B O O T H I L L M U S E U M
Kansas Cowboy Hall of Fame
John j. Vanier
John J. Vanier, former owner of the CK Ranch located near Brookville, Kansas was born in 1897, on a farm settled by his grandfather in Pawnee County, Nebraska. His parents, Jacob C. and Julia A. Vanier, moved their family to Kansas City, Missouri. Vanier attended school before he left and sought employment with the E.D. Fisher Commission Company in the Board of Trade Building. While there, he learned about grain trade and the milling industry. Later, John became a salesman for the Abilene Flour Mill in Abilene, Kansas. Following his service in the Marine Corps during World War I, John worked in the Flour Mill in Abilene. On May 13, 1922, Vanier married Lesta. The couple had three children, sons Jack and Jerry and daughter Joyce. In 1925, John secured controlling interest in the Western Star Milling Company, located in Salina, Kansas. Vanier took the Western Star Milling Company from flounder status to an efficient, profitable firm; allowing John to assume guidance over other grain and milling firms in Kansas, Oklahoma and Nebraska. He was able to found the Central Kansas Hereford Ranch, later the CK Ranch, near Brookville, Kansas. Vanier expanded his holdings, adding farm and ranch property in Hunter, Dorrance, Herrington, Manhattan and Salina. He established commercial cattle ranches in Wyoming, Colorado and Oklahoma; and grew his business empire to include: milling plants, elevators, soybean plants, food processing plants, livestock feed mixing plants, dehydrating plants and pelleting plants. In 1935, John Vanier began the CK Ranch’s register Hereford Herd. By the 1950s, the CK Ranch’s registered cattle were 2,000 head with annual registrations totaling over 1,500 a year. In 1946, Vanier served on the Board of Directors for the American Hereford Association and was elected the organization's President in 1952. John also belonged to the Kansas Livestock Association and the National Millers’ Federation. In 1978, John Vanier was one of the first thirty-eight members inducted into the Honor Gallery of the Hereford Heritage Hall. In 2005, the Kansas Business Hall of Fame, Emporia, inducted John as the Historical Heritage Award Recipient. Described as a self-made, generous businessman, he supported various schools and colleges, including the Kansas State University Animal Husbandry Department, with money, land, cattle and by activities held on the CK Ranch. In 1970, Vanier sold a major portion of his vast food manufacturing and marketing facilities, retaining the farming or ranching operations. John Vanier passed away on February 20, 1980 at the age of eighty-three. His children, thirteen grandchildren and several great-grandchildren still carry on the ranching legacy started by John J. Vanier.
“John Vanier was a self-made businessman, who ran his business right from under his hat.”
– A description of John J. ‘J.J.’ Vanier
C. Robert Haywood
C. Robert Haywood, a third generation Kansas resident, was born August 27, 1921. Robert grew up on his parent’s, C.O. and Elsie Haywood’s, farm in Ford County. He attended classes in a one-room schoolhouse, located a little over a mile from the family’s farm near Fowler, Kansas. In 1939, he graduated from Fowler High School. After graduation, Haywood moved to Wichita, Kansas and California; but soon returned home. In 1943, Robert married his wife Marie. While living on the farm, Robert attended Dodge City Junior College, where he earned his Associates Degree before entering the United States Navy. Enlisted as a Navy Medical Corpsman, Haywood served in the U.S.S. Auburn, primarily in the South Pacific and Iwo Jima. After finishing his tour of duty, Robert studied at Kansas University receiving his Bachelor of Arts in 1947 and Masters Degree in 1948. That same year, he began teaching at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas, while pursuing his Doctorate Degree from the University of North Carolina. Haywood wrote his thesis on “Colonial Mercantilism''. Robert continued to work at Southwestern College, eventually becoming Dean, until 1956 when he moved with his family to Decatur, Illinois to become Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Millikin University. In 1969, he relocated to Topeka working for Washburn University, as Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean. A teacher first, Haywood returned to the classroom at Washburn, as a professor of history, for several years before his retirement in 1988. During his academic career, Haywood published nine books and over a hundred articles dealing with: the history of Dodge City, Victorian customs and society, Kansas history, humanities and economy, and a work of western fiction. The Kansas Authors’ Club awarded Haywood’s work of fiction, The Preacher’s Son, their annual Coffin Award in 1987. Three years later, his book The Victorian West won the Western History Association’s Best Non-Fiction Book Award. Dodge City Community College honored Haywood as an Outstanding Alumni recipient. A touring speaker for the Kansas Humanities Council, Robert gave over 125 presentations about Kansas history. On May 23, 2003; Haywood donated his personal history collection, consisting of over 400 volumes, to the Ford County Historical Society. This collection is currently held at the Kansas Heritage Center for public use.
