Bart Clennon: 1910-2012
January 7, 2013
Always known as a 'Cowboys' Cowboy' Bart Clennon, 101, died Nov. 4, 2012, at his home in Tucson, AZ, two hours and 40 minutes before his 102nd birthday.
Bart was a saddle bronc rider from South Dakota that rode in his first competition at Post's Trading Post in Ash Creek, SD, in 1928. He was hooked and continued to compete every chance he got. He went to work for a wild west show in Wisconsin and slipped off to compete in rodeos as often as possible. He rode as many broncs as they would give him. The years in wild west gave him lots of practice, sometimes as many as 30 or 40 broncs a week. He quit the wild west show in 1936 and began competing full-time. He rode with a loose and careless posture and the audiences loved his nonchalance. All that practice had taught him to anticipate a bronc's actions and he won or placed often. He never kept a record of his wins but when asked, was quick to tell he made a living at it for 20-plus years.
Bart Clennon was born Nov. 5, 1910, in Aberdeen, SD, and was a cowboy from the beginning. He worked for neighboring ranchers when he could for $1 a day. He was known for being skilled with horses that were hard to break. When he won $35 at the bronc riding in Ash Creek he knew he had found his niche.
Bart had an excellent memory, especially for the horses he drew and saw during his competing era. At one time he kept a log of each mount and what it took to have a successful ride on each one. Unfortunately, in time the log was lost.
Shortly after Bart began competing in rodeos full-time the best cowboys in the country were tired of getting small purses and were insisting that their entry fees be included in the winnings. At Boston Garden a petition was signed by 61 cowboys and presented to rodeo producer, W. T. Johnson, insisting their entry fees be added or they would not compete. He rejected their request and the cowboys walked off. That night when Johnson tried to put on a performance with stable hands and grooms acting as experienced cowboys, the cowboys sat in the audience and booed until the rodeo was stopped and everyone got their money back. Johnson put over $5,000 in entry fees in the purse and the next night the rodeo went on with all the cowboys participating. A few days later these determined cowboys formed the Cowboys' Turtle Association, of which Bart held Turtle #418. He was the last living petition signer.
He married Geraldine "Gerry" Parker in 1941 and they had two boys, Bart Jr., and Terry. "Gerry" died in 1982. Bart retired after he broke his neck a second time in the 1950s. He tried various things including mining, but he ended up in the hardware business in Martin, SD, until he retired. Casey Tibbs, a world champion bronc rider, and friend said of Bart, "He's one of the best bronc riders I've ever seen. I don't understand why he was never a world champion."
Bart's wins were many. His most prestigious win was the bronc riding at Madison Square Garden in 1945 when they had 50 performances and 13 go-rounds. Other wins included Sidney, IA, twice; Livermore, CA; Elko, NV, twice; Fort Smith, AR; Burwell, NE; Red Bluff, CA; Molalla and St. Paul, OR; Deadwood, SD; and too many more to name.
Memorial services are tentatively scheduled for June 8, 2013.