Living in the East limited Freddie’s exposure to cowboys, but as a standout athlete in football and baseball, he received a football scholarship to the University of Arizona. A broken leg put an end to that and he enlisted in the Marine Corps. Stationed in Camp Pendleton in Southern California, he began to compete in a few open rodeos as a bull rider, but that was not his event. It wasn’t until he returned East as a civilian that he started as a timed event cowboy.Veteran rodeo hands like Ted Fina, Jack Meli and Buddy Braumwell coached him in calf roping and steer wrestling. Before long he was entering and winning at PRCA rodeos from Main to Florida, One contest he especially remembered was the Presidential Rodeo put on for Ronald Regan. (He would have won the steer wrestling but he broke the barrier).
In the early 1970’s he moved to Texas and continued to rodeo – primarily as a steer wrestler. Among other rodeos which he won was the Weatherford contest.
I was luckier, horse crazy from the start. I got my first one at twelve. started roping calves two years later and was lucky enough to be helped by an experienced roper. By the time I was 16, I was entering the little open rodeos in the area. A move to Texas and college in 1952 exposed me to lots of roping and good ropers – the Fort Worth area was a hot bed of tough hands. Ten years in southern California introduced me to dally team roping – an event which I loved. In 1967 I was offered a job with Tex Tan Western Leather Co at Yoakum and moved to south Texas. There was lots of open rodeos and jackpots in the area and I didn’t have to travel far from home. In 1978 I was transferred to the Fort Worth area, settled in Weatherford and continued to team rope.
The stage was set for Freddie and I to meet. Freddie had an arena and steers so he invited me over to rope. That got to be a regular thing and we started going to jackpots together (We’d both quit rodeoing by then). From there things progressed to helping each other and calling when one of us needed something or just wanted company.
Remember one incident. I lived out off the Azle highway and Freddie in Hudson Oaks – maybe five miles apart. He came over one night to visit. We told stories, looked at rodeo pictures and “hoisted a few.” Headed home, Ole Fred decided that it might be a good idea to duck around the lake and stay off the highway. Some how, he missed one of the turns and drove into the lake – up to the floor boards. I was later told that he by was sitting in his wife’s car, wondering how the hell he as gong to get out. A man in a pickup pulled up and hollered if he needed a tow. The good samaritan pulled him out. No, he didn’t tell Mary about it.
As I mentioned, we traveled together, had lots of laughs, settled all the world’s political problems and had no arguments – other than where we were we going to eat. One thing though – since he hauled cars for a living he considered himself to be an expert on how to back a trailer. On one of our first trips – with my rig – I pulled in, spotted a parking place and started to back in. He immediately started telling me how to do it. I stuck the truck in neutral, go out and told him to do it. From then on I’d stop, spot a parking place and let him do the job. That way, I didn’t have to put up with his coaching.
At that time I was writing a lot and launched a lot of ideas of Freddie. He was always very forthright in what he thought and improved a lot of rough drafts, especially on the “War Horse” book. One article, however, back-fired on him. I’d gone with him to Cameron to pick up a roan three-year-old (Chance) that had four or five rides on him. A couple of days later, I heard the following story. He got the colt home, saddled him up, and led him down to the arena. He swung aboard, the colt bogged his head and ole Fred hit the ground without ever getting his right foot in the stirrup. He dug himself out of the dirt, caught the colt, turned him around a couple of times and started to climb on again. This time he never got his leg across the saddle. To hell with it! Roany got tied up and Fred headed to the house to rest his battered body. He was laying on the couch, wondering what he was going to do – he was too old to be riding broncs. Then his daughter and son-in-law walked in. An idea flashed and Freddie said, “Mike, how would you like to ride. Now Mike is a nice kid, but a cowboy he ain’t. No matter. The colt had to be ridden and submitted to the saddle how he couldn’t buck. After saddling his old horse, he said, “get on”. The young man pretended that he didn’t need to be led around. “Shut up and get on,” came from his father-in-law. After saddling him, Mike got on and the pair moved out, going fast enough that the colt didn’t get a chance to pitch. They circled the arena at a trot until both horses were dripping with sweat. Fred finally reached down and unengaged the halter rope to turn Mike and the colt loose. Roany walked off with never a bobble and never tried to buck again.
After hearing the story he said, “That’s a nice colt, I needed to get him going good and it was the only thing I could think of. Besides, I can get a son-in-law on any corner.”
That forward several months. I’d written the incident up and sold it to the Dally Times. Seems like Fred’s wife saw the magazine before he did and met him at the door. – hot – when he came in from work. When he called me that night he wasn’t sure if he was going to have to stay at my house until things cooled off.
Roany made a good horse and Fred roped off of him for years. Lots of rides together on the McDavid, Saunders and Todd ranches. Ed Roberts (long time Executive Secretary of the APHA often rode with us. Freddie and Ed never rode anything that would really get out and walk, liked to visit rather than cover country, and I always rode a walkin’ foal. That meant that I’d out distanced them and by the time they reached a gate I’d be waiting for them. Lots of good times.
Oh yeah, once Freddie discovered that I did leather work he’d save his busted equipment for me to fix. At first, he’d ask for me to do the job, but it quickly turned into him just giving it to me. He handed me a torn up breast collar once and I said it wasn’t worth patching. “OK,” Freddie replied, build me a new one,” I did – and even full stamped it. It wasn’t just a one-way deal. His wife, Mary, was one hell of an Italian cook. Every Christmas morning Freddie would show up with a large dish of Lasagne, which she had made – several kinds of cheese and sausage, big, spicy meatballs, terrific sauce – good grazin’ ! To hell with turkey and dressing.