest, a Ute Indian from southwestern Colorado. Tom, who has had to survive in the wilderness, is a prodigy, particularly at riding wild broncs. And one day, after he leaves a reservation school, he meets up with Red Dillon, played by the late Widmark. The whiskey-swilling rancher is so impressed with Tom’s bronc riding abilities, he takes him on the rodeo circuit, bringing him (in the movie) to the SandHills Stock Show and Rodeo.

I wanted to confirm scenes from the movie were actually shot here so I contacted the Texas Film Commission, which became an entity in 1971. The folks at the TFC said they did not believe any portion of the movie was shot at the Odessa event.

Wrong, says Harry Vold, the stock coordinator for the SandHills rodeo for 45 years. He ought to know, he worked on the film as the rodeo coordinator.

“We were on the picture for over three weeks and filmed in Odessa and New Mexico, around Farmington and points south,” Vold, 87, told me a couple of years ago.

Vold said while many of the rodeo scenes were shot in New Mexico, there was one scene where Tom (Forrest) had to ride a certain angry bronc, which reared in the air and flipped over backwards. He said that scene was filmed at the Ector County Coliseum and several other places, because it was crucial in telling the story and filmmakers wanted to get it right.

“We bucked a lot of horses,” Vold said. “As many as 15 a day.”

And in the movie, Tom (Forrest) is seriously hurt and has to give up rodeoing. Vold said the days usually started at 4 a.m. and often ended late in the evening. It was his job to make sure all Forrest’s doubles had the right horse and looked just like the star of the movie.

“These were skilled bronc riders who looked just like the star,” Vold said.

Vold also remembers providing the rodeo stock for another 1972 movie: “The Honkers,” starring James Coburn and Slim Pickens.

A veteran cowboy rancher who hails from Calgary, Canada, and now lives in Colorado, Vold is himself a legend, providing stock for some of the biggest rodeo events in the country in places like Cheyenne, Wyoming, Colorado Springs, Colo., and El Paso.

Once again, he’ll be providing the broncs, horses, steers, bulls and calves for the annual event.

Vold says over the years, Odessa, one of his favorite stops on the rodeo circuit, has seen many “peaks and valleys.”

“But now the economy is bubbling all over,” he said. “I can recall in 1983, when things were just dead. But now there is lots of activity and everybody is working. You are very blessed to have that happen here.”

This year, Vold did not provide the stock – Butler and Son of Elk City, Okla., did.

But if you see him, go ahead and wave, “Howdy.”

To everyone who has enjoyed, attended and especially performed, I’d like to pass on something imparted to me and thousands of others by the late, great, Abilene farm-and-ranch reporter Jimmy Parker, who ended his daily broadcast thusly:

“Don’t miss that first loop and don’t get bucked off today.”

You got that right.

Editor’s note: Portions of this column originally ran Aug. 29, 2012.

Odessa, TX

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