Friday, March 6, 2009

Miller Rodeo-a Family Affair

Tonight's blog was published in issue of the Rich Hill Mining Review(Wagon Wheel in 1976 ) . The following story is by Randy Bell
Clyde Miller-on his horse,Leonard

Kid Fletcher, Casey Tibbs, Bill Fell, Rex-Campbell, Bones Ashton. If you were a rodeo fan in the 1940's and 50's these names might ring a bell with you.
Or maybe if you aren't even a rodeo fan but have lived around the Rich Hill area you've heard of Oklahoma Slim and Arkansas Shorty, well known rodeo clowns of a few years back. It's possible you now know them by another name.
Then again there were three pretty trick riding sisters named Betty, Doris and Deloris England, at least one of whom you might have known in Rich Hill.
If you don't know these next two names two things are pretty certain about you. One, you haven't lived in Rich Hill long and two, you were never much of a rodeo fan at all. The names are Mrs. Belle Miller and her husband, the late Clyde Miller.
Back to the other names for just a moment. Oklahoma Slim was the stage (or in this case arena) name for Martin Gulick and Arkansas Shorty, out of clown make-up, is Lester Breckenridge. Both men now live in or near Rich Hill.
The Miller couple mentioned had three sons and a daughter. One of these sons, Maynard, was a pick-up man in the Miller rodeo and married Doris England, the trick rider. In fact they were married on horseback during a rodeo in Ottawa, Kansas.
These are just a few of the things I learned from talking with Mrs. Miller one morning and by going through a scrapbook she had.

Clyde and Belle Miller got into the rodeo business at a tough time. It wasn't tough just because it was the early years for such shows, it was rough in all types of business then. It was 1932 and the Depression was on.
The Millers were originally from the Waterloo, Iowa area where they farmed. They got into show business with horse acts at county fairs. This lead into a Wild West Show and then on July 29, 1932, in Iowa they staged their first rodeo. Their rodeo, career would span almost twenty years and take them north to Bemidge, Minnesota, south to New Orleans, east to Boston and as far west as Denver.

As could be expected, a newspaper man helped bring the Miller show to Rich Hill the first time in 1936. Dynamite Matthews and a barber named Elmer Hughes promoted that first show which was held west of Rich Hill near what was then the Robinson farm.
After this the Miller Shows often started their season off in Rich Hill and in 1942 they moved here. At those county fairs and in the early years of their rodeo business, both Clyde and Belle rode High School horses, horses trained in dressage or difficult maneuvers. They also both performed in a special feature of the show called a Quadrill. This was a square dance done on horseback using 8 matched white horses.
In 1937 Belle's horse was hurt and she quit showing. After this she stayed on the Miller ranch with her youngest son Mark and granddaughter Ann while Clyde was with the show in the summer months. The show remained a family affair, however. Their oldest son, Bill, was the announcer, daughter, Maxine was a trick rider and bookkeeper, Maynard was livestock foreman, pick-up man and trick rider. Mark was-very young during this period however, he did do some trick riding as did grandchildren Buck and Ann Morton.
The four children have now left the rodeo life for various careers, Bill is now a minister in Lee's Summit, Maxine is a government employee in Kansas City, Maynard manages a cattle ranch in Illinois and Mark is the Vocational Agriculture teacher in Rich Hill.
From 60-120 cowboys and cowgirls traveled along with the shows. Some became famous in their sport and found their way into the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma. Clyde and Belle are also mentioned for their part in rodeo history in the Hall.
One of the shows performed in Rich Hill was held on the athletic field with the sponsor's proceeds going towards the purchase of the first set of lights for the field.
In 1951 the Millers sold their rodeo and settled down to the farm life once again. Both Clyde and Belle took part in various civic affairs in Rich Hill with Belle once holding a position on the school board.
The Millers moved to town in the early 1970's where Belle still resides. Clyde passed away in 1974.
Rodeo today is a professional and ever more popular sport based on the foundations laid by people such as Clyde and Belle Miller.

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