Maurice Laycock and Baldy BoyWritten by Jennifer Womack
“Maurice Laycock was born in Cheyenne March 12, 1909, the son of pioneers Percy J. and Catherine ‘Kate’ Murray Laycock,” says the June 1975 edition of Western Horseman. Maurice was known for his success in the rodeo arena and for the horse trailers he began manufacturing in 1933 in Laramie and later from Cheyenne.
Maurice and his horse “Baldy Boy” were featured in the Western Horseman article compiled by Clara Wilson in tribute to Maurice after his passing earlier that year. I love an old horse tale and found the story, at least what room allows, worth sharing here. Baldy Boy, as the result of a tangle with a fence as a yearling, had a kink in his neck and beat the odds as an all-around success in the horse world of the late 1940s and 1950s.
“Maurice bought a black gelding from Jim Chaffie in 1947. He was later registered with the AQHA as Baldy Boy 18512, by Beggar Boy (TB) out of V’s Peaches by Oklahoma Star. Baldy Boy was raised by Ronald Mason of Nowata, Okla. Chaffie had gotten the horse from Jess Goodspeed two years before, trained for calf roping. Jim had trouble with Baldy Boy in the box, rearing and falling over backwards. He had hurt Jim several times and put him in the hospital once. Maurice bought him for $150 as a seven-year-old. Maurice worked with Baldy Boy for about three months just scoring cattle and setting him in the roping box.
“He finally thought he was ready again for rodeo competition so he went to a rodeo. The bulls were penned directly behind the roping box. When Maurice nodded for his calf, Baldy spun around and jumped in with the bulls! Maurice took him home and spent the next week riding him in and out of the roping box several times a day, then he went to a roping on him again and never had any more trouble except when Baldy had had too many calves roped on him. He had to be handled with patience and ease. Later when he started racing, Maurice always tried to get a girl to jockey because they could get along with him much better than a man. Baldy’s favorite jockey was Ramona Merritt Dalton, and he always won for her.
“Maurice hauled Baldy Boy to rodeos, roped calves on him, hazed bull-dogging steers on him, sometimes bull-dogged on him and almost always raced him. One time Maurice ran him in two races a day for three days at Monte Vista, Colo., winning all six races and also roping calves on him, then hauled him most of the night to Centennial where he had drawn in to run the next day. He won by about three lengths. Maurice had bet $100 on him and got nearly $600 back.
“Baldy also won a matched race in Kremmling, Colo. against a mare, Mary Niles, owned by Quentin Semotan of Steamboat Springs. Ramona rode him in the quarter mile race. This race was quite profitable for the rodeo cowboy and his rope horse, probably the best day they ever had. The match was for $1,000, and Maurice won $350 on side bets, then Baldy won a couple more races to put the total take for one day past $2,000. Maurice thought this took place in the fall of 1949. Baldy won several $500 match races for Maurice and could have won much more, but there is always a chance of losing and this cowboy couldn’t afford a very big loss.
“Baldy Boy died in the summer of 1962 of natural causes, 22 years old. Baldy didn’t know that he may have been called small, nor that his conformation wasn’t that desired in the halter classes, nor that a kink in the neck is usually regarded as a disability. He didn’t know about horse blankets, hot walkers, fancy barns nor expensive feed. All ole Baldy knew how to do was win.”
I hope you enjoy an old horse tale as much as I do!
CommunityWritten by Jennifer Womack
By choice, I’ve never called anywhere but Wyoming home. I’ve traveled to other places I enjoy, but always look forward to returning to the Cowboy State. I don’t know that it’s better, but in my biased opinion it ranks at the top. Spending the bulk of my life in northeast Wyoming, I have a special fondness for the Black Hills and the people who live here. It’s a place where, for the most part, neighbors still help neighbors and communities pull together during tough times.
