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Gene Autry and His Colt

7/3/2004:

On this day in 1949, singer and actor Gene Autry was in North Dakota to perform at the annual Mandan Rodeo with his backup band, the Cass County Boys – that’s Cass County, Texas, not North Dakota.

The western movie star also collected a black colt from Mandan rancher Frank Wetzstein, which he bought the year before based on a photograph. The colt’s white blaze and four stockings were nearly identical to those of Autry’s on-screen costar, Champion Jr., who was soon due to retire.

A few days later, Autry spent time with 70 handicapped children at Camp Grassick, giving him a chance to also visit the camp’s director, Edward Agre. During WWII, Autry was in a special unit on the West Coast, and Agre drove Autry from camp to camp in a station wagon.

Autry returned to the Mandan rodeo again in ‘50 and ‘51 with his famous group, the Sons of the Pioneers.

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm