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Rodeo greats honored in Colorado

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

At first glance, Bandera and Colorado Springs might not seem to have a lot in common. However, under closer scrutiny, no one can deny the strong link between the Cowboy Capital of the World in Texas and the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado. And that connection only keeps getting stronger.
On Saturday, August 8, more than 35 friends and relations of the late Bob Wegner traveled from Bandera and other parts of the United States to pay homage as the legendary - not to mention, tough as a pine knot - bull rider was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame. On that day, Wegner took his rightful place beside Bandera's other rodeo greats such as incomparable calf roper Toots Mansfield and All Around Cowboy Larry Mahan. Both were members of the ProRodeo Hall of Fame Class of 1979.
Fast forward to 2015. Now it was Wegner's turn.
The ceremony began at 10 am under a spacious tent set up on the plaza of the museum's multi-acre pristine campus nestled in the foothills of Colorado's Rocky Mountains. The ProRodeo Hall of Fame and Museum of the American Cowboy is dedicated to educating the public about rodeo, its history and its impact on Western American culture. The Hall of Fame recognizes rodeo notables of the past and present, who serve as inspirations for the future. And, everyone gathered to salute the ProRodeo Hall of Fame Class of 2015.
Along with Wegner, other honored rodeo standouts included the late all around cowboy Tom Nesmith, who died at the too young age of 37; bareback rider Mark Garrett, who managed to pull four of his traveling companions to safety after a devastating airplane crash; steer wrestler Harry Charters, who was honored by being designated both Rookie of the Year and World Champion of the Year in 1959; the Hendricks Brothers, trick riding contract personnel, represented by surviving 92-year-old Lee Hendricks; the late Jack Hannum, who is credited with revamping and elevating the PRCA judging system; the late Precious Speck - aka "Walt" - a header roping horse that, according to his owner, "was far more talented than I was at 19"; and rodeo committees from 95-year-old Red Bluff Round-Up; Guymon Pioneer Days, which was started in the epicenter of Oklahoma's Dust Bowl in the early 1930s; and Iowa's Championship Rodeo, one of the largest and best rodeos in the world.
For the first time, the induction ceremony was streamed live on the Internet, courtesy of wranglernetwork.com.
Wegner's daughter, Kelly Olson, of Washington State, accepted the awards, an impressive belt buckle and a replica of the bronze statue "The Champ," on behalf of her late father.
Calling the honor a "blessing for all," Olson personally thanked Wegner's wife, Edna Turnbo, of Bandera, for her selfless devotion during her father's final illness. "She was a godsend and I'm sure the last words my father heard were Edna's as she read to him from clippings about his rodeo days."
Concluding her acceptance address, Olson added a prayer for her father and others who had gone before him, "Lord, this is for all the rodeo cowboys who have passed. Let them enjoy the great arena in the sky where they can tell tall tales and rodeo on forever." Amen to that.