Wilson, Fred and Clara: Wyo. Cowboy Hall of Fame Inductees
Fred and Clara Wilson
Wyoming Cowboy Hall of Fame Inductees
By Rhonda Stearns
Fred and Clara Wilson were selected for 2020 induction into the Wyoming Cowboy Hall of Fame, and were recognized regionally last August at Lusk. No induction ceremony was held, but the couple rode in the parade during the Niobrara county fair.
Fred Wilson was born to Caryl and Mildred (Smith) Wilson in Gillette in 1938. The family lived near Spotted Horse at that time. They later moved to Gillette, and then to Buffalo. Fred was always friends with a lot of ranch kids in the region, resulting in opportunities to assist neighboring ranchers with fencing, docking lambs, trailing cattle, and other ranch activities. Hunting and fishing in the Big Horn Mountains were favorite pastimes when not working.
Fred’s athletic diversity was obvious in high school, where he actively pursued basketball, football and track. Flying also interested him, so he took lessons, and received his pilot’s license.
Fred started riding broncs while in high school; enjoying local competition, as well as getting paid “mount money” to ride turn-out’s at area rodeos. He never participated in organized High School Rodeo; although Wyoming’s first one was in 1956, when he was a Senior.
He chose Colorado State University to begin higher education, and ran track there a year before deciding to switch to the sport of rodeo; then took a year off from school and worked in the oil fields to earn money for his education. Casper Junior College rodeo coach Dale Stiles offered Fred a rodeo scholarship, so he started there.
One year later, Fred transferred his studies to the 4-year University of Wyoming, joining their rodeo team. That made him a team member when they won the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA) National Championship in 1961; the only time a UW men’s team has claimed that honor. In addition to competing on the team, Fred served as Regional NIRA Director that year. In 1962 Fred claimed the NIRA National Bareback Riding championship. Fred graduated from UW, and in 2009 his rodeo team was inducted into the UW Athletes Hall of Fame.
Fred married fellow University of Wyoming student and rodeo competitor Clara Sedgwick in 1960. Born to Leonard “Bus” and Helen (Petty)Sedgwick at Lusk in 1938, Clara grew up on the historic Sedgwick Ranch on the Cheyenne River between Lusk and Newcastle; established when her grandparents from Grover, CO bought it and moved there in 1908.
Fred and Clara each qualified three times for National College Rodeo competition. From the time the National Finals Intercollegiate Rodeo came to Casper, WY more than two decades ago, Clara served as a board member of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Alumni Association. Last year she was named “NIRA ALUMNI OF THE YEAR.”
Clara and Fred moved to the Sedgwick Ranch on the Cheyenne river south of Newcastle after their marriage, to raise cattle, sheep, and some horses. The couple’s daughter Lonnie joined them there in 1962, and they bought the ranch from Clara’s parents in 1965.
That same year, Fred expanded his education in livestock ranching by learning the arts of preg-testing and artificially inseminating cattle at Sheridan. Clara also took the AI course, and they AI their own yearling heifers. Also, about 30 years ago, both Fred and Clara attended an equine AI short course at Colorado State University. They’ve AI-ed all of their own mares for many years.
From an early age, Clara was very involved in Niobrara County 4-H activities where she exhibited sheep, cattle, and horses. Her father bought bred heifers as 4-H projects for each of his three children in 1952. These were some of the first Angus cattle in the country, and Clara’s gift heifer started the base of the cattle Wilson’s produce yet today.
Clara’s hard work paid off in showing the 1956 Grand champion 4-H Angus Bull at both the county and State level. An even higher honor was being on the Champion 4-H Livestock Judging team, helping represent Wyoming at National competition in Chicago. In 1956 continued being a special year for Clara, as she won the Barrel Racing, Pole Bending and All-Around Cowgirl championships at South Dakota’s State High School Rodeo. She then represented Wyoming at the National High School Rodeo in Reno, Nevada; proudly mounted on a 4-year-old Quarter Horse she had trained since he was a weanling!
After graduating from High School, Clara carried her rodeo career into college competition, rodeoing for the University pf Wyoming. At the same time, she became a member of the 5-state Northwest Ranch Cowboy’s Association (NRCA), winning their Barrel Racing Championships in 1957, 1958, and 1959 consecutively.
