Quiet champion loved the rodeo life

  • Cameron Lansdell, a member of the
    Canadian Rodeo
    Hall of Fame, died at the age of 94 in January.

    Photo courtesy of Ted Dawson Photo/Graphics


Turner Valley: Hall of famer Cameron Lansdell dies at 94


By: Bruce Campbell

A former Canadian bronc rider was willing to put his money where his mouth was.

Canadian rodeo hall of famer Cameron Lansdell from Turner Valley was one of the founders of the Cowboys Protective Association when it formed in 1944.

“A problem back then was injuries and these guys didn’t have a lot anyways,” said Doug Lansdell, Cam’s son. “They wanted to help with the medical bills. Dad was one of the founders and I know they all put in a dollar each to get it started.”

The association not only helped by the medical bills, it spawned what would eventually become today’s Canadian Professional Rodeo Association.

Turner Valley’s Cam Lansdell, 94, died on Jan. 15 in Black Diamond.

He is being remembered for his love of family and rodeo. Lansdell was elected to the Canadian Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in 1990.

“He started as a kid with the neighbours riding anything they can get on,” Doug said. “Then in 1938 he entered his first rodeo (Ponoka Stampede) in the boys’ steer riding. Then he snuck away with Toomie Graves to the Calgary Stampede. He did okay and that got him going some more.”

He was able to cash his first paycheque from rodeo that year — winning $5 in the bareback at the Rimbey rodeo.

Cam would retire from the pro rodeo circuit in 1955 due to knee injuries.

Doug remembered an adventurous life on the road with his family.

“We travelled like gypsies for part of the year,” Doug said. “It was great for a kid travelling with my dad. Dad had lots of friends.

“He was really serious about his rodeo. When he went to a ride, he went to win.”

Travelling with his family proved to be a good luck charm for Cam. He was second in the Canadian standings in the bareback in 1947 and second in the saddle bronc in 1948.

He would win the Canadian title in the saddle bronc in 1950.

Helping him along the way was his wife of nearly 71 years, Gladys ‘Happy’ Lansdell.

Happy lived up to her name. She was the gregarious outgoing one, while Cam was more reserved.

“We had a rodeo life, but the seasons were much shorter then,” Doug said. “We saved enough money for entry fees and if we ran out of money, we’d go to a rodeo and win some money and we’d be okay again.”

Travel was tough, old vehicles and dirt roads.

“Dad couldn’t get a vehicle during the war so these guys were plagued with these totally wore out automobiles on really bad roads going off to all these rodeos,” Doug said with a smile. “Dad used this ’41 Chev until my dad was doing pretty good at rodeo.

“He ordered a brand new truck in April of 1949 – I still got the paper work — it was delivered in August of 1951. That’s how bad things were.”

Black Diamond’s Ken Thomson — a relative of 2008 Canadian bull riding champion Tyler Thomson — promoted many of the rodeos the Lansdells attended.

Ken Thomson, who was elected to the Canadian Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in 1985, was also one of the founders for the Cowboys Protective Association.

Although Lansdell didn’t win the famed Calgary Stampede, he was always a competitor, back when the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth was not an invitational.

“My dad was of the era of Casey Tibbs,” Doug said. “If Casey Tibbs showed up to a rodeo, the best you would ever do is second place. Casey Tibbs was a showman, I will almost remember his pink Cadillac and that kind of stuff.”

Tibbs won the saddle bronc and bareback in Calgary in 1950 and the bareback in 1949.

It was Lansdell who helped spur one of the first wins for a future Canadian Rodeo hall of famer.

“I always had that itch for the rodeo business so I knew of him,” said Longview’s Tom Bews. “The first time I got to speak to Cam was at the first Little Britches in 1959 and he was coming in behind the old wooden chutes and he said: ‘Son, you need to tie down those spurs, just get some binder-twine and tie those down… He even showed me how to do it… So I did and I wound up winning the bareback competition.

“That was the start of my career and he just threw this tip out at me… Knowing his name, I was on Cloud 9.”

Bews would go on to become a five-time Canadian all-around champion and was elected into the Canadian Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in 2000.

More than 25 years after getting that tip from Lansdell, the two future hall of famers were partners as team ropers in the senior pro circuit, from about 1986 to 1989.

“He still had the competitor in him – he liked to win,” Bews said of the senior Lansdell. “That’s what I remember so well about him — he was such a competitor.”

And despite being somewhat reserved, he could spin a yarn or two.

“Cam was very gentleman-type, laid back, not a lot to say,” Bews said. “But when we had a few cocktails, he could tell some good stories.

“He didn’t have a lot to say, but just like that time in Little Britches, you listened.”