November 18, 2011
He put the Freemans in the horse business.
From America’s Horse
In 1960, Morgan Freeman was looking for a good stallion to breed to his band of mares.
But it had to be a good one. He wasn’t about to spend a lot of time or money hauling an average horse back to his ranch in Skiatook, Oklahoma.
So when Morgan saw Harold “Huddy” Hudspeth take a sorrel stallion named Blondy’s Dude through a reining pattern at a show in Skiatook, he knew he’d found his horse.
Blondy’s Dude, a 1957 model by Small Town Dude and out of Blondy Queen, went on to win the reining that day, and by the time Freeman inquired about him, the horse’s owners, J.T. Walters and Nick McNair of Pryor, Oklahoma, had already priced him pretty high. They knew they had a good thing, and they wouldn’t sell the stallion for less than $5,000, which was a lot of money to spend on a horse 50-some years ago.
“I needed to spend $5,000 on a horse about like I needed pneumonia,” Morgan said in a 1969 issue of The Cattleman. “Luckily, it turned out to be the best investment I ever made.”
As the story goes, it took Morgan a few months to scrape together the money to buy Blondy’s Dude, but he finally made a deal that consisted of cash, some feed and a few horses thrown in to boot.
Morgan and his son, Jerald, would earn 18 grand champion and two reserve awards in two years on the road with Blondy’s Dude. “Dude” loved reining, was good at cutting and could stand at halter and walk out a winner, thanks to his superior, compact conformation and graceful, flowing neck.
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“He was a real intelligent horse,” Jerald says. “My dad bought him on the basis of what a performance horse he was, but he could go on and do it all.”
After nabbing the grand champion title twice at the Tulsa State Fair, Morgan decided to take Dude on down the road. In January 1962, the pair headed to Fort Worth (Texas) Fat Stock Show.
As Morgan eased a borrowed pickup and trailer onto the black ice that covered the pavement in northeastern Oklahoma, he wondered if it was just a dude’s dream to take his stallion to the Fort Worth Fat Stock Show. But if Blondy’s Dude could be in the top 10 at Cowtown, it would make a great story to tell visitors at his feed store in Skiatook.
At 48, Morgan had only been to Fort Worth once before. Back in 1941, he’d seen Wimpy named grand champion, then followed other horsemen to the Blackstone Hotel for the first meeting of the fledging AQHA.
A lot had changed in 21 years.
He found the new show grounds but then realized he’d forgotten to bring Dude’s health papers. He yanked off Duke’s blankets, then staked him out on a grassy median near the carnival and went off in search of a veterinarian. He saw license plates from states he’d never even visited, the grandest trucks and trailers imaginable. His confidence ebbed when he heard a passerby say there were 795 Quarter Horses entered; it would be the largest show in the breed’s history.
Dude had left Skiatook wrapped up like a grandbaby going out to play in the snow. Along the way, his hair had turned every direction under two layers of blankets and a hood. As they headed south into warmer weather, sweat started to trickle down his legs. So, while staked on the median, Dude’s hair dried in the sun, cementing itself out of place. Morgan returned to find a horse who looked starched, but not ironed.
Now what was he going to do? Dude was just recovering from a cold. Did he dare bathe him? A goose egg had come up on the sorrel’s neck where the veterinarian at home had given him a shot. Morgan thought he could hide it by strategically combing his mane, but the mane now had a stubborn mind of its own.
He found a water hose and soaked the sorrel horse, then scavenged around for something to squeegee the water off. He found a piece of broke glass on the ground and started using that. An exhibitor stalled nearby walked over and silently handed him a scraper.
His confidence still hadn’t returned by the time the 30 aged stallions were called into the arena. Several in the class had established reputations, and their owners and handlers had even greater acclaim. Dude’s thin little halter made out of bridle rein leather looked meager now, and the twin imitation silver buckles looked cheap.
Judge Ernest Browning’s first move was to jerk his thumb toward Dude, gesturing him out of the lineup. Morgan was shocked. He thought they’d been the first ones called. He wanted to say “Wait! This is the reigning champion of the Tulsa State Fair!”
“Trot him,” the judge said curtly.
Ah! So they weren’t out of the running yet!
They took off in a straight line, Dude jerking and bouncing more than trotting.
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When the ranks thinned to the top 10, he was still a contender. Judge Browning lined up the finalist with Dude at the end. Tenth was great, thought Morgan. That’s the most he’d ever expected. Then they started announcing the winners, beginning with tenth place at the other end of the line.
Slowly it dawned on Morgan that they were going in descending order, and Dude’s name hadn’t been called yet. Then, there it was: “First place goes to Blondy’s Dude.”
While Morgan was still deciding if he was dreaming or awake, the other class winners entered the arena for the championship drive. Among them were Leo San Siemon, who Morgan knew had been grand champion almost every time he’d been shown.
When the judge told Morgan to trot his horse, he added, “in a circle this time.”
Morgan was already off in another bouncy sprint before the command registered, but as soon as he turned Dude into the circle, the stallion slowed down, leveled out and traveled like a champion.
“Make him reserve,” the judge said pointing to Leo San Siemon. “Make him grand,” he concluded, pointing to Blondy’s Dude.
In 1968 and 1969, the stallion was AQHA’s leading sire of halter winners.
“He (Blondy’s Dude) and Dad were quite a pair,” Jerald says. “At the time, the Lord really used Blondy’s Dude to put us in the horse business. We’d roped and shown before, but he really put us in the industry.”