Front Page Newspaper Articles 21and 22 October, 2011
Roping A Dream
Former entertainer's book to benefit Holland Theatre
Written by Ruben Mees Bellefontaine, Ohio, Thursday, 20 October 2011 Oktoberfest of the West event is Saturday
Bill Trick-Roping at Marmon Valley Farm
Bill Leading OKTOBERFEST Horse Parade
Bill and Ann Trick-Roping at the Holland
(EXAMINER PHOTOs) Ruben Mees)
(Left) "Smilin' Bill" Cummins twirling his rope for youths at a square dance Thursday at Marmon Valley Farms. (Center) "Smilin Bill" Cummins leads a horse parade of 75 horses into downtown Bellefontaine. (Right) "Smilin Bill" Cummins returned to the Holland Theatre and tosses his lariat around his wife, Ann, seated on a hobby horse that represents Mr. Cummins horse, King, that appeared with him on stage at the Holland Theatre when he first appeared there in 1949.
======================== Growing up in the heyday of Indian Lake's fame as America's Million Dollar Playground," William Cummins had big dreams of becoming a famous entertainer like Roy rogers or Gene Autry. And that he did, at least for a few years. Having grown up on a farm near Lewistown, the teenager helped Lew Jenkins manage his Russells Point ranch--the place he first met the horse he would ride into his glory days as a stage entertainer. "Early in my life I had a magical relationship with horses," Mr. Cummins, said, "I dreamed up a whole horse career and by the time I was 18, I was headlining on stage with a trained palomino named King." He got his start in the late 1940s when a man he knew only as California Joe stabled horses at Mr. Jenkins' ranch.' He taught me how to do trick roping, how to train King and his dad taught me the bull whip," Mr. Cummins said. Shortly afterward he began his career as the cowboy "Smilin' Bill." Although he doesn't recall the exact details, Mr. Cummins, who now lives in Florida, said his first performance in an actual theater was at the Holland Theartre. He did recall a not-so-pretty incident during their first rehearsal under the lights when King got nervous. "There was some cleaning up to be done," Mr. Cummins said with a laugh. He continued performing for crowds until 1952 when he said he discovered religion which led him to pursue a career in engineering. But despite his short time as an entertainer, it has had a deep impact on his life and inspired him to write a book entitled, "King and the Cowboy." He recalls with teary eyes a time later in his life--about 1980--when he visited King for the final time. "He still knew my voice," Mr. Cummins said, "It was a last goodbye. It's still sad to think about it because he was a good friend." And over the years Mr. Cummins has also had a soft spot in his heart for the Holland Theatre and said he plans to donate 65 percent of the revenue from his book to the theater's restoration. "She's like a beautiful lady without any makeup," he said of the Holland. "You hardly notice she's there, but when it had a marquee you could see it for blocks away." To mark the occasion, Mr. Cummins is in town to share his story, sign copies of the book and demonstrate a few roping tricks at the Oktoberfest of the West event Saturday. During the event, Mr. Cummins will ride a horse in the 1 p.m. horse parade and then take the stage at the Holland Theatre at 2 p.m. followed by a showing of the Gene Auitry film Mexicali Rose. Roy Rogers' The Cowboy and the Senorita also plays at 7:30 p.m. Other events associated with the Oktoberfest event are being hosted at Chattan Loch Bistro and Public House, including a 2 p.m. lunch, 3 p.m. chili and barbecue rib cook-off, 5 p.m.performance by Jim Greer and Mac-O-Chee Valley Folks and 8 p.m. performance by Poor, Dumb White Kids.
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