Labor Day event returns to ranch of the late Clem McSpadden

BUSHYHEAD - Despite his recent passing, the legacy of one of America's most acclaimed cowboys will go on.

This weekend, thousands of spectators, team ropers and barrel racers will converge on Clem McSpadden's “Tub Handle” ranch for the annual Bushyhead 101 Labor Day pasture roping and barrel racing.

In the quiet rural community of Bushyhead, just five miles south of Chelsea, event-goers will find no stores, no post office, no motels or restaurants, just 282 acres of pasture full of trucks, trailers, campers and sightseers.

The annual Labor Day event is sure to take life back to the real old west.

McSpadden, who died July 7 at the age of 82, brought the unique pasture roping concept to Oklahoma in the mid-1980s after seeing a similar competition in Texas.

The roping is a throwback to old-time ranch roping.

The two-day event is intended to preserve the western heritage, family and competition.

“Clem asked me to make two promises on things we had not previously talked about,” said Donna McSpadden, Clem's wife. “The first was to go on with his Bushyhead roping. We're keeping that promise.”

There is no arena used for the roping, just a boundary of yellow rope. Spectators and participants are encouraged to make a weekend of the event by setting up camp around the roped line.

On Sunday, Aug. 31, the event will begin at 9 a.m. with cowboy church services under the big tent.

At high noon, ropers will line up for a shot at the big money, with two go-rounds. The concept is simple and not much different than the average team roping event - one roper catches the head of the beastly animal, the other catches the feet - of course, there is that 101-foot head start the steer gets.

The top 75 teams will advance to the finals on Monday, Sept. 1, with no times carried over. The top four teams in the average will compete in the $2,000 sweepstakes by taking on 1,600-pound longhorns.

The barrel race will take place Monday, with a half-mile pattern around two barrels 650 feet-apart and the third turn around the pond dam.

This event can get especially western if the final turn doesn't go well.

McSpadden was born in 1925. His childhood was spent on two ranches in Oklahoma - the Bushyhead ranch that has remained in his family since 1885, and his great-uncle Will Rogers' ranch in Oolagah.

In 1947 while in College at Oklahoma A&M, McSpadden and five other students helped start the collegiate rodeo team.

He had been an announcer at numerous rodeos across the country, including the early day National Finals Rodeo, plus College, High School and Indian Finals. He was also the General Manager of the National Finals Rodeo for eighteen years, President of the Board of the PRCA and a major representative for rodeo against animal rights activists trying to shut down the sport.

He was tapped by the Partners of Alliance, created by President John F. Kennedy, to be in charge of the exchange program between Oklahoma and Txlacala, Mexico. McSpadden produced rodeos and served as liaison between the states.

Because of his dedication and contribution to rodeo and the American cowboy, this year's annual Labor Day event will also be a tribute to America most legendary “voice of the rodeo”.