|Monday, 11 April 2011 00:00|
Tucked away in the broken hills of Hemphill County is a man who has led a life that most people only dream of. As a professional rodeo cowboy and Hollywood stunt man, Arnold Hill’s story begins with his parents, Ben and Hazel Hill, long-time Hemphill County ranchers and quarter horse breeders. The Hill’s, originally from Tennessee, came to Hemphill County from neighboring Lipscomb County in 1917 and began their ranching operation 25 miles northwest of Canadian where Arnold, the fifth of eight children, and his wife Alice lived until his death in November 2009.
Arnold began his rodeo career at the ripe old age of 14 at a rodeo in Las Vegas, New Mexico, where he placed first in bull riding – on his first ride ever. Arnold went on to ride many more bulls in a professional rodeo career that lasted 18 years, taking him all over the United States and Canada. Arnold’s older twin brothers, Clinton and Clayton were also well known in the pro-rodeo circuit. He told of riding in Madison Square Garden in New York City 16 times during his career as he was the youngest performer ever to to perform there. During one month at the Garden, he rode 16 bulls in 42 performances. He joined such rodeo greats as Casey Tibbs and Jim Shoulders on road trips, the youngest cowboy in the group, and designated driver of Casey’s pink Cadillac.
His rodeoing took him to such memorable places as the Cow Palace in San Francisco, Calgary, Cheyenne, Ft. Worth, Houston, Baton Rouge, and Chicago when an average year included between 60 and 85 rodeos. Arnold was in the top twenty professional bull riders in the United States for fifteen years and his PRCA riding number, 495, was retired and placed into the Colorado Springs PRCA Hall of Fame. He competed in the ‘first ever’ National Finals Rodeo held in Dallas, Texas.
Arnold went on to complete his bull riding career by performing in many Old Timer’s rodeos. His last ride was in the Clayton Hill Old Timers Rodeo in Canadian, Texas. Arnold is one of the select few in the nation who hold the coveted PRCA Gold Card, by earning at least $10,000 per year in professional rodeo wins; by being active as a PRCA member for fifteen years; and by being at least 50 years old.
While in his late 20’s, Arnold had the opportunity to take a new direction with his career as Hollywood was calling. At that time Arnold was rodeoing in the western part of the U.S. and working as a movie extra to pay his rodeo entry fees. As a member of the Screen Actors Guild, he worked for all of the major studios including Warner Brothers, MGM, Disney, and United Artists. It wasn’t surprising that Arnold spent much of his time as a stunt man in western movies. After all, he had grown up on a quarter horse ranch and been a professional cowboy. Arnold doubled for and made friends with many famous movie stars including Sammy Davis Jr. He tells of going to Hollywood Park Race Track with Audie Murphy and Casey Tibbs on numerous occasions. . Arnold’s history includes stunt performances in such movie greats as “Rio Bravo” starring John Wayne; “Sparticus” starring Kirk Douglas; “Mutiny On The Bounty”; “That Darn Cat”, “Savage Sam”, “Cimmaron”; “Bus Stop” starring Marilyn Monroe; “Horse In A Gray Flannel Suit”; “My Fair Lady”, and “Hud” starring Paul Newman. Arnold also worked on numerous television series and shows including 13 years on “Rawhide”; “Gunsmoke”, “F Troop”; “Rat Patrol”; “Mr. Ed”; “Stoney Burke”; “Swamp Fox”; “Cheyenne”; and “Maverick. His most dangerous stunt and memorable stund, was during an episode of “Stoney Burke”, when he was required to get himself “hung up” on a bull for approximately 14 seconds.
Arnold and Alice met at Warner Brothers where she was employed as a film editor. Alice, a real Hollywood native, was the daughter of Hal Shaw, Warner sound department manager for 42 years. alice and Arnold discovered a mutual interest in horses, and their romance bloomed. Arnold and Alice moved to the Hill Ranch in Hemphill County in 1971, where she rode and trained a number of Ben Hill’s quarter horses. The Hills were vocational archeologists as can be seen by this impressive collection of Indian artifacts here at the River Valley Pioneer Museum. Arnold Hill passed away on November 13, 2009.