Thursday, June 8, 2017

Paul Carney - A Lot in a Short Time

        Paul Carney was one of sixty-one men who walked out of performing at the Boston Garden Rodeo in 1936. They demanded better treatment. While the show’s organizer, Col. Johnson, was livid and originally refused to give in to the cowboys, a truce was eventually reached. This event led to the formation of Cowboy Turtle’s Association (CTA) which was the beginnings of the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association (PRCA).
Paul was born in the small town of Galeton, Colorado on September 21, 1912. His father, N.V. Carney, had a homestead where they farmed and ran livestock. Young Paul became interested in the livestock operation and respectfully left farming alone. He developed a knack for breaking and training horses, and from thereafter, he just wanted to be a cowboy!
Paul was always proud of his small-time Colorado roots (Galeton, in far Northeastern Colorado, only had about 150 residents). He would always list his address as “Galeton, Colorado” for the announcer to call out.
He entered his first rodeo, the Greeley Stampede, at the young age of fifteen. The following year he won the rookie saddle bronc riding at the Cheyenne Frontier days and thereafter was a rodeo cowboy for most of the rest of his life.
Stock contractor, Verne Elliot, took young Carney under his wing, giving him a job. This allowed Paul to compete at rodeos as he worked for the contractor. He even got to compete in London, England in 1934 (he was only twenty-one) thanks, in part, to Elliot. Paul was soon off and running with his rodeo career and he did not need the safety-net of a job any longer (although he and Elliot remained life-long friends).
Paul regularly competed in four events: bareback, saddle bronc, bull (steer) riding and steer wrestling. He was versatile at both ends of the arena (he also roped calves) and won world championships in the bareback riding in 1937 and ’39. Also in 1939, he became the first man from Colorado to win the title of: All-around Champion of the World.
Was it because he was good at four events? Perhaps. Or could it have been a shirt? Burel Mulkey, who had won the 1938 All-around World Championship, gave Paul the shirt he was wearing...they joked about it, but you know how rodeo superstitions are. Carney was also known to have a dry, but active sense of humor, taking a joke just as good as he gave one out.
In 1937, when Paul was at the top of his rodeo game, he drew a bad bronc called, Hell’s Angel, who had gone unridden the previous nineteen tries. Paul rode Hell’s Angel that day at Madison Square Garden. He rode him again in 1939 at the same rodeo, but Paul once said, “....Hell’s Angel was the toughest bronc I’ve ever been on.” Even though Paul won the world in bareback (Hell’s Angel was a saddle bronc), each year he drew the “Angel” and covered him, Paul became a World Champion.
Carney was also given credit as the first man who figured out that if you bent the shanks of your spurs in and down, that it helped keep contact with a bucking animal. Rough stock spurs have been designed that way every since and he was jokingly called  “Shanks” Carney for many years.
Paul was easy going, yet popular and a leader. World Champion, Gene Pruett, once said, “Paul was one of the world’s greatest riders. Although quiet and unassuming, he was a leader among rodeo cowboys.” He was actively involved in the early CTA, holding card number twenty-one. He was on the board as the steer riding representative (It would be “bull riding” now-a-days, but back then they rode long and lanky, thousand-pound plus steers—some as big as horses.)
Shortly after winning the World All-around Championship in 1939, Paul and his wife, Lillian, moved to the Phoenix (Chandler), Arizona area and started a construction company along with his brother, Albert. The couple also raised horses on their “Diamond Two” ranch. In 1942, the Carneys purchased the champion quarter horse, Little Joe Jr. (out of the great stud, Joe Bailey), and brought him to their ranch. During this phase of life, Paul continued competing in rodeos, although more on a local level. All-the-while he raised good quarter horses and ran the construction business.
Although in the prime of life, while working on a road project near the Grand Canyon on June 24, 1950, Paul Carney fell over dead from a heart attack. It seemed hard to believe he was only thirty-seven because he had accomplished so much.
Out of respect for this great cowboy, whose impact was wide-felt in the short time he was here, Paul Carney was inducted into the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum’s Rodeo Hall of Fame in 1961. In 1965, he was inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame and in 2001 to the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs.

