Fans of the late country star Chris LeDoux will crowd tiny Kaycee, Wyoming (population 300) on Father’s Day weekend as one of the most popular entertainers to perform his music on the rodeo circuit across the U.S. is memorialized in bronze. The new Chris LeDoux Memorial Park is landscaped on downtown Kaycee property LeDoux and his wife, Peggy, had purchased many years ago. They raised five children on a ranch outside of Kaycee.
A life-and-a-half size bronze statue called “Good Ride Cowboy” is in its final stages of construction. Sculptor D. Michael Thomas of Buffalo, WY crafted the piece and began the project shortly after LeDoux’s death in 2005.
“Chris’ passing hit me like a ton of bricks right in the gut,” Thomas says. “I always had an idea there needed to be a monument of this fellow. He was Mr. Wyoming.”
LeDoux won the professional rodeo world championship in bareback riding in 1976. His music career included “What You Gonna Do With a Cowboy,” a top ten hit sung with Garth Brooks, and record sales of more than six million worldwide. He died at age 56 of a rare form of liver cancer. His capacity crowd concerts at Cheyenne Frontier Days beginning in the mid-1990s drew thousands of loyal fans. LeDoux is a member of both the Cheyenne Frontier Days and Pro Rodeo Halls of Fame.
Thomas’ bronze depicts LeDoux spurring for a coveted world champion’s buckle and the base is a replica of LeDoux’s guitar. The piece has been in production for more than four years and fund raising by a Kaycee-based memorial foundation has included the sale of several smaller models and an annual golf tournament.
“We are very happy to have been able to raise enough money to pay for the monument in this short a period of time,” said Kaycee resident Pam Kinchen, foundation coordinator. “People often come into Kaycee wanting to see something about Chris’ life. Now they will be able to bring their families to the park and tell their kids about Chris, how important family was to him, his artistry and how no dream is too big.”
Many Wyoming hands have been a part of the monument’s creation including a Cody mold maker, the crew at Caleco Bronze Foundry in Cody and finisher Clay Ward whose shop is near Deaver, Wyoming where “Good Ride Cowboy” is being welded into shape out of more than 100 bronze sections. The finished product will weigh 2,300 pounds and its size registers in the “heroic” category of monument designations. LeDoux was unquestionably a hero to many people. His tribute rodeo Facebook site has registered nearly 24,000 fans in seven months.
The bronze is being unveiled in Kaycee, June 19. LeDoux’s band, Western Underground, will play a free concert following the ceremony. More information is available at www.kayceewyoming.org.