They don’t make ‘em like Vick and Faye Blackstone anymore.
Or like Hub Hubbell for that matter.
All three were colorful, larger-than-life rodeo performers who lived in the Bradenton area — the Blackstones in Parrish and Hubbell just over the Manatee County line on the south side of University Parkway.
Vick Blackstone, was born in 1912 in Midland, Texas, into a family of 13 children. He left home at age 13 to work as a ranch hand and four years later joined the rodeo, specializing in bronc riding. But his repertoire also included bull riding, calf roping and bulldogging.
Faye Blackstone, born Fayetta June Hudson in Diller, Nebraska, in 1915, taught herself to be a trick rider.
In 1937, Vick and Faye married in the center of a rodeo arena and traveled the rodeo circuit together for the next 14 years across the United States, Canada and Latin America.
In 1982, Vick was inducted into the National Rodeo Hall of Fame. That same year, Faye, who was credited with new trick riding maneuvers, including the Reverse Fender Drag, was inducted into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame.
The couple settled in Parrish in 1951 and used their rodeo earnings to buy a ranch.
For their quarter-century of ranching in Manatee County, Vick and Faye were inducted into the Florida Agricultural Hall in 2003.
“We were a team. If he was gathering cattle, I was gathering cattle. That made it fun for both of us. I enjoyed every minute of it,” Faye said in 2003.
Vick and Faye Blackstone were astute Florida ranchers who blazed a trail in such areas as development of grasses and breeding, Manatee County cattleman Jim Strickland said in 2003.
Strickland noted that the Blackstones were not only skilled ranchers but touched many lives.
“Miss Faye and Vick didn’t have any kids of their own, but they treated kids everywhere like their own,” Strickland said. “They are a different breed. They were good folks, good people.”
In 1976, the Blackstones helped bring a rising country singer, Reba McEntire, to the Manatee County Fair, remembers Dan West, now the executive director of the Florida Federation of Fairs and Livestock Shows.
“She came here because Mr. and Mrs. Blackstone were very close to the McEntire family,” West said.
In 2003, McEntire told the Bradenton Herald that she remained appreciative of the opportunity to perform in Palmetto: “That was my first big fair by myself. It was huge to me.”
And of Faye Blackstone: McEntire said: “I think she’s an incredible woman. Very caring, spunky, feisty, and I just love her to pieces.”
The Blackstones are gone now — Vick died in 1987 and Faye died in 2011 — but not forgotten. Both are in the Manatee County Agriculture Hall of Fame and Blackstone Park, 2112 14th Ave. W., Palmetto, is named in their honor.
The life of Hub Hubbell
Harold Joseph Hubbell, 1918-2012, was always a showman.
Better known as Hub, he promoted rodeos and the cowboy lifestyle, but never really worked as a cowboy.
He made his mark with his rope tricks, shooting skills, riding and a way with a yarn.
Hub once asked his biographer Judith Leipold, “Do you think we’ll pack them in?”
He wasn’t talking about his next show. He was talking about his funeral.
He need not have worried. He died on the back porch of his Flying H Ranch off University Parkway on March 3, 2012, at age 94.
The auditorium at Big Cat Sanctuary was packed for his funeral, with many mourners wearing their cowboy clothes.
Dan West remembers Hub offering his humorous brand of entertainment at county fairs in Manatee and Sarasota counties.
“At the fair one year, he got sick but refused to go home. The show must go on,” West said.
“He loved to entertain and educate people,” West said.
About a year before his death, Hub visited a class at Braden River High School and shared his experiences with the Lone Ranger, played by Clayton Moore, and the Cisco Kid, played by Duncan Renaldo.
His rope tricks were a little rusty that day, but he chalked it up to age and a series of injuries over the years in rodeo arenas.
He told the students one arm was shorter than the other because of the injuries, and that’s why his rope twirling was subpar that day.
“That’s my excuse today, but I always have three excuses,” Hubbell told the students.
On top of Hub’s plain wooden coffin was his cowboy hat, his six-shooters, and an American flag, a reminder of the time he served in the U.S. Army Cavalry during World War II.
In one corner in a stall was Silver, the artist pony, who Hubbell had taught to paint.
As Mr. Hubbell’s coffin was wheeled out of the auditorium at the end of the service, past his stall, Silver let out two long whinnies, perhaps a final salute to the rodeo star.
This story is one in a series the Bradenton Herald is producing to celebrate 100 years of publishing in Manatee County.