A father's teachings

Award-winning roping cowboy Clemma Sanders tends to his horse, “Junior,” currently being trained for upcoming events.
Award-winning roping cowboy Clemma Sanders tends to his horse, “Junior,” currently being trained for upcoming events.

East Texas had its share of cowboys and cowgirls through the years and in the Kilgore area there still remain a few likely to leave legends. Those few have managed and continue to take pride in calling themselves cowboy and Texas-bred.

IT WAS EASY to imagine horses and buckboards “during the day” traveling along a beautiful tree-lined road to his home in the Hope Community. The trip set the scene followed by a warm welcome by a big man, Mr. Clemma Ray Sanders and his sister, Frances.

Clemma was born in Henderson. For the most part, he was raised in the Hope Community, east of Kilgore and he and four siblings attended C. B. Dansby school.

Clemma was a football player in high school playing several positions including offensive, defensive, line backer and punter.

“I never came off the field,” he laughed. “Once the game started I was there for the whole thing. I played basketball, too and we went to state my senior year,” he said.

“Rodeo was my life back before my dad passed away,” said Clemma. “I rodeoed every weekend all over the place such as Shreveport, Dallas, Lufkin and anywhere a rodeo was going on. I won quite a bit then such as halters, trophies. And I still rope, now training my third horse to make a good cowboy horse.”

One of the highlights so far in his roping career was a 1991 trophy win in Athens where he was in competition with fifty other ropers and won third place. Another win he was quite proud of took place at the Billy Leach arena in Kilgore.

“My father shod horses and roped also,” he continued. “I was raised around all type of livestock. We had 20-25 head of cows. We got a lot of calls from other people wanting us to help them rope and pen some of their cows.”

“We didn’t always have to rope them,” he explained. “When you round up cows there is always one or two that are difficult to get penned. That’s when the calls always came and sometimes it just took a little nudging instead of roping.”

Although the love for rodeo was prominent in their lives, Clemma’s father was well known in the area as a jack-of-all-trades, not hesitating to work where work was found, jobs like hauling dirt and logs.

Clemma, on the other hand went on to work at Luminant and retired after thirty-eight years. His wife, Seletta continues to work for Gregg County while he builds calf-tie dummies for children and adults.

He also trains horses for others. The kindred ship learned working with animals was noticeable as he placed the halter on his own horse in training.

“This horse is named Junior,” said Clemma. “I named him that as his father went to the world championships in calf roping. My father instilled in me it doesn’t cost anymore to feed a good horse than it does a plug,” he said proudly. “He was right.”

A big man in many ways, the lessons he learned from his father about family, hard work, horses and rodeo carries on through him. He may now be 64 years of age, but we will soon be seeing him back in the rodeo arena.

May His Love and Laughter Fill Your Hearts and Your Homes Throughout the Week. In the meantime, we may be reached at or 903-984-2593.


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