“He has lifted his discussion far beyond the level of local history and has made an important contribution not only to our knowledge of Victorian life and culture, but to American social history as well." Michael B. Husband describing C. Robert Haywood.
Gerald Roberts was born on October 5, 1919, in Council Grove, Kansas. Gerald became a legendary bronco and bull rider in rodeos all over the United States. His parents, E.C. and Clara Roberts encouraged their six children to pursue the “cowboy lifestyle”. At the age of five Gerald knew he wanted to be a rodeo cowboy. By the age of 13 he rode the truck-loads of colts his father bought. When he turned 17, Roberts followed in the footsteps of his brother, Ken, and sister, Marge, by joining the professional rodeo circuit. As Gerald traveled and competed, his family started the Flint Hills Rodeo, the longest-running rodeo in the state of Kansas. Held in 1938 as the First Annual Chase County Rodeo, it was renamed the following year. In 1942, at 22, Gerald earned his first All-Around World Champion title. Six years later he earned his second; making him the only cowboy to earn world titles under two different rodeo associations – the Cowboy Turtle Association and the Rodeo Cowboy Association. During his career, Gerald became close friends with another famous bronc rider, Casey Tibbs. The two men traveled together and were the first cowboys to fly on airplanes when competing on the circuit. They also crossed over into the Hollywood entertainment industry together. Roberts served as a stunt double. Turning down a role in the TV series “Rawhide”, Roberts introduced Europe to American rodeos. Gerald’s rodeo career spanned three decades and won him sixty-seven championship belt buckles. He also won all-Around titles at rodeos like Cheyenne Frontier Days, the San Francisco Cow Palace, Reno and Madison Square Gardens. In 1948 Gerald became the first cowboy to wear and promote Wrangler jeans when he modeled for the Blue Bell Company. The Kansas Sports Hall of Fame nominated Gerald as a charter, and the only rodeo inductee, in 1961. In 1964, Gerald moved to Abilene, Kansas, where he established the Chap-parel Manufacturing Company. Two years later, Roberts married Pat Hershberger, who helped operate the company. He invented a nine-plait bull rope, which soon replaced the traditional five-plaited rope previously used by most bull riders. The company also made custom-made chaps, gear bags and rope bags used by rodeo contestants. As his rodeo career wound down and his business progressed, Gerald and Pat enjoyed life around Abilene with their children – Jim, Lala, Geri, Kasey, Claudette, Joye and Jaye [deceased]. In 1990, the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association inducted Gerald into their Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs. He is also featured in the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City. A lifetime member of the PRCA and the Western and English Sales Association, Sports Illustrated named Roberts one of the Top Fifty Kansas Athletes of the Century. In 1994, the Flint Hills Rodeo honored the Roberts family with a mural. On December 31, 2004, Gerald Roberts passed away at the age of eighty-five; leaving behind a legacy steeped in rodeo and cowboy traditions. Ted Hayes, of the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame recalled, “When you think of rodeo in Kansas as a sport, the first name that comes up is Roberts, not just Gerald, but the entire family.”
“He was a real pioneer, not only for his sport, but for all sports in Kansas." Ted Hays, Secretary of the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame, describing Gerald Roberts.
