Chris LeDoux is honored with Memorial Park statue in Kaycee, Wyo. | TheFencePost.com

Chris LeDoux is honored with Memorial Park statue in Kaycee, Wyo.

Gayle Smith
Gering, Neb.

Although he passed away 5 years ago, the memory of Chris LeDoux lives on in the hearts of the people who loved his music, loved rodeo, and knew the man. Now, future generations will be able to know who Chris LeDoux was through a life and half size bronze sculpture, dedicated recently in the Chris LeDoux Memorial Park in Kaycee, Wyo.

The population of the small community grew tenfold on the day of the dedication, as more than 2,500 people came from all over the country to see the statue unveiled to the public for the first time. The park, which is located in the central part of the small town, was built by The Chris LeDoux Memorial Foundation. The 3,500 pound statue titled ‘Good Ride Cowboy,’ which was created by Buffalo Artist D. Michael Thomas, serves as the centerpiece of the park.

Chris and Peggy LeDoux had purchased the lots, where the memorial park is now located, several years ago after a 2002 flood destroyed a tack shop that was once located there. The LeDoux family donated this land to the Chris LeDoux Memorial Foundation, who used the land to build the Chris LeDoux Memorial Park.

“We wanted to build (a memorial here in Kaycee) because this was Chris’ home,” said Pam Kinchen, foundation coordinator. “The LeDoux family was involved in this project every step of the way. They designed the park, and Meadow Acres stepped in to do all the landscaping. Everyone in the community stepped up to help, too, because it was a wonderful thing to do. Chris was a very well-respected man,” she said. “It is a beautiful park and a wonderful thing for this community. Chris was an integral part of the community.”

In 2005, LeDoux passed away at the age of 56 from liver cancer. The death hit folks who knew him hard. Thomas, who created the sculpture of LeDoux, was one of those folks. “I had moved over to this area from the Jackson area in the late ’70s,” he said. “It was either 1979 or 1980 that I met Chris for the first time when I was a loan officer at PCA. Over time, our paths crossed more and more.”

Thomas said after he started managing a feed store in Buffalo, Chris would stop by and they would visit. “We just had a lot of similar interests,” he continued. “He played music and I was interested in playing music. In fact, I was one of the opening acts for him at the Wyoming Theatre in Sheridan back in the late ’80s.”

Recommended Stories For You

Thomas also shared memories of another interest they had in common – sculpting and artwork. “Chris enjoyed sculpting and artwork, too. The few pieces he completed were exceptional,” Thomas said. “If he hadn’t made it in music, he could have darn sure made it in art.”

Thomas said his inspiration for creating the statue came from knowing Chris. “He was my hero. He was Mr. Wyoming. His death hit me really hard. I just felt there needed to be some type of memorial for him, and I needed to be the one to do it. About six months after his death, I started thinking about what I would like to do. I knew I wanted to portray him on Stormy Weather, which was the horse he won the National Finals bareback riding championship on in 1976 in Oklahoma City.

“About a year after his death, I went to his family and explained that I knew a lot of people would be contacting them about doing a bronze of Chris, but I wanted to be the one to do it because I knew him and we were friends. His family welcomed me with open arms.”

When Thomas started the sculpture of Chris on Stormy Weather, he felt something was missing. “I wanted to do something different,” he explained. “He had so many loves – that was when I thought of music and came up with the idea of using a guitar as the base the horse is coming down on,” he said. “At first, I was afraid people may think it was a cheesy idea, but when people came into the studio to look at it, they thought it was a neat idea,” he said.

The statue depicts Stormy Weather’s two front feet planted on a replica of Chris’s guitar. The words “Beneath These Western Skies” are inscribed along the side of the guitar, which is one of many songs Chris wrote.

Once Thomas finished the small bronze, he and the LeDoux family started visiting about making a monument. Once they decided to go ahead, Thomas made a bigger model to get it more accurate. “I was aiming to make it life and a quarter, but in the end it came out to be life and a half. When I looked at the model, it was overwhelming to me. It took me several days to get over the shock, and wondering how I was going to do this. I had never made anything so big before,” he said. “I really had to chuckle at my mistake. When I talked with the LeDoux family, I told Peggy, ‘I guess Chris just wanted to be this big.’ Knowing him, he would have been a little embarrassed, but he would have been very proud.”

Thomas started on the large statue in November 2008. He finished it four days before the June 19, 2010, dedication. “We were really scrambling to get it finished in time,” he explained.

But in the end, Thomas said the sculpture turned out just as he envisioned it. “When you are making something like this, it goes through many stages, and there are a lot of people who touch it. Sometimes, their ideas might be different from yours,” he said. “But, it turned out like I expected when it was finished. As an artist, there are always things you see that you would have done different, but I couldn’t keep working on it for years. I had to let it go.”

The day of the unveiling was bittersweet for Thomas. “At the unveiling, I felt such a since of pride that people admired the statue I had spent so long creating. It was hard to let it go and move on. It was a little overwhelming to me. I knew there would be a lot of people there because Chris has such a tremendous following.”

Kinchen said the Memorial Park is something the town and tourists will be able to enjoy for years to come. “It is going to give the town an opportunity to increase its tourism,” she said. “About 90 percent of the tourists who stop here to see the park, also stop at the museum. We also plan to hold an annual celebration here,” she said.

