Thursday, February 18, 2010

Horses & Horsemen

In 1965, I self published a book entitled, Horses & Horsemen. This publication was originally not intended to be a book.

I had been publisher and the first editor of the Paint Quarter Horse Journal. This magazine was the official publication of the American Paint Quarter Horse Association. This association merged with The Paint Stock Horse Association to become the American Paint Horse Association.

I was asked to become editor of a new, yet to be published all breeds horse magazine, to be titled The Horseman. It was planned to stay a minimum of 3 months in advance of publication, therefore a great deal of materials including photographs and articles were obtained and filed in advance of publication of the first issue.

Due to a series of unexpected delays in printing, it was decided to cancel publication. The new planned magazine never got off the ground. I felt that something should be done with at least part of the material that had been gathered.

Some of this material plus one or two articles that had been published in The Paint Quarter Horse Journal were combined to become the book, Horses and Horsemen. Unfortunately, the printer did a rather poor job of proof reading parts of the book before printing and I did an even poorer job of proof reading. For those who read or have read the book, please forgive any misspelled words.
The The copyrighted painting of the famous Appaloosa stallion Joker B by Darol Dickinson had been planned to be used on the cover of the magazine and was in fact used on the dust cover of the hard back issue and the cover of the paper back issue of the book. (Reproduced above with permission of Darol Dickinson) A photo of the cover of the planned first issue of the magazine and the front cover of the paper back version of the book are shown above.

Another magazine with the same or a similar name in fact went into publication at some point after this.
02-25-10, JBW

Looking Back by J. Bryan Wasson
Wasson's Looking Back
Looking Back
J. Bryan Wasson
Horses and Horsemen

Monday, February 15, 2010

Carl Miles & Joker B

By J. Bryan Wasson
The above painting of Joker B by Darol Dickinson is reproduced with permission of Darol DickinsonI have read a lot of books that were dedicated to wives, husbands, parents, siblings and famous people. I think I even remember a book that was dedicated to a dog. The number of books dedicated to a horse, I do not know. My 1965 book, Horses & Horsemen was dedicated to a horse; not just a great horse, but to Joker B, the outstanding Appaloosa stallion owned by the late and great Carl Miles. I believe that Joker B. was the most outstanding equine sire of his time and for many generations to come.

There are many good stallions in the world today. No doubt there are even many great stallions around today, but greatness at the level of Joker B is seldom seen. Please let me explain my reasoning in this matter.

I am what most people would call a “horse nut.” I just love equines. I love horses, mules, donkeys and Zebra. I seldom become obsessed with a single equine sire, however, but my relationship with Joker B was clearly an obsession. My obsession with Joker B has its’ roots in an obsession with another great stallion of the past.

This horse was Figure (1789 – 1821), later known as Justin Morgan, after a school teacher that had owned him. Figure (or Justin Morgan) was a small horse of a type that was often called quarter horses at that point in history. He was often abused and frequently not well fed, yet he outran all comers in the horse races of that day. He also out pulled much larger draft horses in pulling contests of the day. He was ridden as a saddle horse when needed. He pulled a plow in the fields throughout the week. On Saturday he was matched in the races that were mostly run in village streets. After the horse races he was likely to be entered in a pulling contest. On Sunday he pulled a buggy to church. On Monday morning, he was back in the fields pulling a plow.

Justin Morgan consistently produced offspring that were reproductions of their sire, not only in looks, but in what they could do. An entire horse breed, the Morgan, was based upon this one foundation sire.

I became obsessed with Justin Morgan while I was a Vocational Agriculture (now known as Agricultural Education) student and member of the FFA at Abilene (Texas) High School. My Vocational Agriculture teacher, Mr. J.I. Moore fueled this obsession by frequently talking about equine and bovine genetics. He often spoke of things that seemed to defy the accepted laws of genetics and reproduction, including Old Beck, the mare mule at Texas A&M that produced offspring despite the fact that mules are sterile and do not reproduce. I was extremely interested in such things.

As a child; I developed an ability to observe the differences in things that appear to be similar and the similarity in things that appear to be different. Many years later as a police officer this ability served me well.

[Joker B, July 21, 1941 - July 13, 1966:]
When I first started reading about Joker B in various publications including Western Horseman, I applied this ability in comparing Joker B with my old obsession, Justin Morgan. I noted that even though these two great stallions foaled over 100 years apart, were different, yet there were similarities. The greatest of similarities were the things the two great horses were known for and the things their get could do. These two horses were extremely versatile. They could do anything. I make this reference to Justin Morgan while writing about Joker B for the express purpose of documenting the fact that horses like this do not come along very often. I do not claim that there are no other all around horses. This is simply not true; however, these two extremely important sires imprinted themselves upon their offspring for generations to come.