That was especially true in the Newcastle area late June and early July as the Oil Creek Fire consumed over 60,000 acres, including grass important to area ranchers, fences and other infrastructure that will need to be rebuilt. It’s a scenario that’s played out across Wyoming and the West this summer. Amidst the devastation, the stories of good will, kindness and people just generally doing the right thing are a bright spot.
As the fire broke out here on June 29, one of the gentlemen who lives near where it started went to get a closer look and report it to local fire officials. When he returned home he found that one of his neighbors already at his house gathering cattle and hauling them out of harm’s way. It’s people like that, often stepping forward to help a neighbor without even being asked, who make Wyoming special.
Numerous homes exist within the area impacted by this summer’s Oil Creek Fire. Local firefighters are to be commended for their efforts protecting these structures without a single home lost to the fire. Not only did firefighters from our local agencies respond to the fire, but others from across the region also came to help. Many of them are volunteer firefighters and their presence in the community made a positive difference. They didn’t have to help, but they did.
We live about 30 miles west of the area impacted by this summer’s wildfires, but our cattle spend the summer and part of the fall there, the exact timing determined by Mother Nature. Come to think of it, she makes a lot of decisions on our behalf!
On the Sunday after the fire started, given the direction it was moving, we gathered our cattle to ensure they were all accounted for and ready to move if necessary. We were hoping that wouldn’t be the case, but as Sunday progressed into Tuesday we felt the need to move out. The problem was we couldn’t get to the corrals we typically use to come and go. After three long days, our crew wasn’t jumping at a portable panel-packing project!
Again neighbors stepped forward and lent a helping hand. After the Rossman, Farrella and Merrill families were done gathering and working their own cattle, they opened their corrals and helped us sort ours and load them on trucks. Truckers who’d already spent numerous hours behind the wheel took on one more load, which we also appreciated.
In the hills, thanks to recent rains, there are signs of grass returning. Fences are being cussed and discussed, erosion mitigation is underway and Wyomingites are pulling together to clean up and carry on. Amidst the challenges there truly are bright spots like fully appreciating the value of family, good friends and neighbors.
Wyoming State Fair – 1947Written by Jennifer Womack
Here in Wyoming, B.B. Brooks was governor and Douglas was preparing to host the first of what will soon be 100 Wyoming State Fairs. In 1905, thanks to a gift of land along the North Platte River from the North Western Railroad Company, the Wyoming State Fair and Rodeo came to its permanent home in Douglas. Henry Ford was marketing the Aerocar, but one can imagine that most attendees at this inaugural event arrived either horseback or in a horse drawn wagon or carriage. Several, from more distant locales, probably caught a train to Douglas.
It’s been 107 years since the first State Fair was held. Certain events in American history warranted canceling the Fair. It was canceled in 1935 and 1936 due to the Great Depression and in 1937 when there was an epidemic of infantile paralysis. It was canceled from 1942 to 1945, during WWII.
By the time the photo appearing in this column was taken in 1947, Wyomingites must have been more than ready to carry on their Wyoming State Fair traditions. Attendees lined up in the arena, and spectators lined the fences and filled the grandstands. The photograph within this column came from Bud Tillard’s collection. The Wyoming Pioneer Association is making the photograph into a poster to commemorate the 100th Wyoming State Fair and Rodeo. Subsequent posters, highlighting different years in State Fair history, are planned for the next few years.
As part of the effort, the Pioneers hope to document as many of the people in the photograph as possible. All but a couple dozen of those in the main row have been identified. It’s nearly impossible to identify the people along the fence or in the grandstand as they’re simply too small to see.
If you know someone in the main row of the photograph, please drop me an email or, better yet, stop by the Wyoming Pioneer Museum in Douglas and share the information. They have a copy of the photograph there. A supplement to the poster is being printed, and they’ll be distributed in unison.
While you’re at the museum, take a moment to explore the collections. If you haven’t before visited this central Wyoming treasure, plan on spending a little time. From Native American artifacts to State Fair history and interesting Wyoming tidbits, it’s a place worth visiting. If you’re coming to town for the State Fair, consider stopping then. Their air-conditioned building is always a nice break from the heat on the fairway!
