WASHINGTON POST Sept. 03, 2011 Faye Blackstone, a rodeo trick rider who was elected to the Cowgirl Hall of Fame and was best known for her saddle-dangling signature move, the reverse fender drag, and who helped launch the career of country singer Reba McEntire, died Aug. 30 at a hospital in Bradenton, Fla.
She was 96 and had complications from cancer.
Mrs. Blackstone was 3 when she began riding horses on her family’s Nebraska ranch. She taught herself how to do tricks while riding her horse to school. She and her late husband, Vic, a bow-legged bronc rider from Texas, married in 1937 on horseback in a rodeo arena in Bladen, Neb. They performed on the rodeo circuit during the 1940s and ’50s. During that time, she also rode in a traveling show with Gene Autry and entertained crowds in New York’s Madison Square Garden and as far as Havana with her gymnastic feats. Mrs. Blackstone could do headstands while her quarter horse galloped at full stride. She could drop from the saddle, let her boots kick the arena dust and spin to the horse’s other side. Diana Vela, the associate executive director of the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, said that Mrs. Blackstone is credited with inventing three maneuvers: the flyaway, the ballerina, and the reverse fender drag. For the last, Mrs. Blackstone hung on to the lower left side of the saddle with her right leg and arm, extending her left leg and arm while her head bobbed by the haunches. With the “horse going full speed,’’ Vela said, such a move required spectacular athleticism. Mrs. Blackstone said her innovations evolved because she was often among the last trick riders to perform at rodeos. “You didn’t want to duplicate what they did,’’ she told the Tampa Tribune in 1989. “You wanted to do something special.’’ Fayetta June Hudson was born in Diller, Neb. At 8, she watched a female rider handle a bronco as it went berserk. “The horse jumped over the fence and behind the grandstand,’’ Mrs. Blackstone said in 1995. “She was riding that stuff with the greatest of ease. I thought, ‘Boy, I want to do that.’ ’’ During the 1950s, the Blackstones settled outside Parrish, Fla., in Manatee County. There, Mrs. Blackstone and her husband arranged for the flame-haired daughter of some rodeo friends to get a spot performing at a country fair in 1978. The young singer was Reba McEntire. “That was my first big fair by myself,’’ McEntire said in 2003. “It was huge to me.’’ Mrs. Blackstone performed in rodeos into the 1960s. She was elected to the Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 1982, and her husband was elected to the Rodeo Hall of Fame the same year. He died in 1987. Mrs. Blackstone has no immediate survivors. Unlike many trick riders, Mrs. Blackstone and her husband had the practical knowledge needed for managing a large cattle herd. “They knew cattle and knew about forages and grass and how to run a ranch,’’ said Jim Strickland, a longtime friend of the Blackstones. “Faye was kind of a bundle of dynamite. Small, fearless, and red-haired.’’