Monday, June 21, 2010

RIP Walt LaRue

Walt LaRue was one of those men who God seems to have blessed more than other men. It's as if Walt's spirit had lived more than one life, and each time it lived, it learned more and added to the knowledge, talent, and ability of the life that followed.

He was born in Canada, of American parents. He had relatives who had horses, and Walt learned to ride. He spent part of his early life as a guide and packer in Glacier National Park and also in Yosemite and the High Sierras of California. That horseback work led to rodeoing, and Walt spent part of the next 12 years of his life traveling to rodeos, riding bareback horses and

In 1942, he joined the Cowboy's Turtle Association (card number 1848), the forerunner of the Rodeo Cowboys Association (R.C.A.), which, in turn, became the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (P.R.C.A.). Throughout his life, Walt was proud of his status as a Gold Card Member of the P.R.C.A.

Rodeoing eventually led Walt to a career as a Hollywood stuntman. He had the good fortune to be part of that business during the 1940s and 1950s, Hollywood's golden age of Westerns. He appeared in hundreds of movies and television shows, doing stunts that mostly involved horse work.

Besides the work itself, which was fun and exciting for an athletic young man, Walt enjoyed the behind-the-scenes life of the movie business. He was a natural storyteller, and his tales of all that went on behind the cameras enthralled any and all lucky enough to be within hearing distance.

Entertaining came naturally to Walt. He could also play the guitar and sing, and he'd happily perform for anyone who wanted to listen to his cowboy songs and his humorous old-time-radio-show act.

Throughout his life, Walt was a superb artist, his lifetime of cartoons, sketches, drawings, and paintings numbering in the thousands. His greatest influences were the works of Charlie Russell and Will James, and evidence of both can be seen in Walt's work.

Walt did drawings and paintings commercially for Levi Strauss, Weber Bread, Blevins Buckles, Paul Bond Boots, and other businesses, and, from 1945 to 1952, Walt drew cartoon covers for The Buckboard, the official magazine of the R.C.A.

It was always a treat for anyone to sit down with Walt in a restaurant. He would tell humorous stories of his rodeo days or his years in the movies, and, while he did so, he'd pull out a pen and reach for the nearest napkin or paper place mat and sketch a quick drawing of a horse, or a bronc ride, or a cowboy. Who knows how many people have eagerly scooped up one of Walt's restaurant originals and treasure them to this day?

You could always tell where Walt was in a restaurant. He'd be in the most crowded booth, surrounded by laughing people. One time, when Walt was a guest entertainer at the Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada, he was holding sway at a breakfast table in the restaurant at the Stockman's Hotel. While his enthralled listeners delighted in his tales of the movie business, Walt grabbed a small biscuit plate and made an excellent drawing of a cowboy on a bronc. He handed it to one of the people at the table.

The next thing you know, Walt's audience spilled over into the adjoining booths, and biscuit plates appeared in front of Walt from all over the restaurant. One wonders if the staff of the Stockman's Restaurant ever figured out where those plates disappeared to?

Walt didn't mind being loved and adored by his many friends and fans, and, in 2007, he was recognized by the movie industry, as well, when he was presented a Golden Boot Award.

Walt's life was a long and happy one. He was one of those fortunate individuals who lived the kind of life he wanted to live. Walt was quoted once as saying "I've enjoyed doing what I've done, a lot of different things. I've been able to paint, and entertain a little, and rodeo, and work in the movies. I could have made a living at any one of them. I've been kinda lucky, I do what I want to do."

It says a lot about a man if a smile comes to someone's face at the mere mention of his name. Walt LaRue was such a man. People loved to be near him, and they seldom left his company with anything other than warm feelings. He had many friends and many fans who wished they could be his friends.

Walt LaRue passed from this earth on Saturday, June 12th at the age of 91.

LaRUE, Walt
Born: 8/18/1918, Canada
Died: 6/12/2010, Burbank, California, U.S.A.

Walt LaRue's westerns actor, stunts:
New Frontier – 1939 (townsman), [stunts]
The Phantom Rider – 1946 (ambusher)
Fort Apache – 1948 [stunts]
Ambush – 1950 (trooper), [stunts]
Cow Town – 1950 (cowhand), [stunts]
Wyoming Mail – 1950 [stunts]
Gene Autry and the Mounties – 1951 (mountie), [stunts]
Man with the Steel Whip – 1954 (townsman), [stunts]
Walk the Proud Land – 1956 [stunts]
Cowboy – 1958 [stunts]
Gunman's Walk 1958 (wrnagler), [stunts]
They Came to Cordura – 1959 [stunts]
Hell Bent for Leather – 1960 [stunts]
Bat Masterson (TV) – 1961 (Boomer)
Savage Sam – 1963 [stunts]
The Quick Gun – 1964 [stunts]
A Distant Trumpet – 1964 [stunts]
Major Dundee – 1965 [stunts]
Arizona Raiders – 1965 [stunts]
Gunpoint – 1966 [stunts]
El Dorado – 1966 [stunts]
Cimarron Strip (TV) – 1967 (Pike Landusky)
The High Chaparral (TV) – 1967 (bandit)
A Time for Dying – 1969 [stunts]
More Dead Than Alive – 1969 (Graber)
Paint Your Wagon – 1969 [stunts]
The Good Guys and the Bad Guys – 1969 [stunts]
The Cowboys – 1972 [stunts]
Blazing Saddles – 1974 [stunts]
Pale Rider – 1985 [stunts]
Silverado - 1985 [stunts]
Three Amigos – 1986 [stunts]
Young Guns – 1988 [stunts]
Back to the Future Part III [stunts]

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