January 9, 2015

My Grandma Emilie's Brother - Great Uncle Clifford Calhoun

Old-time cowboy to reign at 12th Raymond Rodeo
by Morgan Voorhis

RAYMOND – An all-American cowboy – Clifford Calhoun, 84, of Madera – will serve as grand marshal for the 12th annual Raymond parade.

"I was picked based on my age and reputation," he chuckles with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes.
His reputation is that of an expert horse trainer – something he gave up just 12 years ago at the age of 72.

Mr. Calhoun was born in 1913 in Green Mountain, seven miles outside Raymond.

His family homesteaded there in the late 1800s, while his father worked in the mines.

As for education, young Cliff finished the eighth grade before going to work for Lindsay Wright, a cattleman in Green Mountain.

By the age of 16, he was competing in all kinds of rodeo events, such as team-roping and steer-stopping, an event where the steer is roped and stopped.

And at 17, he began working for Paul Westfall in Le Grand.
Over the years, Mr. Calhoun built 200 miles of fence that "was straight as an arrow to China and strong as the rock of Gibraltar."

"Sounds kind of poetic, doesn't it?," he adds.

For entertainment, horse races in downtown Raymond were a hoot in the 1950s.  Cowboys on horses raced through downtown weekly.  It is rumored that the crowds then were as big or bigger as those now attending the Raymond parade.  While the crowds bet on their favorite to win, the cowboys bet each other on who would finish first.  "I never lost a race," says Mr. Calhoun proudly.

However, a little more softly, he whispers, "Well one time I lost, but I don't like to talk about that."
Mr. Calhoun believes he won because he knew the horses.  He also had his own winning strategy – letting the others get a good lead so they would think he was lagging behind.  And then, surprise: he would race to cross the finish line first.

Mr. Calhoun recalls racing against Everett Philip, Raymond's first grand marshal, and also Harry Baker Sr., in Madera.

Although being a cowboy was busy work, he found time to romance Miss Margie Footman.
In 1939 they married and had two sons, Cliff and Tom, who, as adults, were instrumental in helping their father win the 1963 championship buckle for earning the most money roping.

"I roped every week for a year," Mr. Calhoun recalls.

"Sixty head a week, 20 at Merced, 20 at Clovis and 20 at Madera."

Since roping is a partner event, his two sons helped out. While one Calhoun roped the head, the other roped the heel.

Still young and feisty at 54, Mr. Calhoun broke a Brahma cow for his grandchildren to ride.
"We put a saddle on her and it was just like riding a horse after Grandpa broke her," says granddaughter Kim Calhoun, 34.

Mr. Calhoun's mischievous side be-comes even more apparent as he tells of one particular Madera rodeo.
"I rode Mae West," he says slyly, looking around to see if the others in the room caught his little joke.
It is true he rode the bronc, "Mae West," bareback, until she bucked him off.

"I thought a ton of dynamite had exploded under me," he adds when he thinks of the jolt of hitting the ground.
Mr. Calhoun has five grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

With him and his wife separating many years ago, he now resides in a Madera retirement home, where he continues with his training.

Now, instead of horses, he trains dogs using ducks and chickens.

On Saturday, April 18, his day will be a hustle-bustle of varied activities as he rides through the parade, representing the Raymond community.

And equally important, he will have the opportunity to reminisce with other Ray-mond old-timers, who will be in town, not only for the rodeo, but for the Raymond High School Reunion of all classes attending the school before it closed in the 1960s.

Mr. Calhoun will probably be tuckered out when all is said and done.

But as most folk know, it's impossible to keep a good, ol' American cowboy down.

Raymond Parade begins on Saturday, April 18, at 1 p.m.
Information: 689-3341; 689-3444; or 689-3000.

*******************Clifford Calhoun passed away on March 29, 2006******  Youc an read more about him here:  http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=13811769

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