December 23, 2010

Happy Trails Clark Wheeldon - Godspeed

Clark Wheeldon and his dog Rat, hunting in the Gros Ventre Mountainsat
Clark Wheeldon and his dog Rat, hunting in the Gros Ventre Mountains.
My friend Clark Wheeldon died the other day, a western character like no other! He will be missed but he gave us many memories hundreds of us will treasure forever.

Clark was my first friend in Jackson Hole; he rented me a house on his ranch and was immediately accepted into Clark's world, a world of horses, rodeo, hunting tall tales and family. It wasn’t long before my wife Sharon, and I felt as though we were a part of the family. We were soon friends with a great extended family of true western characters.

Clark always had a pot of coffee on the stove and a story to tell, and his stories were always good. A revolving door of characters were always stopping by, and he never had to worry about emptying that pot of coffee alone.

Many old cowboys are colorful characters, but Clark outshined them all. He’d start weaving the story and that twinkle would come out in his eye and that mischievous grin would cross his lips, and you knew you were in for a good one. He used to tell us about 25% of something and left the rest to our imaginations. Clark was a man of mysteries, and he would almost tell you some of them. I firmly believe all that Clark left to my imagination about deeds he hinted that he may have done.

Clark and Granddaugheter Sadee Wheeldon horseback riding in the Gros Ventre Wilderness
Clark and Granddaugheter Sadee Wheeldon horseback riding in the Gros Ventre Wilderness
In the 1956 film Jubal starring Glenn Ford, Ernest Borgnine, and Rod Steiger Clark was the stunt rider for Glenn for a two minute bucking horse ride, a ride that makes all those eight-second riders look like pikers. Hearing Clark was in it I rented it while sill living on the ranch, Clark stopped by the house while my wife and I were watching it and he watched the riding scene with us. He claimed that he had never seen it. This rodeo tradition continued until his progeny took over the Jackson Hole Rodeo.

Clark knew I was pretty good about keeping my dog secured and didn’t let him run abound, but one day he got through a cracked door. Spot, the dog went chasing sheep and bit up about ten of them, a week later one of them died. I promptly went over and tried to pay for the sheep.

Clark says: “ You ain’t paying for the sheep”

Me: Yes I am, my dog killed your sheep and I’m paying you for him.

This went back and forth for a bit until Clark concluded.

It ain’t your fault that sheep died, you know how those sheep are, their head gets a little bit to close to the ground then they are dead. You ain’t paying for that sheep!

clark Wheeldon, hunting client Bruce and I on hunting trip in the Gros Ventre Mountains
Clark Wheeldon, hunting client Bruce and I on hunting trip in the Gros Ventre Mountains
Sitting around the fire in hunting camp with a hunter that was a doctor from Pennsylvania, chat got around to college, and the Doctor said he went to Penn State, Clark replied, “ I want to Penn State too, or was that State Pen"?

Most ranchers have a cow dog, not Clark; Clark had a dackusaund hound named Rat that rode on his horse with him. It was something to see. He had a piece of carpet tied onto the back of the saddle so Rat would have a place to ride. He did make Rat walk a lot but when it was time to ride he would tell Rat to load.

I happened to be out of town when my moving truck came, and I had hired some young movers to move the stuff into the house, Clark stopped by to find the two movers sitting on the front steps while putting off carrying my safe into the house, Sharon said Clark was pissed these workers were sitting on their ass and he went over to the moving truck, and 63 year old Clark picked up the safe and took it into the house; the embarrassed movers jumped back to work.

Our friend Harry Taylor was known to overindulge in the booze more than he should, well one day after retirement age Harry went out and got a job, all was well until he up and died. Visiting with Clark shortly thereafter we were bemoaning Harry’s demise, and Clark said, “ That’s it – I’m quitting."

Me: I asked, “ What are you quitting Clark” expecting him to reply “ Drinking”

Clark: Working, I’m gonna quit working, look what it did to Harry!

About ten years ago Clark got a hip replacement so I decided I would drop in on him and see how he was doing.

Me: It looks like you are getting around on that new hip pretty good.

Clark: Yep, pretty good, pretty good.

Knowing that what a good sense of humor Clark had I replied.

Me: Well when are the going to get around too replacing you rest of you?

Clark: Ha, ha, ha, I don’t know but it better be soon!