Although he passed away 5 years ago, the memory of Chris LeDoux lives on in the hearts of the people who loved his music, loved rodeo, and knew the man. Now, future generations will be able to know who Chris LeDoux was through a life and half size bronze sculpture, dedicated recently in the Chris LeDoux Memorial Park in Kaycee, Wyo.

The population of the small community grew tenfold on the day of the dedication, as more than 2,500 people came from all over the country to see the statue unveiled to the public for the first time. The park, which is located in the central part of the small town, was built by The Chris LeDoux Memorial Foundation. The 3,500 pound statue titled ‘Good Ride Cowboy,’ which was created by Buffalo Artist D. Michael Thomas, serves as the centerpiece of the park.

Chris and Peggy LeDoux had purchased the lots, where the memorial park is now located, several years ago after a 2002 flood destroyed a tack shop that was once located there. The LeDoux family donated this land to the Chris LeDoux Memorial Foundation, who used the land to build the Chris LeDoux Memorial Park.

“We wanted to build (a memorial here in Kaycee) because this was Chris’ home,” said Pam Kinchen, foundation coordinator. “The LeDoux family was involved in this project every step of the way. They designed the park, and Meadow Acres stepped in to do all the landscaping. Everyone in the community stepped up to help, too, because it was a wonderful thing to do. Chris was a very well-respected man,” she said. “It is a beautiful park and a wonderful thing for this community. Chris was an integral part of the community.”

In 2005, LeDoux passed away at the age of 56 from liver cancer. The death hit folks who knew him hard. Thomas, who created the sculpture of LeDoux, was one of those folks. “I had moved over to this area from the Jackson area in the late ’70s,” he said. “It was either 1979 or 1980 that I met Chris for the first time when I was a loan officer at PCA. Over time, our paths crossed more and more.”

Thomas said after he started managing a feed store in Buffalo, Chris would stop by and they would visit. “We just had a lot of similar interests,” he continued. “He played music and I was interested in playing music. In fact, I was one of the opening acts for him at the Wyoming Theatre in Sheridan back in the late ’80s.”

Thomas also shared memories of another interest they had in common – sculpting and artwork. “Chris enjoyed sculpting and artwork, too. The few pieces he completed were exceptional,” Thomas said. “If he hadn’t made it in music, he could have darn sure made it in art.”

Thomas said his inspiration for creating the statue came from knowing Chris. “He was my hero. He was Mr. Wyoming. His death hit me really hard. I just felt there needed to be some type of memorial for him, and I needed to be the one to do it. About six months after his death, I started thinking about what I would like to do. I knew I wanted to portray him on Stormy Weather, which was the horse he won the National Finals bareback riding championship on in 1976 in Oklahoma City.

“About a year after his death, I went to his family and explained that I knew a lot of people would be contacting them about doing a bronze of Chris, but I wanted to be the one to do it because I knew him and we were friends. His family welcomed me with open arms.”

When Thomas started the sculpture of Chris on Stormy Weather, he felt something was missing. “I wanted to do something different,” he explained. “He had so many loves – that was when I thought of music and came up with the idea of using a guitar as the base the horse is coming down on,” he said. “At first, I was afraid people may think it was a cheesy idea, but when people came into the studio to look at it, they thought it was a neat idea,” he said.

The statue depicts Stormy Weather’s two front feet planted on a replica of Chris’s guitar. The words “Beneath These Western Skies” are inscribed along the side of the guitar, which is one of many songs Chris wrote.

Once Thomas finished the small bronze, he and the LeDoux family started visiting about making a monument. Once they decided to go ahead, Thomas made a bigger model to get it more accurate. “I was aiming to make it life and a quarter, but in the end it came out to be life and a half. When I looked at the model, it was overwhelming to me. It took me several days to get over the shock, and wondering how I was going to do this. I had never made anything so big before,” he said. “I really had to chuckle at my mistake. When I talked with the LeDoux family, I told Peggy, ‘I guess Chris just wanted to be this big.’ Knowing him, he would have been a little embarrassed, but he would have been very proud.”

Thomas started on the large statue in November 2008. He finished it four days before the June 19, 2010, dedication. “We were really scrambling to get it finished in time,” he explained.

But in the end, Thomas said the sculpture turned out just as he envisioned it. “When you are making something like this, it goes through many stages, and there are a lot of people who touch it. Sometimes, their ideas might be different from yours,” he said. “But, it turned out like I expected when it was finished. As an artist, there are always things you see that you would have done different, but I couldn’t keep working on it for years. I had to let it go.”

The day of the unveiling was bittersweet for Thomas. “At the unveiling, I felt such a since of pride that people admired the statue I had spent so long creating. It was hard to let it go and move on. It was a little overwhelming to me. I knew there would be a lot of people there because Chris has such a tremendous following.”

Kinchen said the Memorial Park is something the town and tourists will be able to enjoy for years to come. “It is going to give the town an opportunity to increase its tourism,” she said. “About 90 percent of the tourists who stop here to see the park, also stop at the museum. We also plan to hold an annual celebration here,” she said.