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22 June, 2020

MEMBER FAREWELL | DICK WHITE

“Dick White - so many horses, one photograph, a twinkle in his eye and a hat full of jokes” - Paul Marshall, Channel 7 Sunrise. 

The world of rodeo and harness racing are saddened by the sudden death of renowned horseman Dick White in a house fire at his Globe Derby Park home in May.
Richard ‘Dick’ White was born in 1935 and grew up on a farm near Kapunda – his father James was a recreational carriage driver, and as a lad Dick had an affinity with horses – he loved anything to do with them, including spending time in the blacksmith shop, and he loathed school. 
To satisfy the sisters at the local Catholic school and his passion for horses, young Dick often rode a horse to school, sometimes taking a couple of extras along too, which he used for trick riding – and he often involved some class mates in the tricks too – the sisters were not amused. 
Dick supposedly started competing at rough riding competitions when he was 13, but he had been doing it for a few years without his father knowing - his father was not happy at all in him doing it and forbade him. So, he decided to change his name from Dick White to Grey (he figured a white horse went grey, so that would do - he was going to be Johnny Grey from Queensland).
It was around the time when Dick began his rodeo career that a new policeman arrived in Kapunda. One of his first jobs was some police business at Berri, where he heard that a young bloke had been injured at the local rodeo. 'Johnny Grey' was badly hurt and carted off to the local hospital where they asked him his name. The policeman happened to be standing nearby and heard him and replied, “I don't know about Johnny Grey from Queensland, but you look very much like young Dick White from Kapunda.”
After a few days he was patched up and returned home where his father was waiting for him. “If you are so bloody stupid you’d better do what you want to do”. And so he did, for many years he continued riding in rodeos and later he started his wonderful trick riding.
One of Dick’s early rodeos was at Spalding and to get there he had to ride his horse to Roseworthy and meet up with Dudley Kemp who gave him and his horse a ride on the back of a truck, about a three hour drive back in 1948. Dick did another trip on the back of a truck to a Hawker Rodeo, about a six hour trip this time, and he was wondering if they were ever going to get there – he was pleased when they rounded the last bend and he could see the lights of Hawker.
Rodeo road took Dick all over Australia and during his time he won nine state titles including the Carrieton Buck Jump Championships in 1960 and the ARRA Australian Steer Wrestling title in the same year. 
It was back in those halcyon days that Dick got locked up in a jail cell. Ken Lloyd tells the story about how he and Dick and a few other blokes were droving 600-odd bullocks from John Huey’s father’s Queensland property to Winton. With the cattle delivered, the drovers, including Dick, Tom Lloyd, Neville Shields and John Huey, headed off in a motor car, leaving Ken behind with the horse truck to bring up the rear guard. Arriving in Kynuna late one afternoon to spell and water the horses, Ken learnt from the publican that the boys travelling ahead hadn’t long left town; they’d been on the beer for most of the day and previous evening. Anyway they’d arranged with the local police to camp in the cells overnight. Apparently Dick slept in the next morning and couldn’t get out of the slammer - the boys had arranged to have him ‘restrained’ while they imbibed themselves at the pub again. Now Dick was not known to be a drinker and all the cowboys thought it was a hell of a joke to have Dick locked away while they continued their session. Needless to say Dick was hungry and far from happy when he was released around dinner time and soon had them all moving down the road again. 
It was at the 1959 Carrieton Rodeo that Dick drew the notorious bucking horse, ‘Cloudbuster’. As the young cowboy was settling down in the saddle, ‘old Mr Luckraft’, a local who was assisting on the chutes, said “righto little Whitey, this horse is going to buck you half way back to Kapunda.” Dick responded, “Well so he may, but I’m going to have a damned good try at stopping him.” The rest as they say is history. At the seven second mark (rides were ten seconds back then) of Dick’s ride the judge cracked his whip and Dick was awarded a re-ride - unfortunately the horse came down and broke a front leg. Dick’s ride was captured on film by Hoofs and Horns editor and photographer, the late Keith Stevens, and the iconic shot is acknowledged world wide as one of the most spectacular rodeo photographs ever taken anywhere. Dick’s resulting re-ride horse, ‘Delta’ carried him to second place behind winner Norm Woods on ‘Jim’.
In the mid 1960s Dick based himself at Morphetville, not far from the race course, where he started breaking in and pre-training race horses for a number of noted horse trainers, including Bart Cummings. Some of these included Melbourne Cup winners ‘Rain Lover’ and ‘Light Fingers’. During his time at Morphetville Dick worked with about 200 thoroughbred horses. 
On August 16th 1977 (the day that Elvis died) Dick, wife Janet and daughters Mary-Ann, Anita and Kate moved into their new home on Port Wakefield Rd at Globe Derby Park – Dick had started a new career, training and driving square-gaiters or trotters. Dick retired from rodeoing in 1979 when he was 45. He went on to name his small property ‘Accolade Lodge’ after a horse that he had top-level success with. During his trotting career Dick trained some top horses, including ‘Duall McCall’, ‘El Juras’, ‘Caroldon’s Lover’ and ‘Maori Skipper’ which were some of the 300 winners he had. Dick was one of the founders of Globe Derby Park, established as the headquarters of harness racing in SA and was made a life member in 2003. He had the heats of the prestigious Gramel Trotting Season named after him too. 
Dick continued his association with all equine activities he was involved in and donated trophies to the Peterborough Rodeo 2nd Division Saddle Bronc, which was named after him, and the Dick White Open Saddle Bronc trophy at the Carrieton Rodeo. Of course Dick had a strong involvement with the Marrabel Rodeo too. In 2014 Channel 7 Weekend Sunrise featured a story on Dick and Janet, filmed at the Kapunda Rodeo and at their Globe Derby Park home. It was here that Dick came across some memorabilia and trophies he had won, and decided to create his own award recognising the unsung volunteers of rodeo – the Dick White Service to Rodeo in SA award. Dick presented the first of these in December 2014. Since then five more volunteers have received this prestigious award. 
During his horse-related career Dick was well known and highly regarded Australia wide and will be sadly missed by his immediate family and friends. Happy trails old cowboy.
Words by John Mannion.
Photo by Keith Stevens.


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