Lifelong Limestone County resident and professional horse breeder Morris Vickers, has graciously accepted our invitation to serve as this year’s Rodeo Grand Marshal. Sheriff Mike Blakely describes Vickers as a “real cowboy’s, cowboy”.
Mr. Vickers, 72, of Toney, AL, was born and raised near Ardmore and graduated from Ardmore High School. He has one daughter, Tina, from Florence, MS, two granddaughters, and two great-granddaughters. He remains near Ardmore on AL Hwy 251 where he maintains his residence and stables, and still breeds horses today.
He began training and showing quarter horses at a very young age, and won numerous State Championships showing studs, including several appaloosas. His greatest bloodline was from a Texas sire, “Blondys Dude” that produced “Dude’s Silver Son”. Dude’s Silver Son sired more than 200 colts through the years. At one time, he had 7 stallions standing at stud, and an average of 55 boarded horses. He also shoed horses and trained horses and riders. During the good times, Mr. Vickers would average breeding 100 horses a year. Now, mostly because of the economy, he only has 5 to 10 a year, but the interest is beginning to pick up again.
When Mr. Vickers was a senior at Ardmore High, he began learning and practicing rodeo skills with some of his friends on weekends. He roped and bull-dogged and even tried bull riding, but that didn’t last long. Because he was tall and slender, his best fit was steer wrestling or bull-dogging. He was extremely quick sliding off his horse, grabbing the steer’s horns, and throwing it followed in short order. Before long, he was competing in rodeos in Athens, as well as Mississippi, Tennessee, Florida, and Georgia.
During this time, the well-known barn and stables near Ardmore caught fire and burned, destroying 21 horses. The barn was re-built in 1969, and in 1971 Mr. Vickers bought the property and began his dream job of working with horses full time.
One of his favorite memories was winning the Alabama State Championship Steer Wrestling event in 1967 at the age of 25, with a record time of 3.8 seconds. The Athens Rodeo was held each year at the old Veterans’ Fairgrounds. He was presented his buckle by then Miss Rodeo USA Sandra Polovkas from Texas, L.C. Terry and Ed Shelton, promoters of the local rodeo.
After he had made a name for himself as a competitor, and had many friends riding the rodeo circuit each week, he got a call from Preston Fowlkes, owner of Lone Star Rodeo. Preston was producing a rodeo in Franklin, TN, and he needed a steer wrestler to enter the event. Morris told him he was working midnights at Chemstrand in Decatur, and he couldn’t miss work. Preston told him to just show up and he would loan him a horse, he could compete and still be at work on time. Morris made the trek to Franklin and when he arrived, Preston starting warning him about the horse he was to ride. He told Morris to keep a close rein on the horse because he tended to take off on his own and he would throw the rider in short order if he didn’t keep control of him. Mr. Vickers made it about 2 steps out of the gate and he was airborne. After hitting the ground hard and when he came to himself, one of the first faces he recognized was a rodeo judge that he had known for years. Once they realized he would recover, the judge said “I would have known this imprint in the dirt anywhere cause it’s ugly as Morris Vickers”. Mr. Vickers climbed out of the imprint and had a long, sore ride to Chemstrand.
Mr. Vickers is quick to remind you that Athens and Limestone County has always been a strong rodeo community. “I think that’s partly because we all still have strong values and traditions and remember our parents’ teachings. You see all those things around a rodeo and a bunch of humble competitors. We went for six years without a rodeo around here. When Mike Blakely was elected, he brought it all back. Now it’s huge and it’s great of this whole community. I’m humbled to be a part of this,” added Vickers.
“I have known Morris Vickers for many years and grew up knowing what great horses he produced. He is truly a real cowboy’s, cowboy who has walked the walk. He knows firsthand, the hardships that many of our competitors face and he has a genuine appreciation for their dedication and for the sport of rodeo. We are honored to have him represent us as Grand Marshal and we hope that everyone will come out and congratulate him during the parade on May 10th,” added Blakely.
By: Paul Cain