I was born October 11, 1944 in Dighton, Kansas, to Roy & Mary Atterberry. They were a farm & ranch family and lived 12 miles south and east of Dighton on the land which had been homesteaded by my grandfather when he came here from Ireland. I learned to ride at the age of two on my pony, Flicka. Dad would lead me around and around the ranch. At the age of three I was riding without Dad leading me. Dad and I spent a lot of time riding the ranch checking the cattle. If Mom didn’t ride with us, I would pick wildflowers (or maybe they were weeds) and bring a bouquet home to her. She was always thrilled with her bouquet.
The Lane County Fair came to town in August and we would always take the horses to town for the fair and Parade. At that time they had pony races at the fair and I loved to ride in them. They also had thoroughbred races and I thought my goal in life was to be a jockey; however, Mom & Dad vetoed that idea from the start. I never lost my desire to ride in races and once my pony, Prince, outran a quarter horse.
My parents always encouraged me to ride but riding also came with chores. If you wanted a pony you had to take care of it. I was responsible for feeding and watering my pony and was taught responsibility on a ranch at an early age. I thought that feeding cattle in the snow was a lot of fun, but I’m sure my Dad didn’t think so. I also thought that driving the cows in to be milked through sunflowers taller than me and my pony was fun. It was like riding in a maze and if you just stayed in the trail that the cows made you would eventually come out on the other side. Driving the cows in was fun; milking them not so much.
At the age of seven, we went to Denver to the National Western Stock Show and that is where I saw my first trick riders. I decided that was what I wanted to be when I grew up, but I couldn’t wait that long so the next summer I decided to try some of the tricks out when I was bringing in the cows. My pony was pretty cooperative considering everything. Eventually my Dad caught me trying my trick riding in the pasture and decided to try to hire someone to teach me before I broke my neck.
Dad inquired around and engaged the services of Leonard Stroud, World Champion Trick Rider/Roper and All Around Cowboy from Boulder, Colorado who decided to teach me to trick ride. Leonard came to Dighton and stayed at our house in the country for six weeks while he taught me to trick ride. It was the summer of 1953 and I was eight years old. Dad built a track for me to practice on in the pasture south of our house. We practiced twice a day seven days a week. I had to be up early on Sunday because I had to practice before we went to Church. I learned to trick ride on Prince, the pony that put up with my antics in the pasture.
Leonard did not like strap tricks which was what most women did at that time. He taught me ground work like the men did. The only problem with this was that as I grew I would have to train a new horse. They had to be the right height for me to be able to hit the ground when I did vaults, reverse croupers or straight croupers. He finally agreed to teach me one strap trick but I had to do it his way. It was called a hippodrome stand that dropped into a tail drag. Some women did this trick but they always held on to a strap tied around the saddle horn and they used it to pull themselves up from the tail drag. Leonard insisted that I do the hippodrome stand and tail drag without the aid of the strap. Learning to trick ride was not without its mishaps. I was trying to learn to go under the neck of my pony, Prince, which I dropped down too low and my legs wrapped around his front legs and we went end for end. Prince was fine but I was knocked out for 15 minutes. That didn’t dampen my enthusiasm and we were back practicing the next day. Actually that was the only time I was ever hurt trick riding
I made my first “professional” appearance at the Lane County Fair rodeo in August that year. I continued to ride in rodeos the rest of the summer.
The next summer I was hired to trick ride at a RCA rodeo (forerunner of the PRCA). I was informed that I could not ride unless I joined the RCA. I was one of the youngest, if not the youngest, person to be allowed to join the RCA. From then on I trick rode every summer until 1965. I was thrilled to be “paid” to trick ride. I thought I was just doing it for the fun of doing it!
When I outgrew Prince, I had to try to find another pony. Not every pony/horse will make a trick riding horse. They have to be able to hold your weight when you are on their side and get used to your feet flying around their head. They also have to be absolutely trustworthy since you have no control over them once you start a run. I went through a lot of horses trying to find the right one after Prince. Prince was a bay pony and he took very good care of me; Patches was a paint and wasn’t really all that crazy about trick riding; Rocket was a golden palomino with a white mane and tail and he loved parades and showing off in the arena and was probably the best pony I had; Buttons was an albino quarter horse out of Hoss Inman’s stock that could not be registered because he was an albino.
I was honored to be one of the youngest trick riders ever to be invited to trick ride at Salinas, CA in 1956. I performed at the Cheyenne Frontier Days in Cheyenne, WY; and was invited to ride in Madison Square Garden, but didn’t get to go because of the child labor law there. I also rode in Canada and many other places in the United States. At the age of 14 I was chosen queen of the Dodge City Rodeo. I was the youngest queen the rodeo ever had. I also trick rode at the rodeo that year and several other years.
Our family was also members of the Dudes & Dames Saddle Club and I participated in saddle club events whenever we weren’t on the road for a rodeo. I participated in timed events and heat events (barrel racing, keg pending, pole bending, flag race, pair-sack race, straight barrels and any other events I could enter). If we weren’t saddle clubbing or rodeoing then we were home on the ranch and doing the every day chores of checking cattle, cutting hay, and farming.
Riding Rocket 2 miles to Country School in Sixth Grade at Pleasant View District 8
I grew up learning to drive tractor, the swather, combine, and trucks. During wheat harvest I was either on the combine or hauling wheat to town in a truck. I remember having to sit in line clear to the city limits to dump.
Mom & Dad traveled with me until I became old enough to drive and then Dad stayed home to take care of the ranch and Mom went with me. My mother made all of my trick riding costumes; cleaned my saddle and supervised my school work if we went to a rodeo during school. She didn’t wash horses; that was my job. I found out how much work Mom did when she stayed at home and I hauled another trick rider with me. Cleaning trick riding saddles is hard work!
Trick riding became my way to pay for a college education. I started out at Emporia State University and in the spring would take my horse up and board him at the fairgrounds so I could get in shape for the summer rodeo season. After two years at Emporia I decided I would like to go to a college that had a rodeo team and transferred to East Texas State University at Commerce, TX. I took my trick riding horse and barrel racing horse to college with me. I trick rode at our home college rodeo and made the travel team in barrel racing.
I met my husband, W.R. Duncan, at East Texas State University in the college rodeo arena. We married in the summer of 1965 and transferred to Fort Hays State University where we were both on the rodeo team. I participated in the barrel racing, goat tying, and steer un-decorating. I was all around champion for two years in a row.
After we got out of college we continued our love of horses and cattle. I participated in barrel racing, team penning and when our son came along we started participating in Saddle Club again. We all enjoyed riding and working cattle. After working for Seward County Community College for 15 years we moved back to my home town of Dighton where I continue to ride for pleasure.