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“The Ada Rodeo: An Incredible Saga”, a review

So this post has been a long time in the making due to a couple of reasons, the majority of them being fumbles of my own along the way. Some of these issues related directly with the topic of making an educated book review while others were those life events that we just can’t escape from.

I find it at least slightly relevant to bring up one of these life events since the topic of my studies is close to home with Ada being the hometown of my mom and her family. This morning my lil dog passed away rather unexpectedly. Her name was Lucy, or as I liked to call her, my little bread loaf, and she was actually pretty old for a small dog, reaching the age of 12. My mom had called to tell me the night before that she had been getting a little sick and wasn’t sure how bad it might be, so I decided to take my Sunday to head home and talk about when we were going to Ada and to write this book review with my lil pup. Unfortunately she had actually passed in her sleep this morning before I got there, which unraveled the day pretty quickly and shifted the mood of this blog post for me. I’ve had her since she was old enough to take her home and she’s just as much family to my mom and me as anyone else. I know this small anecdote might not sound relevant to a book review, but the stories I read in The Ada Rodeo: An Incredible Saga are all about family and love and support for what people are passionate about as a community. Their families played such a big part in many of the mentioned people’s lives, along with their animal partners, that I wanted to include a bit of my family as well.

When reading through The Ada Rodeo, I got a lot of amazing information along with a lot of question marks following. The book had an amazing plethora of wonderful information about the Ada Rodeo (no joke), the people who created it, participated in it, and ran it during its long history. But it also lacked what I would consider academic citing on almost every written topic outside of the majority of the photographs. This came as a devastating blow for me since there is so much good information about so many people that I wish I could pinpoint where all of these stories are coming from. I attempted to Google a couple of the people mentioned that might have just been smaller town folks that she had a lot to write about, but I could not find them anywhere outside of this book. This is disappointing for me since some of these people I thought would be interesting or helpful to research for my Ada rodeo topic, but without sources they are very hard to find. A couple people, like Denny McCoy and Jim Ward, were graduates of Oklahoma State University (my own university) so I wanted to check up on them more. Denny McCoy was easier to find due to the popularity of his two sons Cord and Jet, also rodeo competitors. Jim Ward on the other hand seems to remain unsearchable, but he was also not someone who seemed very well known, even though he later became a western painter. The lack of credit for some of these performers leads to an empty hole of information with little to fall back on.

To give some credit where needed, there is a very short reference page after the largest chapter containing copious amounts of information on a womping 37 people. I plan to look up some of the sources such as Chasing the Rodeo by W.K. Stratton, 13 Flat, the Rodeo Horses and Riders by Willard J. Porter, and of course the Ada Evening News newspaper. While these sources seem to give some backbone to the previously stated information about these 37 rodeo performers it lacks more detail outside of a basic citation. Page numbers aren’t used, for the Ada Evening News it cites “multiple editions” which is entirely unhelpful for trying to find any of these, and in total there are only eight sources for the 37 mini histories that were talked about. The author Ann Klepper also notes in her preface that she dug through “miles of microfilm at the Ada Evening News” but refrains from telling us which ones she did or did not use, thus making that effort worthless for people who might also want to search for these things again (Klepper, 2009, pg. xi). Also this reference page is somewhat misleading since it is placed at the end of chapter 5, by the way the largest section of the book ranging from page 32 to 90, yet I remain unsure if this reference page is only referring to chapter 5 or to the previous parts of the book as well. In chapters 1-4 there is also information that would do better with citing and I can’t tell if this short reference page was supposed to cover those chapters or not as well. This organization seems counter productive to assisting the reader.

Another thing that also goes along with the citations is the tone used throughout the book. This is a very casually written book, something I would expect out of a small publishing firm such as their PAST Foundations, INC.. This is not to take away from the information that is discussed throughout the book, but it doesn’t really assist it either. During one section about cowboy Buck Goodspeed, Klepper is discussing Buck’s bride to be and says “Decie wasn’t sure about Buck,” and continues to discuss how Decie wasn’t impressed and had been dating ‘city’ men (Klepper, 2009, pg. 50). This line derailed part of the narrative for me since it seemed iffy and was inserting a person’s opinion without any citation as to how she found this information out. Due to the lack of sources or at least in text citations, the whole book seems like conversation after conversation with each person mentioned in the book, but it leans towards a more unprofessional side. This does make the book easy to read, but also makes some parts seem extremely iffy on the information reliability. Ann Klepper has a small bio on the last page of the book and discusses in the last chapter that she has “spent a year and a half meeting and interviewing rodeo performers and their family members” (Klepper, 2009, pg. 91). This sheds some light as to how she kept inserting such casual talk during some of the performer’s histories, along with the slight mention of it in the preface. Some of the grammar and punctuation throughout the book seemed off or just incorrect, which takes it even further away from being an academic source.

My biggest regret with this book is that Klepper did not include enough sources or even her own material to back up the wonderful amount of information that is presented in this book. There are so many things I learned from reading it about the Ada Fireman’s Rodeo to the performers and their families. I got the great sense that the family is the most important part to a rodeo lifestyle, which brings us all back down to earth in a way. That’s why I included my anecdote about my family when starting this review, because that is the central part of a rodeo – the community and families that support it over all these years.

This book has a lot of information I feel that I won’t be able to find in many other places, but falls short on backing up these sources or remaining professional at points. Had Ann Klepper included some more backing to her discussion and improved grammar/tone, I would consider this book more academic than it currently is. All in all, I still enjoyed it, and it’s given me plenty of names and topics to research myself.

RATING: ★★★☆☆


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