I was aware of Joker B long before he was purchased by Carl Miles but when I first became seriously interested in Joker B, he was standing at stud either at Carl Miles and Harvey Fruehauf’s Cee Bar Ranch at Morgan Mill near Stephenville, Texas or at Carl Miles’ Cee Bar Ranch near Celina, Texas. I no longer remember which location was first. If my memory is correct, the stud fee at the time was $1,000.00.

In addition to his time on the race track, Joker B spent much time in the rodeo arena. He was used as a calf roping horse as well as to rope heels in the team roping events. He was used as both a dogging horse and as a hazing horse in steer wrestling. Joker B was also used as a barrel racing horse. Although Joker had not been trained as a trick riding horse, Vivian Dorr hauled him around for about a year as her mount in her trick riding specialty act. Joker B was also often shown at halter in numerous horse shows.

Joker B was in the movie “Broken Arrow” starring Joel McCrea. My memory is getting a little bit fuzzy; Jimmy Stewart may have been in the movie along with Joel McCrea. Following the movie, he was used in a pilot for a new TV western. Unfortunately, the expected new TV show never went into production.

Joker B was the mount of choice for celebrities including movie stars and politicians for parades and various other exhibitions. He was ridden by Texas Governor John Connally in a parade. Singing star Linda Loftis was spot lighted as she sang the Star Spangled Banner while mounted on Joker B in the darkened Will Rogers Coliseum, Fort Worth, Texas. Miss Loftis also was mounted on Joker B for other publicity photos.

To the best of my knowledge and belief, the last time Joker B was ridden in a public event was the 1965 Cotton Bowl parade in Dallas, Texas. Joker’s rider was a teenage girl named Brenda Foster who was a student at Cooper High School in Abilene, Texas. Brenda was a sure enough cowgirl and a barrel racing champion. Brenda was very impressed by the gentleness of the great stallion. Following this ride she wrote a poem about Joker B.

In 1965, I produced a book entitled, Horses and Horsemen. It was not intended to be a book. I had been the Publisher and the first Editor of the old Paint Quarter Horse Journal. I was asked by a couple of local business men to become the editor of a new all breeds horse magazine. The plan was to have enough material available in order to stay three months ahead at the time the first issue went to press. A great deal of material was gathered. For reasons beyond my control, this magazine never went to press. I selected some of the material that had been gathered and combined it with a few of my previously published magazine articles. The result was to be the book, Horses and Horsemen.

I was so obsessed with Joker B that I knew he would be a major part of this book. I asked my good friend Johnny Baker to write the chapter about Joker B. I not only dedicated the book to the great stallion, I obtained permission from the great photographer and animal painter Darol Dickinson to use his famous painting of Joker B on the cover of the book. I had the blessings of Carl Miles to use the painting of Joker B on the cover. Carl Miles used this painting in much of his publicity of Joker B. This painting is of such high quality and detail, that many people believe it is a photograph.

I also used the photograph of Brenda Foster with Joker B that had been taken just prior to the 1965 Cotton Bowl parade. I used the poem entitled, Joker B which had been written by Brenda next to this photo in the book. As I write this article, Brenda (now Brenda Campbell of Overbrook, Oklahoma) plans to present this photograph and the poem, Joker B to the Board of Directors of the Appaloosa Horse Club in conjunction with the World Appaloosa Show at 6:00PM on October 29, 2005 in the John Justin Arena of the Will Rogers Coliseum, Fort Worth, Texas.

I also included some of Brenda’s rodeo photographs in the book. I obtained material from George B. Hatley, Executive Secretary of the Appaloosa Horse Club for the chapter on the Appaloosa breed.

Brenda was a 2004 nominee to the Cow Girl Hall of fame in Fort Worth, Texas. When she was nominated to the Cow Girl Hall of Fame Brenda asked me to write her portfolio. I used the cover of Horses and Horsemen featuring the famous Darol Dickinson painting of Joker B as the background for most of the graphics used in her portfolio.

Many of Brenda’s numerous rodeo related trophies are now in the Museum at the Texas Cowboy Reunion grounds in Stamford, Texas. In addition, some of her other trophies are in the Cowboy Country Museum in downtown Stamford.
Joker B. had numerous owners prior to being purchased by Abilene, Texas Oilman, Carl Miles. A listing of other owners can be found in other publications. There is therefore no need to list them all in this article. Carl Miles did not purchase Joker B until 1959 at the San Antonio Stock Show for $10,000.00.

It was not until Carl Miles moved his horse operation to Abilene, that I had the opportunity to become up close and personal with Joker B, the Appaloosa horse that had obsessed my mind. I also became good friends with Johnny Baker, the Manager of Carl Miles’ Horse Ranch.