County Fair TimeWritten by Jennifer Womack
Dads are helping pack trailers, encouraging reluctant steers and helping get ready for the big week. Moms, if they’re like me, are making the rounds with black magic markers writing the family name on every item that might make its way to the fairgrounds. Getting at least half your stuff back home is an important step in being able to participate again next year. My frequent searches for bridles, reins, halters and you name it have me sympathizing with my own parents and my own previous ability to scatter things far and wide!
In about a week we’ll load the camper and the critters and head to town for the bulk of a week. Joshua has one more year before he’s eligible to show, but Bryce plans to take both horses and the catch-a-calf heifer he won at last year’s fair. He’s shown horses for several years now, but this will be his first year at the cattle show and a learning experience for all of us. He’ll return to the event next year, assuming all goes as planned, to show both his heifer and her first calf. I know he’s looking forward to calving season 2013. So are we. If you’re up checking one heifer, you might as well check the rest, right?
As kids across Wyoming head to the county fair, I hope it holds the lessons for them that it’s intended to teach. For many of us it’s where we learned to win and where we first learned to lose with grace. It’s where we realized there were rewards for hard work and a bit of discomfort when we headed to town knowing we could have done more.
While cattle, horses, crafts, baking or otherwise may be the subject of the day, the lessons have a lifelong impact. As a parent it’s often difficult for me to think beyond the day at hand and remember the larger goal of raising a responsible, hardworking citizen. What’s more difficult is standing back and watching your child as they wrestle with life’s lessons that can only be learned through experience. Whether they’re headed for the show ring or not, animals can teach young people an amazing number of lessons!
I love to see kids win purple ribbons, especially when I can watch and see just how bad the kid wanted it and how hard they worked earning it. That’s more than a purple ribbon….it’s a lesson that will probably stick with them for life whether return to rural Wyoming or work in downtown New York City.
For the time being, I’m heading out with my black magic marker to label things!
Earl ReedWritten by Jennifer Womack
As I learned of Earl’s passing and read his obituary earlier today, I learned some things I didn’t before know. Earl was born in South Dakota, moving to Wisconsin at age four and a half and then to Wyoming when he was nine. After graduating from high school in Douglas in 1940, he worked odd jobs, saving to buy his own flock of ewes. Earl and Jewell were married on Jan. 23, 1949, amidst the infamous Blizzard of 1949. They raised four kids and built their ranching operation in the Dry Creek community. Earl lived to see the ranch become home to four generations of the Reed family, something of which to be proud!
In 2005 when Earl and Jewell Reed were inducted into the Wyoming Agriculture Hall of Fame, I had the privilege of interviewing them and writing a piece for the Roundup. Like most folks of that generation, their contributions to their community reached far beyond what I could put in words. Fifty years as 4-H leaders, 35 years in the wool barn at state fair and unmatched service with important community efforts. I suspect there’s a special spot in Heaven for folks who give this much time and effort to those around them.
In 2007, after being recognized by the International Association of Fairs, Earl said, “I can’t help but wonder what people who don’t give to their community do with their spare time.” The award required at least 10 years of service at the nominating fair. The Reeds met that threshold three times over.
I would not have guessed Earl to be 91 years old. His zest for life and fun-loving attitude more than masked the years. I’ll always admire the efforts he and his family went to in organizing shearing demonstrations to be held in conjunction with the State Fair. He and Jewell incorporated countless educational efforts in the event, always hoping to help people become more knowledgeable about agriculture and its importance.
In my mind’s eye, Earl Reed will always be in the wool barn at the Wyoming State Fairgrounds, dolling out hugs to willing passersby. He’ll be gathering the flock for a shearing demonstration or arranging the displays in the building. Or, he’ll be trying to explain to me just what a hootenanny is! With Earl’s passing, I’m a little worried there will be some dull hand clippers in the country this year. One thing I know for sure – I’m one of many who will miss him greatly.