Courtesy of Roy Madden (Executive Director, Henryetta, Chamber of Commerce)
For years the small Oklahoma community of Henryetta has been seeking a way to memorialize the numerous champion cowboys, cowgirls, and famous rodeo stock from the Henryetta area.
The Chamber of Commerce Executive Director and former PRCA competitor, Roy Madden, said, “the difficulty was with who does the community start with when you have so many champions, and what form should it take, what location should be used, and how to secure community support and funding for the undertaking?”
Madden said, “He visited with a Tulsa based company, Boulder Designs, at a trade show and was very impressed with their product’s design and durability.” At that time Madden was exploring the use of stone monuments to be erected at select Main Street intersections which would pay tribute to the history of Henryetta to include rodeo champions, the Native American roots, ranching, city founder, Hugh Henry, and the former mining industry. The concept was well received but the scope was large and required coordination with and approval from multiple City and State agencies.
That project was temporarily put on the back burner when he saw the recently erected monument to former senator and rodeo icon Clem McSpadden in Claremore, Oklahoma. “Now that’s a statement,” Madden thought when he viewed the impressively huge monument honoring Glem constructed by Boulder Designs and funded by the friends of Clem. He then remembered a comment made by Clem McSpadden regarding the legendary multiple World Champion Cowboy Jim Shoulders; “If Shoulders was a tree, he’d be the biggest tree in the rodeo forest, period!”
The late Clem McSpadden and longtime friend of Shoulders family had answered the question regarding the appropriate starting point – find a way to construct the largest boulder monument in Oklahoma to “the biggest tree in the rodeo forest!”
Madden secured the cost estimates, developed a time table for construction, determined the appropriate location, sought consensus from community leaders, consulted with the Shoulders family, secured support from the Chamber of Commerce and the City of Henryetta.
It was agreed that the project would be a public/private funding venture and constructed at the Historic Nichols Park near the entrance into the Jim Shoulders Living Legends Rodeo Arena. The project was on a tight schedule as it required being fully funded and completed within 45 da
ys; just before the 25th Annual Jim Shoulders Living Legends Rodeo.
“We knew that this time frame would be a challenge; however, once completed, the boulder monument would be the largest in Oklahoma weighing over 14,000 pounds, over 8 feet tall and 10 feet wide; it would include a massive foundation, complete with two flag poles, lighting, and landscaping,” Madden said. The City of Henryetta’s Public Works staff eagerly accepted the project as a challenge and made sure all details of the monuments installation were completed on budget and on schedule. Local contractors volunteered and begin to donate their labor and expertise and other private donations started flowing in. “It was surprising how the monument had become a true community project as funding came forward with donations from $25 to over $1,000 from individuals and local businesses. Once the dust settles a donor plaque will be placed near the monument,” Madden said.
The project was funded, completed on time, and the unveiling was conducted on August 25, 2018; it was attended by the Henryetta community and rodeo families from across the nation.
Sharon Shoulders, the wife of late world champion cowboy and a rodeo icon herself opened the event by expressing her gratitude to the Henryetta community.
World Champion Bull Rider, Don Gay, shared a heartfelt tribute to the champion that was like a father to him. Oklahoma State legislators were on hand and stressed the pride Oklahoma has for great sons, and the founders of the Jim Shoulders Living Legends Rodeo closed the unveiling with their reflections and memories of “biggest tree in the rodeo forest!”
“Jim Shoulders was so proud of the Henryetta community and loved to call Henryetta home. We are also proud of him and his wonderful family and as stated on the monument – Our Heroes Will Always Be Cowboys,” Madden said.