In 1960 Clara went pro, joining the Girl’s Rodeo Association (GRA), which now is the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association (WPRA). Clara is a GRA GOLD CARD member. She was elected to serve eight years, four terms, as WPRA Mountain States regional Director.
Ever active in the promotion of Quarter Horses, Fred served as Director and President of the Wyoming Quarter Horse Association (WQHA) early on. Clara served the WQHA as Secretary for a time. In 1972, Fred became an American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) Director, representing Wyoming. He was elevated to AQHA Director at Large in 1997. In 2015 the Wilson’s were recognized as AQHA 50-Year Legacy Breeders.
The Wilsons bought Smokomo from Buddy Hirsig, long-time Cheyenne Frontier Days arena director) as a yearling. Fred made a great heading horse out of him, and they attained their coveted AQHA Championship status in 1976. AQHA Champions are required to earn points in both halter and performance. Skokomo’s all-around talent was evident as he excelled in diversified events; accumulating Reining, Working Cowhorse, and Team Roping performance points.
The Wilsons’ daughter Lonnie qualified nine times for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) Mountain States Circuit finals, riding three different horses for three years each. Brown Wool and Mixin Medicine (‘M&M’) were raised and trained at the Wilson ranch. The Wilson’s purchased, Dox Bueno Dinero raised by the Oxbow Ranch in Texas as a yearling.
Mixin Medicine won the Fizz Bomb futurity and Derby, won or placed at Casper, Sheridan, North Platte, Denver Billings, and Rapid City, along with many other Circuit rodeos and Canadian rodeos.
Dox Bueno Dinero won rapid City twice and Lonnie rode him to qualify for the National PRCA Circuit finals. He also won several Derbies, and placed at Cheyenne, Casper, Sheridan, Cody, Greeley, and Belle Fourche.
Brown Wool, home-raised and trained, was shown by Lonnie to many barrel racing and pole bending championships. The Lonnie/Brown Wool duo qualified for the National High School Rodeo Association (NHSRA) Finals all four years; and topped other major barrel racing competitions including FizzBomb Futurity and Derby.
Another home bred and trained speedster, Miss N Chablis earned AQHA points in six events, becoming a World Show qualifier. She was trained by Levi Grimes, Kadoka, SD, who then showed and qualified her for three AQHA World Shows and some National Reined Cow Horse Association events. When the Wilsons brought her home, Clara and Lonnie rode and trained her on barrels. Their expertise was evident as she won the DASH & DANCE DERBY and claimed a share of many tough PRCA barrel races.
Always available and interested in promoting the horse industry in every way possible, the Wilsons helped produce a high school rodeo and an AQHA-approved point show in Newcastle for many years. They were also involved with production of a few National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) cuttings and some All-Girl Rodeos at the Wyoming State Fairgrounds in Douglas.
The Wilsons were charter members of the Wyoming Reined Cowhorse Association, with Fred being one of the Directors who assisted in the production of their events. Fred has served as a director for the Wyoming Stock Grower’s Association for a number of years, and also served as a brand inspector. Interestingly, that’s a position Clara’s grandfather Anthony Sedgewick held in his earliest years living on the ranch; inspecting huge fall runs through the nearby railway shipping point of Dewey, S.D.
Fred was appointed in 2005, by Wyoming governor Fruedenthal, to serve for 6 years on the Wyoming Livestock Board. Another honor and duty Fred accepted was serving on the National Western Stock Show board.
Clara has been busy with public service as well, being a 4-H leader many years, and Secretary of the Wyoming Quarter Horse Association. She traveled to Cheyenne at times to attend Legislative Committee meetings involving Wyoming was, personal property rights, and other agricultural interests.
Fred and Clara are still actively running the ranch with help from Daughter and son-in-law Lonnie and Ty Farella and grandson Billy Soderberg. They constantly enjoy their horses and cattle as well as living on the ranch. Their home is a veritable museum of trophies, honors and mementos of cowboy and cowgirl life. The couple couldn’t be more proud of the Wyoming Centennial Ranch designation, which has presented to the outfit in 2008.