Contributing writer, Virginia Chisholm
Most Texans are unaware of an integral part of our Texas culture—rodeo life. To learn more, I accompanied Vickie and Steve Boren, wife and son of the late Mr. Johnny Boren to visit The Texas Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame (TRCHF), originally located in Belton, TX, now housed in the Ft. Worth Stockyards’ Coliseum. Mr. Mike Hudson, also co-founder of TRCHF and President of the Board of Directors welcomed his longtime friends to the hall that is now dedicated to their dear husband and father.
Vickie Boren lived a rodeo life because she married a cowboy, and not just any cowboy. Johnny was a founding member of the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association in 1946, competing professionally as a bull rider until 1953. He was co-founder and president for 10 years of the Old Time Rodeo Cowboy Association and the Texas Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame in Belton, TX, starting in 1975. He won world bull riding titles in 1981 and 1982.
Johnny was well-known as the Texas Lone Star Circuit Manager for the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association from 1979-1989. He was honored as Texas Rodeo Man of the Year in 1992 and Beltonian Man of the Year for Lifetime Accomplishments in 2002 before his death in 2003. The Texas State House of Representatives honored him as a great contributor to Texas upon his passing.
My quest was to hear tales from the famous cowboy’s bride. Part of my introduction was from a collection of past newspaper and magazine articles which the Boren family had collected.
One magazine issued from Killeen, TX, dated June, 1997, got my interest immediately. It had a front page, color photo of Johnny Boren, entitled, “The Cowboy Way”, with a sub-title, “Champion Bull Rider Johnny Boren Explains Why a 150 Pound Man Will Get on A 2,000 Pound Bull.” The article included a picture of Johnny, age 19, in 1946, at his first pro rodeo.
Johnny still rode professionally until 1953, when he settled down and opened a used car business in his hometown of Belton, which later became a Ford dealership. Mr. Boren was well-respected, honest, a friend to all, a deacon in his church—and a very eligible bachelor.
Mutual friends set up Johnny Boren and Mary “Vickie” Vinson from Temple, Texas, for a date. Vickie, 18-years old, a beautiful, talented singer, was an education major at the University of Mary Hardin Baylor where she would achieve a Master’s Degree. Vickie reluctantly agreed to that dinner date with Johnny; albeit, she had reservations about going out with a man 14 years her senior.
On the appointed day, Johnny Boren, handsome but somewhat height-challenged, dressed like a movie star, arrived in a new, luxurious, gold Cadillac to pick Miss Vinson up. He took his young date to the most expensive steakhouse in town. However, before entering, looking very sheepish, Johnny began to stutter. He asked her if she had any money to pay for dinner, searching for his wallet.
Vickie thought she might be making a big mistake until Johnny broke into a big grin, saying, “Just joking!” The meal was a success. The guy was irresistible! They married in 1963, a marriage that lasted 40 years.
In 1988, Johnny suffered a devastating injury that put an end to his own professional bull riding competition. However, rodeo life went on.
The Borens built an outside rodeo arena on their ranch in Belton. They opened a unique bull riding school which became a local tourist attraction, as well as an area-wide Mecca for cowboys at all levels
At Rodeo School, novices started training with calves, working themselves up to “easy” bulls. They learned every minute detail as to riggings, technique, protective gear, animal psychology, and many life-saving tips before they actually got to ride that “easy bull.” By watching older, more experienced cowboys riding in the Boren arena, they learned rodeo skills, rodeo thrills. Johnny taught his bull riding secret, “When the bull turns right, you turn right. When it turns left, you turn left.” Easy, no?
On Sunday mornings, the Boren’s went to church. On Sunday afternoons, cowboys went to rodeo on the Boren Ranch. There were weekly $500 jackpot competitions, one each for novices and professionals.
Belton, TX, remembers Vickie not only as Mrs. Johnny Boren, but also as a devoted wife and mother, a high school theater teacher for 20 years, charm school teacher, singer and actress in local community theater for 30 years.
In conclusion, “Why will 150-pound man get on a 2000-pound bull?” Johnny answered, in the 1997 article, “There is a high,…a thrill,…a feeling of satisfaction that you get no place else. If you think about it, a 150-pound man getting on a 2000-pound bull doesn’t make sense.”
Nevertheless, rodeo life did make sense for the Boren Family, perhaps because behind every famous cowboy, there is a cowboy’s bride who helps make it succeed!
The Hall, originally located in Belton, TX, is now housed in the Ft. Worth Stockyards’ Coliseum. The Stockyards’ Coliseum also hosts live rodeos every Friday and Saturday evenings. For more information, search http://www.texasrodeocowboy.com .