Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Monday, July 28, 2008
Saturday, July 26, 2008
EDITOR’s NOTE: Letcher N. (Sonny) Sikes was raised in Mexia, introduced at an early age to rodeos, horses, etc., never has let the passion for these die. He is a 1951 graduate of Mexia High School and coached Sam Houston State to several Rodeo National honors. His story was written by Matthew Jackson of The Huntsville Item, a member of CNHI, the owner of The Mexia Daily News. —-
Like most professional athletes, Sonny Sikes of Huntsville has a trophy room. But this room is not glistening with golden statuettes and dangling medals. This is a room that tells tales of gritty arena glory, of sweat, of blood, of majestic animals driven by the hands of cowboys. This is Sonny Sike’s “saddle room.”
Like most cowboys, Sonny Sikes came to rodeo at an early age, and like most cowboys, it is not a sport he is willing to let go of even at old age.
“My father was a farmer, but he didn’t like farming. He liked horses,” Sikes said. “He would train farm horses and teach them to do tricks, and I just caught on from him.”
Sikes won his first major title in 1950, when he was just a junior in high school, and hasn’t looked back in more than half a century of competing.
In his years as a cowboy, Sikes’ credits include four National Collegiate Titles and a spot on Sam Houston State University’s first ever National Collegiate Champion team in 1956.
As recently as 2005, Sikes was still claiming titles in the senior division of professional rodeo.
His saddle room is stacked to the ceiling with proof of his achievements as a roper.
But for Sonny Sikes, as much as he loves riding, teaching has become his life’s work and his great passion.
After graduating from Sam Houston State University with his master’s degree in 1957, Sikes returned to his home of Mexia, Texas, to teach grade school. As much as he loved the work, his ambitions were loftier.
“After one year, he decided to leave and go back to Sam,” said Joanne Sikes, Sonny’s wife. “He went to the president of the college and said ‘I wanna get the rodeo program going again, and I’ll take whatever job you can give me.’”
Sikes said his decision to return to Sam and work to build the rodeo program to one of national prestige was motivated by his own experiences as a college cowboy.
“When I was at Sam, we didn’t have a rodeo program really,” he said. “There was no coach, we just got a professor to be listed as our sponsor, and we practiced on our own. I wanted to come back and make the program more than that.”
Sikes returned to Sam Houston State in 1959 and took a position in the agriculture department. He would work as an agriculture professor and rodeo coach for the next 42 years, and in those four decades, he would build Sam Houston State’s rodeo program to one of the best in the country.
“I told the president that I would get enough students to come to Sam Houston to pay my salary,” Sikes said. “And a few years later, we had the biggest rodeo club in the state.”
During his tenure at Sam Houston, Sikes also served as Executive Secretary for the National Collegiate Rodeo Assocation for 18 years, while maintaining his status as a full faculty member.
He also led the Sam Houston State rodeo team to eight national championships.
In 1968, Sikes coached both the women’s and men’s teams to national championships, a double crown feat that was a first in 1968, and has only been replicated three times in forty years.
Just two weeks ago, on June 21, Sikes and members of the 1968 teams were honored at the National Collegiate Rodeo Finals in Casper, Wyo. for their achievements.
“I cried for two hours after that,” Sikes said. “It was a touching moment.”
“After it was over, one of the girls called me and said ‘I think everyone there wished that they’d had Mr. Sikes as a coach’,” Joanne Sikes said. “He’s made that much of an impact. He doesn’t like to toot his own horn, though. So I’m gonna toot it for him. He’s a wonderful, wonderful man.”
In spite of all of his rodeo accomplishments spread over a more than 50 year career, Sikes still considers education his greatest legacy.
“I got a lot of students to get an education that didn’t intend to get one,” Sikes said. “They came here to rodeo, but I always emphasized education. It wasn’t just about riding, it was about building a future.”
In his saddle room, Sikes takes a down a dusty, well-loved saddle made of rich dark leather softened by time and countless arena rides. He wipes away dust to reveal that it is the saddle he received upon winning his first national collegiate championship for calf roping in 1953.
“This is the first saddle I ever won in college,” Sikes said. “This saddle is 55 years old.”
As the old cowboy wipes away the dust from his old saddle, it is clear that while it may not be a shiny trophy, in his eyes, it’s solid gold.
Friday, July 25, 2008
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Funeral services for Oliver John (O. J.) Lee, Jr., 73, of Mexia will be Saturday, July 19, 2008 at 2:00 p.m. at the Calvary Baptist Church. Brother David Snow and Mr. Neil Bond will officiate with interment to follow in the Shiloh Cemetery.
Visitation with the family will be 6:00-8:00 p.m. Friday, July 18, 2008 at Blair-Stubbs Funeral Home
Mr. Lee was born September 2, 1934 to Oliver and Amy McElroy Lee in Mexia. He passed away July 17, 2008 in Mexia. He was a life long resident of the Mexia/Shiloh area. He retired after 48 years as an accountant for Beene Motor Sales. Mr. Lee was a member of General Motors Business Accounting Organization for 44 years where he also served 4 years on the Manager’s Council. He served as Mexia Lions Club treasurer for many years. Mr. Lee served as bookkeeper for the Shiloh Water Supply Corp. He was a deacon at the Shiloh Baptist Church. He, also, served his country in the U. S. Army.
Mr. Lee is survived by his wife, Nancy Posey Lee; a son, Jonathan Ross Lee and wife, Nancy of Mexia; a daughter, Carrie Lou Ingle and husband, Jim of Mexia; grandchildren: William Oliver Ingle, Zachary Ingle, Rachel O’Hare, Andrea O’Hare, Presley Lee, Triston Lee; great granddaughter, Lacey O’Hare.
He was preceded in death by his parents.
Pallbearers will be Harlon Brady, Jacob Thompson, Robert Lee, Brett Beene, Gary Barkouski and Kent Kendall. Honorary pallbearers will be the Mexia Lions Club.
Please visit www.blair-stubbs.com to leave a memorial message or sign the guest book.