Rodeo Rider's Dream

Twenty-year-old Leonard Kucera used his thirty-nine cent “Draws-a-Lot” marking pen to inscribe on the Walker canvas above him, “Worlds Future Bareback Bronc Riding Champion (photo).” It was his personal dream.

Instead, he became a trooper and mechanic with a cavalry regiment, bound for Vietnam in August, 1967. A year earlier he had driven a 1964 Chevrolet Biscayne to rodeos throughout his native state of Nebraska, as well as South Dakota, Iowa and Colorado. His specialty was riding bareback on bucking horses like one called “Redigo” (photo).

“I made all the rodeos I could in the region,” he recalled later. There was little financial reward, but plenty of enjoyment. “I guess I barely made enough to keep going.” But he loved what he was doing. Then, in late fall 1966, he was drafted into the Army. It was a hard transition.

“I felt like I should serve,” he explained, “but I also felt like I was giving up two of the best years of my life, because of my life in rodeo.”

After the war, the 1st Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment veteran reentered rodeos, was injured, and ended his bareback riding career. He became a research technician at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, Clay Center, Nebraska.

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Exhibit Schedules

    Part of the Marking Time: Voyage to Vietnam is currently at the New York Historical Society in Manhatten through April 22, 2018. Information about the full Vietnam exhibit is available here

    Marking Time: Voyage to Vietnam will be open at the USS Kidd Memorial in Baton Rouge, LA, from October 27, 2017 through February 28, 2018.