Woodward, Okla. —
FREEDOM - Former State Representative Elmer Maddux said in 2006 that having a highway named for him was "the honor of a lifetime."
However, being named this year's 75th Freedom Rodeo "Old Cowhand" comes in at a close second in top lifetime achievements.
"It's a real good honor," Maddux said, of becoming a part of this long-held Freedom Rodeo tradition.
HOW THE 'OLD COWHAND' IS PICKED
The Freedom Chamber of Commerce's President, Brent Smith, said 3 finalists for the "Old Cowhand" honor are selected each year by the Chamber's rodeo committee, then a community vote is conducted.
"We're looking for somebody who is known and respected in the area," he said. "It's a local person who has a big heart, who has done a lot for Freedom, and that means Mr. Maddux this year."
And the "Old Cowhand" doesn't necessarily have to be a cowboy, he added. "It can be anybody from the Freedom area."
To honor the winner, each year the "Old Cowhand" is recognized during each night of the Freedom Rodeo and presides over the arena action, Smith said. The 2012 Freedom Rodeo will be held next weekend, Aug. 16-18.
"Then, at 11 a.m. (Aug. 18), during the free Chuckwagon Feed at Pecan Park, a recognition program for Mr, Maddux will be held," he said.
Maddux heartily invited everyone to attend the free Chuckwagon Feed and celebrate Old Cowhands' Day with him, his wife Rita, and the rest of his family and many friends on Saturday, Aug. 18.
In fact, Maddux said that the opportunity to meet with old and new friends is his favorite part of the annual rodeo in Freedom.
"The whole thing is a pleasure to watch," Maddux said of the rodeo. "But I enjoy meeting with the people, all the fellowship. That's more important to me."
MADDUX'S RODEO BACKGROUND
The Freedom Rodeo has been an important part of Maddux's life for many decades.
"I've been with the rodeo for over 50 years, since I was 13, and I'm glad to be a part of it," Maddux said.
Over those years he has helped the Freedom rodeo in a variety of functions, from helping to smooth and level the arena grounds in preparation for the rodeo events to serving as a timekeeper.
"I was the timekeeper of the rodeo for 22 years," he said. "I gave it up to devote time to the legislature."
It was during his 16 years in the Oklahoma State House of Representatives that Maddux became known for his dedication to improving state transportation matters. In recognition of those efforts, a stretch of U.S. Highway 412 between Mooreland and Orienta was named for Maddux by legislative action in 2006.
A LIFETIME OF FARMING, RANCHING
But, long before he ever served as a state representative, the 78-year-old Maddux began the ranching career that continues to this day.
He grew up on the farm, and his persistent love of cattle and wheat started being formed early, he said.
When he was 13, his father gave him a piece of land. And at that same time, he was able to take out a bank loan to buy 3 heifer calves. He has been involved in his own ranching enterprises ever since.
His love for farming and ranching can be seen in his amazing collection of about 2,600 pieces of miniature farm implements, farm toys, on display behind his house and on shelves in the basement. The menagerie includes tractors, combines and haying machines.
"I started collecting them because they were made by artists," he said.
Today, Maddux has cows and wheat on his ranch about halfway between Mooreland and Freedom, managed by son Dallet, who lives about a mile away. And his wife of nearly 57 years, Rita, handles the ranch's bookkeeping.
The couple makes a great team, he said.
TIME WITH THE FAMILY
Along with working with the cows and planting and harvesting wheat, Maddux said he enjoys spending time with his family, including Dallet and daughter Ronni Poe of Woodward.
He also has 2 granddaughters, Mica Foster and Kameron Hensley.
"Mica is a Lt. Commander in the U.S. Navy, and a helicopter pilot," Maddux said. "She told me when she was little that she wanted to retire at age 38. She's 8 years away."
Kameron lives in Mooreland. She is married to Chad Hensley, and they are the parents of the Maddux's great-grandsons Kyler and Kayden.