Carl Miles was a good friend and a great man. He was just as much at home in a business suite or in faded and worn blue jeans. If you did not know him and you saw him at a horse show, horse sale, or horse race, you would not recognize him as a wealthy man. I remember one time sitting on the bleachers at a horse show with Carl Miles sitting one row behind me and slightly to my left. I did not realize that Carl Miles was sitting behind me until he spoke. I was aware of some well worn boots that displayed evidence that they had recently walked through an area frequented by horses. I also saw the legs of a pair of dirty faded old Levis that contained the same evidence that was on the boots. When he spoke to me, I realized that it was Carl Miles. As we sat there watching the various classes in this horse show we voiced our opinions on how the animals in the class should be placed. When a class was over, we would “Monday morning quarter back” the actions of the judge. Our opinions amounted to little because we were not the judge, but we enjoyed our conversation and had fun.

I was a frequent visitor at Carl Miles’ horse ranch. I was at Carl Mile’s breeding barn on his ranch nearly as often as I was at my own barn. I never tired of watching Joker B and Carl’s other horses.

Sometimes I took friends and relatives to look at Carl’s horses. If he knew I was coming, he would be at the barn to talk about the horses and answer questions. He seemed to enjoy this greatly.

Carl Miles was the man who promoted Joker B and kept him at the forefront of the public eye. He was the man who made the name Joker B become a household word among Appaloosa breeders and others in the horse industry. The name Carl Miles will forever be linked with the great stallion, Joker B.

Joker B was the unexpected result of 52 years of planned breeding by Jack and Dan Casement at their ranch in northern Colorado. Blue Vitrol, a blue roan mare the Casements had purchased from Coke Roberds produced a foal with a loud blanket on his hips. The Casements were in the Quarter Horse business. Spotted horses were not welcome at that time in the Quarter Horse world. The sire of this spotted colt was Red Dog – P-55 in the fledgling Quarter Horse Stud Book. Blue Vitrol provided the Appaloosa influence for her foal. Vitriol’s dam was a mare named Leopard. Leopard was by the great Quarter Horse foundation sire, Old Fred.

There have been all kinds of rumors floating around concerning Joker B that simply are not true. One rumor is that Joker B was a registered Quarter Horse until he spotted out. Not so. He hit the ground with an Appaloosa blanket on his hips and spots. He was registered with the American Quarter Racing Association. This organization was not a breed registry. It was a Registration for racing purposes only. Joker B’s owner at this time was Lee Berry of Barstow, California. The American Quarter Racing Association was later merged into the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) as was the old National Quarter Horse Registry.

I was asked by Carl Miles to set up a table for book signing at his Fifth Annual Horse Sale in November of 1965 at the West Texas Fairgrounds in Abilene. At the end of this sale, the great stallion Joker B was to be sold. Carl Miles also announced that he would give away a Joker B. Colt by means of a drawing at that sale.

I arrived at the Fair Grounds early to set up the display of my book, Horses & Horseman which displayed the famous Darol Dickinson painting of Joker B on the cover. After I got my table set up a registration table for the drawing for the colt give away was set up.

Now it is logical that anyone as obsessed with Joker B as I was would own a Joker B offspring or at the very least a desire to own one. I will have to admit that the desire was very strong. I had never been lucky in drawings and contest and my luck did not change that day. I have heard it said that close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, but I sure got close that day.

I was the first person in line to get a ticket for the drawing. My friend Max Polen walked to the registration table with me. A lady handed me two tickets. I looked at them and noted that they were number one and number two. I kept number two and as I handed number one to my friend, I said, “Max, you take this one and I will keep number two.”

At the time of the drawing, the winning ticket was number one. My friend had won the Joker B. Colt. He had no knowledge of horses or interest in horse ownership. He in turn sold the colt to another good friend and associate at the Abilene Police Department, J.V. “Junior” Trammell. Trammel had a ranch near Aspermont that became the colt’s new home.

*During the bidding, Carl Miles made an announcement. He stated that he would be willing to sell Joker B into syndication. In his announcement Carl stated that this old horse could still be used to rope calves at age 25. I was present when the great stallion on November 20, 1965 sold for $26,500.00, a very high price for a 25 year old horse, to a four man syndicate. Carl Miles was a member of that syndicate. The great stallion died on July 13, 1966.

*Foot Note:
Only the parties to the transaction know the complete details. Jack Ryan of Corpus Christi, Texas is the person who made the purchase. At the time he was President of the Texas Appaloosa Horse Club. When the smoke cleared, so to speak, there was four man syndication. The syndicate consisted of Jack Ryan, Frank Harlock Jr., and John Lyle as well as Carl Miles. My personal opinion is that Carl Miles just could not completely give up the old stallion that had served him so well.

September 28 2005, JBW

Looking Back by J. Bryan Wasson
Wasson's Looking Back
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J. Bryan Wasson
Joker B
Carl Miles
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