Jim Olson (c) 2017

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Clay Carr - Second All Around Champion of the World

          Clay Carr is not a household name (like many of his contemporaries) when discussions about old-time rodeo greats are held. However, this quite and unassuming man was a two-time World All Around Champion Cowboy (1930 and 1933), won World Championships in saddle bronc riding in 1930 and steer roper in 1931 and 1940, competed in six events (saddle bronc riding, single steer roping, steer wrestling, team roping, calf roping and wild cow milking) and was (in his day) called a throw-back from the old-time cowboys who came before him. Clay was the real deal.
He was born April 18, 1909 in Farmersville, California and grew up working on the Gill Ranch. He competed in his first rodeo at Visalia in 1928 and within two years, was the second man to win the honor of All Around Champion of the World (Earl Thode was first in 1929). Most of his adult life, he lived on his California ranch near Visalia, where he also rodeoed out of.
In spite of being such a versatile and accomplished cowboy, one of the reasons you may not hear as much about Clay is that he went about his business without much fanfare. Some men have the spotlight follow them wherever they go (even cultivating and craving it), while others go humbly about their business. Clay was the latter.
Author Clifford Westermeier wrote of Clay in 1947, “Clay Carr, holder of the Jo Mora Salinas Trophy, is a strange man, difficult to meet and extremely hard to get acquainted with. He is, without a question, one of the great cowboys of the age; a man of many complexes, one of which is inferiority; yet he is one of the smartest, shrewdest, and cleverest individuals is rodeo. He has an air of indifference toward the desires and opinions of others, and appears to lead a rather lonely life, perhaps because he has a very suspicious nature? In spite of this, Clay has the respect and admiration of everyone in the business and is regarded as a very tough customer in a business deal, fight, or a poker game.
“One does not try to figure out this man of moods, but rather accepts whatever friendship he offers; one is flattered by any politeness, consideration, interest, or attention he may show. He seldom goes east to contest, but in the West and particularly at the California shows, he is a master and can “take,” in his own inimitable way, most of the boys competing against him.”
Following his death in 1957, the Visalia Times-Delta wrote, “He was not a man for sentiment and cared little about his own personal aggrandizement.”
Roger Bean of San Francisco once said Clay, “...was not of the new breed, but was somewhat of a throwback to the old-time cowboy.”
Not one to worry much about the opinion others, Carr, at times, wore unusual hats for a cowboy of that era. One hat he wore for a while had a very wide brim and low crown (similar to that of a Quaker, or more recently might be thought of as a modern “buckaroo” style hat) and another he often sported was a fedora style—at the opposite end of the spectrum. It is thought he wore these simply because they were available and definitely not to make any sort of a statement. Little things like this only added to the strangeness and separateness of this great cowboy.
Although the Bowman brothers from Arizona have been credited with hauling the first horse trailer seen on the rodeo circuit in the 1920s, Clay was known as having one of the first “nice” ones. His was constructed of metal (unheard of at the time). It was a one-horse trailer that stood out from the few being hauled at the time and was reported to have been “neatly painted and stylish.” This was also out of the norm back then.
Although he was a full-time rancher and tough rodeo competitor in the West, Carr did take a few extended rodeo trips, most notably to Australia, England and back East where he won his All Around and World Championships. He was known as a versatile competitor (competing at both ends of the arena) and was counted to be “in the money” most anywhere he went.
The fledgeling Cowboy Turtles Association (organized in 1936), which is the predecessor of today’s Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association, received Clay’s support. He signed up and was member number fifty-five. Clay wound up competing in rodeo for over twenty-five years.
Carr served in World War II as a Marine in the South Pacific. In 1948, he married Eleanora Curtis, from the well-known Curtis rodeo family. Sadly, on his birthday in 1957, Clay Carr, one of the best (and possibly most mis-understood) cowboys from the early days of rodeo passed away from a heart attack.
Because a he shied from the spotlight, may have been a little reserved and different, he never received the wide-spread recognition like many of similar accomplishment have. Sadly, his is not a name often talked about in discussions of rodeo history today. This does not mean however that a man of such great talent went completely unnoticed. As an All Around World Champion, Clay Carr was inducted in the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 1979.

Jim Olson (c) 2017