Story originally published August 18, 2010
Leon Adams talks about his life as a cowboy before his wife, Vicki Adams, and grandson, Zayne Goode, entertained at the recent Linn County PRCA Rodeo in Mound City, Kansas.
World Famous Rodeo Entertainer, Animal Trainer Is All Cowboy
Leon Adams is a cowboy in every possible definition of the word.
Most people really don’t have any indication into the depth of his whole story.
Best known throughout the world as a horse and animal trainer, showman and rodeo entertainer, Adams, now 80-years-old, begrudgingly retired from contract acting for the public a few years ago when his “knees gave out .”
However, just because he’s not the headliner, Adams is still a very integral part of the rodeo acts being performed by his wife, Vicki Adams, and their grandson Zayne Allen Goode, with horses Leon continues to help train.
Before the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association-sanctioned Western action at Mound City, Kansas, where Vicki and Zayne were performing last week, Leon Adams talked briefly about the phases of his cowboy life.
Despite apparent body stiffness and difficulty breathing and visiting for long periods due to the humid weather, Adams emphasized, “I’ve never had a day job since I was 25, and Vicki’s never worked away from the ranch.”
Rodeo cowboy probably comes first in Adams’ description of himself, but he’s a ranch cowboy, too. Adams enthusiastically described his herd of purebred Brahman cows on the couple’s conservation-award winning LA Ranch at Stuart, Oklahoma, a farming and ranching community with a population of 400.
“I keep some of the cows straight bred, but I also use Hereford bulls and produce what’s called Tiger Stripes,” Adams explained. “I’ll mate those cows back to Angus bulls, and they’ll generally have black calves.”
Nearly 2,500 acres are included in the ranch Adams has accumulated by purchasing 17 farms in his lifetime.
“We have Bermuda grass which provides grazing most of the year, so I don’t have to feed much hay,” Adams stated. “I do keep free-choice cottonseed meal with salt added to limit intake available for the cows in covered troughs year around.”
Springs, creeks and ponds always provide open water which is another advantage to the cow-calf program, according to Adams, who compared his low-labor ranch management to operators north of him.
“You go north of I-40, and the ranchers like to farm and feed their cows more,” he claimed. “My cows pretty much take care of themselves.”
Calves are sold at weanling time at varying weights, “4-plus to around 7,” because typically the cows are out with the bulls year around, and some calves are born each season. “I have a pretty good demand for the calves to repeat customers,” Adams noted.
Living not far from the farm where he was born, Adam clarified that his family tried to discourage him from the rodeo life which attracted him. “I started Roman riding on my dad’s work horses to and from the field each day,” Adams recalled.
Attending a “Sunday goat roping,” two men from a nearby town saw the 12-year-old Adams riding the two horses and hired him to entertain at their rodeo. “I rode bareback and barefooted for all three performances and got $15,” Adams remembered.
It wasn’t many years until Adams was on the rodeo trail performing a variety of Roman riding, trick riding and other animal acts as well as contesting in rodeo events. “I competed in calf roping until I was 45 and in steer wrestling until I was 55,” Adams revealed.
In addition to competing personally, Adams mounted a number of other cowboys in roping and bull dogging. “One of my horses was Tee Jay Bandit, a gray gelding by Duane Walker’s Jackie Bee. I trained Bandit and leased him for steer wrestling,” Adams stated.
A sad spot for Adams was his first marriage which ended in divorce. However, when attending a Rodeo Contract Acts Convention, Adams met Vicki Herrera, also an accomplished trick rider and horse trainer.Leon, then 40, and Vicki, only 19, were married shortly thereafter and embarked on a lifelong journey of rodeo entertainment.
Their daughter, Kerri, joined the family rodeo trick riding act at age seven, and now grandson Zayne, 11, is perfecting his Roman riding skills under the instruction of his grandparents.
Mounted on his white Tennessee Walking Horses, full brother and sister, Rudy and Trudy, Zayne performed an intricate serpentine, rode through a fire obstacle and leaped over a fence.
Furthermore, taking after his rodeo champion mother and grandmother, in barrel racing and his grandfather in roping, Zayne has won the 10 and under all around cowboy title the past two years in the Oklahoma Junior Rodeo Association.
“Zayne rodeos on Cherokee Smoke, the Paint Horse tied to the trailer there that Vicki will perform on this evening,” Adams pointed out. “We are really proud of Zayne. He is so good with the horses and enjoys it so much, keeping the family rodeo tradition going.”
Adams has performed all over the United States as well as in Mexico, Canada, France, Finland and Japan.
“I had 60 horses to train at one time,” he related. Adams’ main acts have included four different Roman riding teams, two different six-up tandem Roman riding teams, several tick riding, liberty, dancing and dressage horses as well as a dog and a duck.
His home-raised Brahmans have been used in several of Adams’ acts. “I’ve had 14 different Brahmans in many thousands of performances,” he said. “My most unusual act was probably when I was Roman riding my Brahmans, Geronimo and Apache, jumped them over a big convertible and did other tricks.”
Upon questioning, Adams said those performers, although introduced as bulls, were stags. He kept them into retirement, until they got into a pasture with breeding bulls and were killed.
Adams and his wife have been nominated 20 times for Specialty Act of the Year in the PRCA and have won the prestigious honor four times. Adams is an inductee into the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City, and Leon and Vicki were named members of the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame at Colorado Springs in 2008.
More about Vicki Adams and Zayne Allen Goode next time.