Don Fisher, born July 1, 1929 in Meade County was the oldest child of Roy and Mertile Fisher. Don insists that being a cowboy is all he has ever known. Adopting the skills, manners and dress of a cowboy from his grandfather, Fisher is still rarely seen without his cowboy attire or boots. Don’s brothers, Jimmie and Gene, and his sisters, Velva and Carole, say his innate knowledge and love of all animals began as a child. Don’s true passion has always been horses. This fondness began when his father gave him a bay colt, named Dixie Lou. The filly, with a tell-tale stripe, became the foundation for Fisher Quarter Horses. Over seven decades later, her bloodline is still present in Don’s brood mares. Learning calf roping from his uncles, Fisher entered rodeos in western Kansas and northern Oklahoma. In 1947, Don married Warrenetta Marrs in Meade, Kansas; where the couple raised four sons – Steve, Stan, Randy and Bryan. On their farm, Don built a small roping arena, to practice with his brother and to pass along the cowboy tradition to his sons. Don, a self-taught livestock producer, worked as a ranch hand and cowboy for several large cattle operations. In 1972, Don and Warrenetta moved to Richfield, Kansas, where he ran thousands of heads of cattle for over twenty years. When the cattle market changed, Don went to work for various feed yards. Don is remembered for always asking, “Did you see any trouble?” In 1990, Don and Warrenetta moved to Garden City for semi-retirement. Never idle, Don worked for area feed yards. At over seventy-years old, Don still rides pens, and doctors and ships cattle. Don also works on the family livestock and hay operations and ropes with his son and friends. He helped found the Garden City Chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Cowboys, and served as the group’s president. As a lifetime member of the International Feedlot Cowboy Association and the United States Team Roping Association, he competes annually in the National Finals in Amarillo, Texas. Don has also competed in the Pro/Celebrity Team Roping competition between Garden City’s Beef Empire Days Rodeo and Dodge City’s Roundup Rodeo. Those attending Don and Warrenetta’s fifty-eighth wedding anniversary got a chuckle when Don exclaimed, “I won this buckle and I want to show it off.”
“Don is the epitome of the working cowboy…he’s over seventy-years old and still rides pens and doctors cattle almost everyday... he knows cattle inside and out.” Sarah Jones describing Don Fisher.
Harold L. "Buddy" Heaton
Harold L. “Buddy” Heaton, a rodeo clown and horse trainer from Southwest Kansas, was born on March 30, 1929, to Lloyd Heaton and Fayetta Maude Hazard Heaton Hagaman in Alva, Oklahoma. While most children were learning to ride their bicycles, Heaton was learning to ride horses, bulls and buffalo. By the age of 12, Buddy jumped horses over cars and performed as a rodeo clown and bullfighter. He continued his career on the rodeo circuit, appearing at premiere rodeos in Cheyenne, Wyoming and Calgary, Canada. Buddy recalled, “There was a rodeo man in Dodge City who hired me to clown and fight bulls whenever I could get out of school.” Buddy focused on being the barrel man at the rodeos, stating, “I would get in a barrel and let the bull knock me around…I was wild.” During the 1950's and 1960's, Heaton expanded his rodeo clown act to include animals gaining the reputation as an animal trainer. On May 13, 1952, Buddy and his step-father Fred Hagaman’s legendary Appaloosa “High Hand'' was born. Buddy trained High Hand for rodeo events and horse races. One of his most notable tricks was the illusion that Heaton could lift High Hand off the ground by simply laying his hand on the horse’s back. Actually, High Hand could jump straight off the ground with all four feet. Heaton also taught his horse how to walk on its hind legs. In 1957, though High Hand had never been in a bulldogging event, Buddy won the bulldogging class at the Denver Stock Show on him. High Hand was inducted into the Appaloosa Horse Club Hall of Fame in 1988. Buddy gained national recognition when he successfully trained a buffalo, named “Old Grunter'' with the stage name “Clyde.” Life Magazine published photos of Heaton and “Old Grunter'' competing in a three-way race between the buffalo, a mule and a horse at Denver’s Centennial Turf Club. On January 20, 1961, shortly after appearing on the TV show “Wagon Train,” Buddy and his buffalo participated in John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Parade. Over the years, Buddy continued to travel the rodeo circuit and introduced his three sons – Ted, Tom and Buddie Lawrence [deceased] – to horses and livestock. He managed the livestock barn in Liberal for twenty-five years, before retiring in Hugoton, Kansas. His son Ted said, “What’s amazing about Dad is all the things he has survived…His body is filled with pins from bull clowning and he has won several battles with cancer…He’s been through a lot, and he’s a survivor…There is only one Buddy Heaton in the world.” Buddy died at the age of 82 in Ulysses, KS on April 14, 2011.
“Buddy Heaton lived his fantasy as a cowboy in goat skin chaps and a 10-gallon hat.
Kansas Cowboy Hall of Fame
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