I knew Clark would have a clever response :D

My times on the ranch are treasured memories and one of the highlights of my life.
Clark wasn't a big fan of the government and I would like to share a couple of his poems he wrote on the subject
Capitol Hill National Anthem by Clark Wheeldon
Rejected from Hell - a poem by Clark Wheeldon
Clark Wheeldon hunting the Gros Ventre Mountains
Happy Trails Clark - Godspeed

If anyone has any Clark Wheeldon Stories please share them below


Helen Dallman said...

I'm the wife/mom in a family with five children. We live in Arizona, where Clark spent his winters, and part of the falls and springs.

When Clark died last week we wailed, and now instead of this dear light in our life who came almost daily from across the yard from the next property, we see his empty, still house. Clark was our neighbor, but very quickly became not "like family," but Family. Acted like Family. Treated us like Family. Loved by us as Family.

In fact, how we first met Clark was that he came across the yard to help my husband build the house almost five years ago. Derrin came home and told me there was this older guy who was insisting on handing him boards up to the roof and helping in other ways. Just introduced himself and got right to work. Derrin wanted my opinion about whether he should let him, like maybe it would be too strenuous for him. HA! After I met him I realized why Derrin didn't really worry about it any further.

I was initially a bit cautious about Clark, wondering whether the children should be around so much cussing. What a self-righteous snob I was. I'll forever be grateful that I went with Derrin's assessment, and never limited their time with him. He immediately took to them, and, of all things, acted like they were more his than mine!

Early on, the kids and I were at his house one day. I had been monitoring them, and had told them where they could sit and what they couldn't do, and reminded them not to touch anything. Clark and I got to talking, and Crash! Our two-year-old had handled a little, breakable decoration, and dropped it. It was broken, of course. I pulled her aside and began to speak to her in a low, serious tone. Clark grabbed my arm, turned me around, and commanded, "You leave her alone! She ain't hurt nothin'! If I was so concerned about that thing, I would have put it up where kids couldn't get at it." I didn't know what to think. I told him immediately that we would replace it, or at least pay for it, and I insisted, because he was shaking his head. When I didn't get the message, he grabbed my shoulder and pushed a little, nearly knocking me over. I got the message! From then on, Clark made sure often to tell the kids, loudly enough for me to hear, secrets about stuff he was giving them, that I wouldn't approve of, like anything with white sugar: "And don't tell yer ma! — Heh!" I just laughed along. That guy's eyes were full of twinkles, indeed. But he seriously didn't want their teeth to rot out of their heads, so at least a couple of times a week he showed up at the front door or the back gate with bags full of grapes, bananas and nuts.

More to come...

Helen Dallman said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Helen Dallman said...

When we had a couple of horses, we were watching our ferrier work, and chatting with him. He talked about Jackson Hole, and we told him that our friend on the next property was from there. When we told him it was Clark Wheeldon, he stopped working and just smiled. Then he resumed the hoof trimming, and told us a story of how Clark picked up an on-fire wood stove and carried it outside, to save his family and the home. By then this did not surprise me.

We used to get food deliveries from a co-op in Tucson. Once, a new driver decided to try to turn his semi around in the dirt/sand giant lot across the street from us. He got stuck, of course. He also got very frustrated. I knew Clark would be able to think of something. We told him about it, and, as Clark would put it, you can't guess what: Clark dragged that semi out of that dry, soft sand with his pick-up truck.

Speaking of vehicles, on Easter Sunday one year Clark showed up at our house to give everybody a ride on his Polaris six-wheeler. It was hilarious fun. Before we knew it, he was putting seats into the back, then seat belts, so the kids wouldn't fall off. The roof was previously the hood to some pick-up truck, and the mirrors must have come off of an rv. He was always leaving it at our house, and once in a while he'd ask to borrow it. Crazy guy. He used to take that thing out to the desert, prospecting for gold, sometimes with Derrin and one of the kids, and sometimes with his friend Jeremy, who lives across the street from Clark.

Helen Dallman said...

Jeremy was one of the several people Clark mobilized instantly when we'd first moved in, and couldn't find our two-year-old. About two minutes after Clark knew why we were almost in panic mode, there were several four-wheelers at the ready, and many searchers about to take off in all directions. Just before they were going to leave, we found her sleeping on top of the contents of a moving box, right in plain sight, next to the lunch counter.

