Chuck was known to me in his later years as a farrior being high in demand in his 70's.
Chuck Grimes passed on to glory in 2010. His daughter Monica recently shared some pictures of her Dad on Facebook that garnered a lot of interest. Soon it was discovered that one picture of Chuck walking a big bull through a gift shop happened to be a postcard from the 60’s taken as a promo stunt in Hollywood, Florida. Chuck proved to be a very photogenic cowboy.
Chuck was known to me in his later years as a farrior being high in demand in his 70’s. He was born September 1, 1925 to William and Rachel Parmelia May Rose Grimes in Hartville, Missouri. He moved to Lake of the Ozarks in the 50’s, marrying Aletta Carpenter from Eldon, on September 16, 1960, in Tuscumbia, Missouri. He raised daughters Paula, Monica and Marie with his wife Aletta in the Lake area. He was teaching his young apprentice the horseshoeing trade who happened to be his grandson Jesse Heckman. Jesse carries on the cowboy tradition, raising cattle on Chuck’s quaintly named ranch, Whippoorwill Holler.
Chuck starred in a wild west show at the present day Lake of the Ozarks State Park, or PB 1 as it is known locally. The show was presented at the horse riding stables. It was called Ozark Homestead. Chuck was hired on as a horse trainer by Tex and Hope Varner. The Varners happened to be traveling through the Lake area while driving horses to Wisconsin from Texas and were stopped by a local business owner. They were having breakfast on Bagnell Dam, after walking around in their full western gear, the shop owner inquired about their attire. They were told a real cowboy was needed to run the horse stables at the state park. The Varners stayed in the area and opened Ozark Homestead and Western Fun Rodeo. They hired Chuck as their horse trainer, and trail driver. Soon Chuck became a performer in the shows with his bullwhip skills. He then went on to train the first high diving mules.
The following is an autobiographical excerpt as told by Hope Varner on her memorial website: www.hopevarner.com.
The most spectacular of our Ozark Homestead projects were the hayrides – eight horses of four teams strung out ahead of our twenty-eight foot hayrack with a twelve-foot rack attached behind when needed. The team drivers, usually Tex, with Chuck or Port, drove the teams from a seat on springs about nine or ten feet above the ground. A comfortable swivel seat that we had retrieved from a discarded old hearse was permanently embedded at the back of the large rack where I sat with my accordion for sing-alongs. The rides had grown from our first with two horses and twelve guests when I played on the guitar to the spectacular eight-horse hitch pulling a group of one hundred twenty-five Girl Scouts, the most we ever had at one time.
One catastrophe came on a hayride with those Scouts. We were using our eight-horse hitch and my personal mount, Rumpus, was one of the lead pair. He was a born leader, and the men continually tried to train others like him. But the trainees would start loafing, and Rumpus was not a loafer. When the drivers would start to indicate a turn, most horses would cut the corners, but Rumpus would always walk out straight ahead as far as was needed and then turn.
That particular night the wranglers were driving from the “Crow’s Nest” high over the wagon holding eight reins, four each, and had made a large turnaround at the old rock quarry where the Lee C. Fine Airport is now located. We were on our return with me playing the accordion and everyone tossing hay, laughing and singing. Then someone shouted that a girl had fallen off the hayrack, so we stopped. She got back on and everything was set to go again. That’s when the trouble began. We had a couple of green (unseasoned) horses as the wheel team. The six horses ahead all hit the traces at the same time, snapping the clevis off the ring fastened to the wagon tongue (the long iron pole between the horses). It broke loose. Chuck looked right and left, knowing he had to get off, so he jumped to the left, landing on his feet. The only line he had was a right-hand line, to which he held.
The horses swerved and Chuck glanced up to see Rumpus looking straight at him. That horse, leading the others, had made a complete U-turn and was facing Chuck. A passerby stopped to see if we needed help. He drove Chuck to the Ozark Homestead to pick up a new clevis. All during this time the Scouts and I were singing camp songs. After his return, the men attached it, hooking everything up, and we were on our way. To this day Chuck says he has never seen a horse as dependable a leader as Rumpus.
Our hayrides were said to have been the lake area’s first night entertainment. A large concrete slab had been added to the stable. There we had square and round dancing called by me. We had large campfires blazing and told tall tales around them. Then Tex and Chuck would perform in the corral. Nugget, Tex’s trick horse, would be a favorite. The horse, as a finale, after sitting down on his hind legs would take a bottle of Coke, raise his head and appear to guzzle. The bottle top was carefully covered with electricians’ tape to eliminate any chipping of glass or causing damage to the horse’s mouth.
Tex also jumped horses over rail jumps, and both he and Chuck demonstrated their skills with bullwhips. Chuck usually took three or four whips in to the arena, one of which was a short whip about ten feet long. He could crack it very easily in his right hand and used it well, cutting a cigarette from Tex’s mouth. When it came to cracking it behind him, he could perform with either hand if he used a lighter-weight whip. One night he cracked the whip behind him and jerked off the popper. He walked over to pick up a spare whip, heavier than one he normally used in his left hand. When he popped the whip behind him, he jerked his left shoulder out of place.
Tex immediately saw what happened and asked if there was a doctor present. There was none. “Well,” he said, “I guess I’ll have to put the shoulder back in place myself.” He had Chuck lie on his back in the arena, with anxious spectators watching. Then he took a hold of Chuck’s left hand, put one of his feet under Chuck’s armpit and pulled until the shoulder snapped into place. It was that simply done, and it did not stop the show. The performance drew great applause from the crowd. However Chuck’s shoulder was weak for a few days.
After these performances, the campfires would have red-hot coals ready, usually for hot dogs and marshmallows. I poured cowboy coffee cooked over the open fires, filling tin cups. With handshakes and good fellowship, that concluded our ranch parties. These ran the 1940’s through the 1970’s.
It’s safe to say Chuck, along with the Varners helped develop the entertainment industry at Lake of the Ozarks. Many shows followed from swimming mermaids to stunt ski shows, but Ozark Stampede and Western Fun Rodeo were two of the first of that era.
At the Ozark Stampede, many acts, including Chuck’s bullwhip tricks were featured. Among many who entertained at their rodeos were Pat Henry and his trick horse, Gold Tony; trick roper Eddie Roscoe; sharpshooter and whip artist Mary Padfield; Matej Triska’s high-wire act; singer Porter Wagoner; and Tex with his own trick horse, Nugget. Gene Holter’s Wild Animal Show, Jonny River’s Golden Horse Ranch Troupe, Al Szasz’s alligator and wrestling bears, Texas Tommy’s performing dogs, Will Ray Spurgeon’s sliding horse, old-time cowboy Milt Hinkle (the South-American Kid), and local fiddlers Don Russell and Roscoe Welsh all made summer-long appearances.
It is surprising Chuck was never called to the screen in Hollywood. He didn’t aspire to fame. He was just a simple cowboy from the Lake of the Ozarks that enjoyed shoeing horses, and driving mules. He was content to raise his family and live out his years with his wife. Chuck worked hard until his death in 2010.