American Field

Bill Trabue — 1927-2017

By Peg Herriage | Jun 15, 2017
Bill Trabue

Bradford, Ark. — Bill Trabue of Newalla, Okla., departed this life on June 8, 2017. Bill had celebrated his 90th birthday with family and friends. He was born March 29, 1927 in Altoona, Kan.

Bill fell at his home in late April, fracturing his sacrum. Already suffering from congestive heart failure and COPD, he entered the Veterans’ Administration hospital in Oklahoma City on May 24.

Bill was a walking miracle, having survived a terrible horse accident twelve years ago. His determination and strong will pulled him through that near-death accident, with help from the Man Upstairs, a loving wife, and children.

As a child at age four, Bill lost his father. Pretty much on his own as a young boy, he got a job on a farm milking cows at age 11, but still attended school. With some “fudging” on the part of his mother, he enlisted in the Marine Corps at the young age of 16. He was in the very first wave of Marines that landed on Iwo Jima in February, 1945.

He was wounded during combat, with shrapnel lodged in his back and leg. He lay in a foxhole overnight, fading in and out of consciousness but realizing he must be quiet because the enemy was all around. The next day he was rescued and put on the Red Cross USS Solace, then transported to multiple Army and Navy hospitals with the objective of removing the shrapnel in his back. No doctors wanted to take that risk because the shrapnel was too close to his spine. Consequently, he was declared walking wounded and rejoined his company and was on his way to attack Japan when the war was declared over.

He was part of the occupation force on the island of Kyushu. Bill was discharged and sent home on the point system at the ripe old age of eighteen.

After discharge from his two and a half years of service, he enrolled in Arizona State and began a collegiate level rodeo career while working the stockyards in Phoenix.

In 1950 Bill won the Arizona Golden Gloves Heavyweight Championship, but decided that his real love was rodeo. It was at a rodeo in Williams, Ariz., where he met his wife Dixie. After dating a couple of years, they tied the knot on April 4, 1953. They had just celebrated 64 years of marriage this past spring.

You think Bill had a colorful life so far? Read on.

Horses always played a major role in his life, either in rodeo, pleasure riding or in training one to run dogs with.

One of his favorite quotes: “There’s nothing I like better than a beautiful woman and a beautiful horse.”

Dogs also played a big part in his life. He got his start hunting as a young boy, then raised and trained dogs and competed as an amateur field trialer for a number of years, before hanging out his shingle as a professional. He turned loose some mighty good ones in his years on the major shooting dog circuit. There was Bill’s Discard, Mr. Thin Man, Thin Man’s Image, Water Walker’s Sally, Bill’s Hustlin Peg and Monday’s Doublecross, to name a few.

Bill’s Hustlin Peg won the America Field Quail Futurity in 1984, her convincing performance on the afternoon course that was used back then. Bill was a regular at the Futurity in those days. Peg had a remrkable Derby season (1984-1985) for Bill, nine wins. If there’d been a Purina Top Derby Award that season, she would have swept it hands down.

And then, in a class all by herself, was Magdelene. “Maggie” was named winner of the coveted Norden Top Shooting Dog of the Year in 1989 after having come in second in the standings the previous year.

Bill was always an “upper”. He always had a smile and a joke for you; sometimes the joke was ON you! He delighted in calling me “Hon” simply because he knew I hated the label. I retaliated by calling him “Old Timer”, which he felt was an insult!

Bill deveolped an admirable work ethic as a young boy which accompanied him through his life’s efforts; World War II, rodeo and boxing competitions, training horses and dogs.

He was ever a strong competitor in the field trial arena which was how we knew him. Jack Herriage recalls that Bill and Dean Lord had an ongoing rivalry in trying to be the first one to the trial grounds each morning. Nip and Tuck! Two gentlemen of the old school.

Daughter Tina remembers a time when Bill was campaigning hard for Oklahoma amateur standings of the year. He sold automobiles in Oklahoma City and was not able to go compete in an important trial at Ardmore. He sent his wife Dixie and Tina with a Derby and a puppy to run which they had never done before but at Bill’s behest, they went! They came home with a first and second. I guess you could say it runs in the family. I feel sure that everyone has a Trabue anecdote!

A memorial service is tentatively scheduled for Bill on June 30 at 10:00 a. m. at the New Life Baptist Church in Newalla, Okla. His wishes were to be cremated and the ashes to be spread by his fishing pond at their home, where he and Dixie spent many hours together, fishing, talking and connecting with nature.

He leaves behind his beloved and devoted wife Dixie and three loving children; Denise Rodgers of Bastrop, Tex., Billy Trabue, Jr. of Muskogee, Okla., and Tina Turner of Newalla, Okla. Bill was also the proud grand-father of four grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

Wild Bull Rider

Dixie was a lady and a Rodeo Queen,

Billy was her lover, ah, you know what I mean.

Billy rode the bulls in the big rodeo

Dixie loved her man and she told him so.

Dixie loved her man and she told him so.


Brought a bad bull to the big rodeo,

Said he killed a man out in New Mexico.

Dixie said, Billy please don’t go

Don’t ride that killer in the rodeo

You’re the only man I love and I need you so.


[Excerpt from Wild Bull Rider, by Hoyt Axton]

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