I recently was asked if I had a picture of Keith winning the Snowy River Race at Clinton.

When we raced at the Clinton Chuckwagon Races, the Snowy River Race did not exist. Keith and I did win races there. We won the men’s and women’s horse race, and then the next year, Keith won the men’s horse race and I won the women’s mule race.

We needed a good outriding horse that was fast enough to be sure and beat the wagon. I was running barrels on a Pacific Bailey-bred mare I got from Keith Hood. I suggested her for the outriding horse. Of course Keith was the outrider. When we got to Clinton, I am not even sure if we knew about the horse races. I doubt anyone likes a match horse race better than me – unless it was Keith.

Men had to mount turned backwards from the way the race would run, then make the whole track. Back then the track was in the shape of a nine. Where the loop of the nine straightened out to what would be the tail, there was a dip. Some of you may remember that dip could get your wagon in the air if you hit it pretty fast. Women didn’t have to mount, we just had to turn facing away so you whirled around when the gun shot started the race.

If you are thinking only an idiot runs her barrel horse as an outriding horse and in two horse races on the same day, that would be me. Hey – she was in great shape. The men’s race was first, which was probably a really good thing, because if I had run a horse race already, Keith might have had a whale of a time getting on her even as good as he was at jump-mounting. We were lucky and Keith ran her first. He won by a mile. There was a little competition at the start, but I think that track was about a mile and everyone’s horse gave out but mine.

When the women’s race came around, I led the entire race. In fact, an incident happened that caused the women’s horse race to turn into a women’s mule race the next year, but I didn’t even know anything happened until I crossed the finish line. Something big happened. Remember that dip? Well the girl in second behind me had her horse fall. That caused a big pile up and the gal on the ground ended up with a broken jaw. By the next year I guess Dan decided mules would be slower than horses and less likely to have such a spectacular wreck. In any case, Keith and I had won both races.

The next year, we took the same mare because she had done a good job as both an outriding horse and a race horse. Keith won again. As I said, the women’s race would now be on mules.

I had no mule, but of course my Uncle Jimmie did. He always had good mules and they would always handle around. One was always named Joe and the first time I got on this mule named Joe, we were in a mule race. Uncle Jimmie gave me a bat. “He’ll go on if you ask him, but you’ll have to ask him,” Jimmie said. Boom – the gun said start. Jimmie’s mule whirled around like a reining horse and we were off. Nicki McCauley was breathing down our crooper from the start, so I tried a little bat on Joe. I am not sure Joe had ever been batted – but he had another gear. I won the mule race, so that made Keith and me back to back champions; two years in a row. Dan gave us jackets and we had our picture made. I can’t remember who asked for pictures, but I will try to find them. We do have an old eight-track tape of those races.

Way back then we all camped in the bottom around the track. I think one of those years was when Harold Lee Underwood ran his wagon tongue through Daddy’s truck window. I don’t remember if a line broke or something, or if Harold Lee’s team just didn’t make the curve. You’d think no one would park there because missing the curve happened sometimes, but hey, it was a great place to watch.

Dan said he started the races because it gave old competition cowboys another competition. None of us ever expected the races to be any safer than a rodeo. Like everything does, the Clinton Chuckwagon Races have moved on and it’s a gigantic commercial deal now – but I remember when. We had so much fun. Sometimes things just get too big.

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