When Clark had helped Derrin a lot, building the house, Clark asked Derrin whether he might have some scrap piece of wood to use in the restoration of some friend's guitar. Derrin told him to take as much as he wanted. Turns out that wood was going into the guitar of Bud Isaacs, Clark's best friend throughout the ages, a legend in American music. Derrin and I were just honored to be able to give Clark SOMETHING he needed, and it seemed ridiculous that all he wanted was a piece of scrap wood.

We have a lot more stories, and we'll have to hit up Jeremy for some more.

To put it simply: The entire world is now different. We now have to find a way to live our lives without our Clark, who delighted us, who helped us, who changed us, who was and is a part of us.

Helen Dallman said...

Thanks, Daryl, for deleting the repeat of my first installment. Thanks especially for providing this page and sharing your memories and photos of Clark. It's going to help us, and it honors him.

Helen Dallman said...

Sometimes Clark would bang on the front door (knocking some of us out of our chairs) and hand us a hot, covered roasting pan full of steaming elk roast in a bed of turnips, rutabagas and sweet potatoes. Salt and pepper, and some onions. So simple, so delectable. He'd say, "Here. I brought ya some dog food. Just throw it in the back yard if ya don't like it." We loved that stuff. Sometimes we took him some fresh turnips as a hint.

FrancescPhoto said...

Excellent shots!! Salut!!

Francesc, Barcelona

Kirk said...

I am no doubt one of Clark's newer friends.

Less than a year ago he pulled up in front of the cabin where I live alone in the dessert near some small mountains a few miles from his place in Roll, Arizona. As he stepped from his truck he shouted to me a few yards away, "This sign says property for sale, can you tell me about it". Not wanting for us to shout, I walked closer patting the revolver in the holster on my side stating, "don't mind this, we do run into rattle snakes around here". He got that twinkle in his eye and replied, "the wiggly kind or the two legged kind!?" We became instant friends...............

Talking further soon found we had friends in common and a similar outlook on life. When the conversation drifted to illegal aliens and my border watch activities, he asked to ride along sometime. A few days later we were driving south from Interstate 8 along the east side of Gila Mountains to the Tinaja Altas Pass at the US/Mexico border. Observed tracks and discarded items but no activity. Then west through the pass and back north along the same range where we stumbled across the abandoned Fortuna Gold Mine and I learned of Clark's extensive interest in prospecting.

It was one of those rides that friends never forget and we promised to do it again someday. He invited me to visit his ranch in Wyoming that coming summer but unfortunately duties in the Arizona White Mountains postponed my trip. The next time I saw him was in the Yuma hospital just after his major operation. His hand shake was strong, his voice had that familiar strong confident tone. I believe his last words to me are a good description of the character in Clark Wheeldon; "see you later - we'll take another ride".

Would Clark's family and friends please let me know (619-889-9480) if any services are held for him in the Yuma area; and where I may visit his resting place in Wyoming.

God Bless All

Daryl L. Hunter said...

Yep, you met Clark, you don't have to go on that other ride right away.

Helen who posted above would know if there were any services in Arizona.

If you get up this way me or someone else will net you know where he is buried.

Thanks for posting Kirk

Karissa Musich said...

Clark Wheeldon was my grandfather. He was my "Poppy". My world and the world it's self will not be the same without him!! He taught me so much! I have enjoyed reading everyone's posts. They make me smile, laugh and cry all at the same time. I am so happy that all of you got to know the man that was such a huge part of who I am. It's nice knowing that he had such wonderful friends in Arizona and that you thought of him as family. Posting all of these stories keeps his legacy alive and well!!
Daryl~ Thank you so much for allowing everyone post comments about Grandpa!

Unknown said...

Clark was an amazing man. I met him through my husband at the time, Tommy Foust. He was Tom's best friend. Clark loved us all like family. Cassie and Tanner (our children) loved going to Jackson to stay at grandpa Clark's. We loved drinking coffee and listening to his jokes and stories and his views on the government and such. I have never met another man quite like him. The entire family is amazing, The Wheeldon and Wilson families truly are a genuine hard working, god loving, welcoming all into their family kind of people. Sure do miss all of you. And Grandpa Clark, we will meet again someday. You were truly a blessing in all our lives.

Daryl L. Hunter said...

Unknown; Thanks for the message of your friend