Vick Blackstone walked like a cowboy, talked like a cowboy, and dressed like a cowboy because he was the epitome, in my mind, of what a veteran cowboy should act and look like. Actors who portrayed cowboys on television like Clint Walker, Chuck Conners, James Garner, James Arness, Clint Eastwood, and Robert Mitchum may have looked great on the the screen, but real cowboys like Vick were more scarred and worn. One of the affectations Vick enjoyed were the belt buckles he won as a rodeo champion, and he changed buckles and belts fairly often. When ever I encountered him, I tried to guess which event would be featured on the buckle before I looked.
From “Cowboy Hat,” the 5th chapter of Growing Up Floridian:
As we started to the barn, I noticed Vick was bow-legged, and his stride was an awkward mix between a slight limp and an exaggerated right leg extension.
“Why do you walk like that?”
“Son, if you had been thrown from as many horses and bulls as I have, you might have a hitch in your giddyup too. Too many rodeos. Too many eight second rides.”
He wore a silver belt buckle adorned with a cowboy on a bucking horse that read Saddle Bronc Champion 1942, one of many I saw over the years. I learned that Vick Blackstone was a well-respected rodeo performer when he was young and still had to ride once in a while in competitions despite being almost 50, an age when most riders had retired from all rodeo events. Vick did not talk much about himself to us, but we overheard conversations or his responses to questions about where he earned the championship belt buckle he wore on any given day. He was respected as a five-event cowboy, a competitor riding bulls, riding broncs bareback, riding broncs with a saddle, roping calves, and bulldogging. For twenty-five years, he won championships on the rodeo circuit across the country from when he was seventeen in 1930 until he was well into his forties. Once, a truck driver delivering feed to the ranch asked him about “that Largo rodeo when you won all five main events.”