Funny Face



by Mike Capron
 
My good friend “Heel Fly” tells me about his uncle Alvin Gentry who loved to dabble in Race Horses.
 
He said that Alvin Gentry dabbled in the race horses, like a coyote hooked on sheep killing. He was a really close friend of Vince Lee, well know race horse guy ranched between Dell City, TX and Alamogordo, NM. Vince was a pioneer in the quarter horse racing business and if you have ever heard of Vandy or Mr. Tinky Bar, then you knew who Vince was. He promised Alvin that when he died he could have his pick of his mares. When Vince died Alvin decided to take Vince up at his offer went up to buy a half dozen mares, and ended up sending for two trucks and that was the start.. By the late 60’s early 70’s his little remuda had reached around 150 mares. He was kind of like a hoarder except with horses, the difference was he knew it. He traded horses with lots of folks and it wasn’t unusual for Alvin to trade several mares for one good gelding.

One of his trading buddies was a rancher down in the Van Horn area named Buddy Neal.  Buddy was an old calf roper and they liked talking about the old days.  Alvin had given Buddy several nice mares and the two kept in touch. One day Buddy showed up a Alvin’s place with a good looking chestnut sorrel, stocking legs, funny looking blaze in his face. Buddy told Alvin I’m gonna give you “funny face”, he is a great horse but he is treacherous and he is hurting my hired hands. Buddy worked a lot of nationals, and Funny Face had put his top hand in the hospital.  Buddy said,  “you have all these young boys here and they stand a better chance with him than my guys, and they will heel faster.”  Alvin had a little system he used to start race colts , and the high school boys were a part of it, but he wasn’t quite sure how to approach this horse other than just start riding him and see how bad he was. Buddy left the AQHA registration papers and drove off, and to this day not sure anyone every looked at them.
Funny Face was as described, broke to death you could ride him in a halter, could cut cattle, rope either end. Nice horse, but you never knew when it would come. May ride him all day, or three days, but when he took a mind the action usually ended extremely quick and rather violently.  Heel Fly said he was about 17 when he first rode him. He never felt “ol Funny Face” make any warning moves, he never knew what happened. The first thing he knew he was on the ground and Funny Face was moving away.  Heel Fly’s cousin was about 16 and he was there.  According to him it wasn’t the drop, it was the suck back, felt like someone grabbing your feet and yanking them out from under you.  Heel Fly had an uncle who  had cultivated a reputation for handling treacherous horses,  when he saw how easily we were dispatched, he decided this would be a job for a professional. The first time Funny Face planted him in the ground it wasn’t enough, a few days later the horse threw him up against a barn roof and he had to go to the hospital for stitches across his forehead. 
That was pretty much enough for Alvin, he told everyone to leave the horse alone and he would get rid of him. He didn’t have to wait for long. Alvin had a good friend in El Paso , Cruz Rios, a big horse trader. About two times a year Cruz would come through to see what was for sale and buy or trade for horses. It was great recreation and the two guys took delight in trying to get the best of the each other in a horse trade. Alvin put Funny Face in the rope horse barn with a blanket on him, and just by “accident” drove by the barn where Cruz would spot him. When he saw those stocking legs and blaze face the trade was on. As expected Cruz left Dell City with Funny Face in the trailer.  A couple days later Alvin placed a call to Cruz laughing about the deal and told Cruz to take the horse to the sale in El Paso and he would tear his check up. But Cruz had already ridden the horse, liked him and could not believe this horse was that bad. So he ignored the warning and responded “no damn way”, this is my horse.
Of course, a pet rattle snake will still eventually bite you. Sun Bowl parade, New Year’s in downtown EL Paso, Cruz was dressed up in his parade attire, slow prance and Funny Face thought this would be a good time to show folks what he could do. Cruz was thrown against a car and broke his leg.  We do know that he soon found his way to the sale barn in El Paso.
From here West Texas legend takes over and as legends go they do get distorted, but this was as close to actual as I can find. The horse was bought at the sale ring and made it into the ownership of a veterinarian in Pecos, TX. Each year after the Fourth of July PRCA rodeo they held a big jackpot team roping that gathered most of the ropers in the Trans-Pecos area. During the jackpot Manny Rios (Cruz’s son) spotted funny face with two little girls riding him bareback. He called the girls over and asked them where their daddy was?  So he accompanied the girls over to the Veterinarian and asked the girls to hop off and very methodically gave the history of Funny Face.
The veterinarian was a good friend of the PRCA rodeo contractor, and a few test rides were set up after the jackpot.  Five top bronc riders were on the rodeo grounds so they came over to test the horse and have some fun. First out Funny Face didn’t buck, he was too broke, even flanked the bronc rider could spin him and do roll backs with the bucking rein. Second out with everyone yelling and waiving sacks at him he hit a lick about three strides out of the box and slammed the bronc rider. “I wasn’t ready, lets try that again.” Third out the NFR guy got two jumps before he bit the turf. That was all it took, the contractor ( Steiner) had seen enough and negotiated the purchase with the Veterinarian.
The deal was struck at the rodeo grounds in Pecos, Texas  which is located in Reeves County. So that was the basis for his stage name, Reeves County. My understanding was he was always in contention for PRCA bucking horse of the year and possibly won it once. 
Heel Fly told me that he did heel two steers on him, which gave him the right to always proclaim that he was his “old heel horse” anytime I happened to see him at a rodeo or on TV……………Of course there was a third steer that he tried to heel but he can’t remember much about it, it happened awful fast, but they say Heel Fly had the tip of  his rope down and his eyes were on the tip………literally. After he got his air back he couldn’t quit thinking about that old joke……..the last thing that goes through a bugs mind when he hits the windshield.

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