McLain's Roundup. Photos by Homer Venters
A negative and postive image of Homer Venters, Photographer, Lake City, Kansas.
Photo courtesy of his grandnephew, Mike Venters.
Biography: Homer Venters
Homer Venters was born at Sterling, Kansas, April 16, 1885, the son of John H. and Mary Elizabeth Johnson Venters. His parents were both school teachers, his father being an administrator at Sterling and later at Pratt. Homer's two sisters also became teachers.
Homer, however, lacked the family fondness for schooling and quit while in high school, after breaking an arm and shoulder on a gymnastic bar. He was one of Pratt's first salaried baseball nine and played against the famous Cy Young, who was pitching for Wichita in the old Western Association.
He began working for Western Union in 1907, as a telephone installer at railroad points. He later took an electrical course, qualifying himself to become a traveling communications technician. Homer worked as a trouble shooter in communications and, as synchronized time was a vital element in railroading, he might be required to travel 500 miles to spend five minutes adjusting a clock that was ten seconds off. At one time, Homer held passes to seven railroads in the United States and Canada.
In 1911, Homer purchased an Eastman Kodak camera for $4 and began what was to become his life's work. He was especially fond of rodeo action; his first rodeo photos were taken at Greensburg.
Homer quit Western Union in 1920, purchased a $210 Graflex and was hired as the official photographer for the National Rodeo Association. In addition to doing advertisement photography for the member rodeos, he mass-produced twenty-four of his better shots as picture postcards and sold them in packets of twelve for twenty-five cents. Boy Scouts were hired to sell the packets at the various rodeos; an average day netted Homer $300.
Homer worked with his camera resting on or near the ground and, by closely watching the animal, snapped spectacular air-borne poses of the animal and often the rider, also! During winter months, Homer did free lance work for National Gypsum Company and eventually became a fulltime electrician and photographer for them. He was associated with National Gypsum for thirty years, retiring in 1960.
His home in Lake City included a dark room, where he developed the pictures he continued to take after his retirement.
Homer remained a bachelor throughout his life. He enjoyed good cigars and appreciated the doctor who approved of his use of whiskey for medicinal purposes.
Life was a happy adventure for Homer, who was neither ahead or behind the times. He wasted few opportunities and once stated that if he had to change his life to live again, he wouldn't change anything.
Homer Venters died October 30, 1975.
-- Chosen Land: Barber County, Kansas, page 465.
Barber County Index, November 6, 1975
Lake City News
By Mrs. Tempel Mills
Friends and neighbors of Homer Venters were grieved when word came of his death Thursday in the Medicine Lodge hospital where he had been a patient two weeks. Homer lived many years in Sun City where he was employed by the National Gypsum Company. When he retired he moved to Lake City. Homer was an accomplished photographer and took pictures at the rodeos over the country and the ranches in Barber County. Many times I took food to Homer and he always brought me a gift when he returned the utensils I sent the food to him. Homer always remembered the Lake City Methodist church and many times he called me to take $50 to the church for a donation. Homer told Tempel and me "that his past life had been wonderful but the future was not bright."
He will be remembered as a good friend and neighbor and a good man.
Barber County Index, November 6, 1975
Sun City News
By Mrs. Glen Hogard
Funeral services were held Saturday afternoon, November 1, at the Forsyth Funeral Home, Medicine Lodge for John Homer Venters, 90, who died Thursday, October 30, at the Medicine Lodge Hospital, following a long illness. He was born April 16, 1885, in Sterling, and had lived in this community since 1929. He was an employee of the National Gypsum Company until his retirement ten years ago. He was also a photographer. Services were conducted by Rev. David Powell. Singer, Betty Ryan was accompanied by Beverly Reitz. Pall bearers were Cecil Ledford, Wayne Cripes, Bob Rose, Jack Smith, Dub Rickard and Harold Kramer. Burial was in the Highland Cemetery at Medicine Lodge.
(Death notices courtesy of Shirley Brier.)
Homer Venters, Vintage Rodeo Photographer.
Magazine pages from Modern Horseman, July 1972.
From the collection of Lee (Massey) Ives.
At left: Homer in the good old days. Of this photograph, he says: "That's when I was known as the 'Woman's Home Companion'."
Homer Venters is 87 years old now, and with his camera he has recorded much of the history of rodeo. A native Kansas, Homer lives in Lake City, near Medicine Lodge. He was born April 16, 1885, in Sterling. He has held other jobs, too - in the telegraph dept of the railroad until 1920, and at National Gypsum Company after that.
The rodeo photography just happened natural-like," Homer says. "I took my first pictures at a rodeo in Greensburg, Kan., in 1911. Used a $4 box camera, and lots of the cowboys and spectators wanted to buy pictures."
So he bought a $210 camera and really "went into rodeo". In 1920 he bought a big Graflex which is still in use and still takes good pictures.
Rodeo wasn't as big then as it is now, Homer recalls, not as many of them and not as many contestants. But when a rodeo did come to town, the whole town celebrated. He has long since lost track of the number of rodeos he photographed, but he well recalls that he worked 12 states back in the old days.
At right: The great rodeo cowgirl Fox Hastings in 1923.
One little sideline he worked up was a colored postcard business. Between rodeos he would package an assortment of views in envelopes. He had 25 views, and printed up to 25,000 of each view. Boy Scouts would go through the rodeo crowds selling them for 25 cents a dozen, and "it was profitable for both of us," he recalls. He frequently made as much as $300 a day. With a chuckle he also remembers that he "wore out three Model T Fords!"
Although he saw lots of action right in the arena with that big Graphlex, he was never badly injured. A bull him him in the Woodward, Okla., arena - but it only hurt him in the billfold. "Cost $65 to get my camera fixed!"
His closest call came in 1943 at Canadian, Texas. "Roy Ross was 'doggin' a steer and they were comin' right at me," Homer remembers. "I could see the horse was crowding the fence, and I couldn't make it over with the big camera and the horse wasn't leaving any room for me - so I snapped the picture and hollered for the 'dogger to keep his legs up. I hit the ground between the horse and the steer and Roy held his legs up until they cleared me and the camera!"
Asked when he quit, Homer said he never did. "I just sort of tapered off. If a good rodeo happened to come by somewheres close next week, I just might mosey over with my camera!"
McLain Ranch, Sun City, Barber County, Kansas.
Caption by Joe Massey. From McLain's Roundup: The Memories of Joe Massey
Photo by Homer Venters, from the collection of Brenda McLain.
At right: Homer Venters, published in the Pratt Tribune, Pratt, Kansas, 1971.
Photo courtesy of Kim Fowles.
- McLain's Roundup. Photos by Homer Venters
Courtesy of his great-nephew, Mike Venters.
- McLain's Roundup: the Memories of Joe Massey Photos by Homer Venters captioned by Joe Massey, from the collection of Brenda McLain, courtesy of Kim Fowles.
- McLain Roundup photos by Homer Venters
From the collection of Brenda McLain, courtesy of Kim Fowles.
- Marion Francis McLain was the founder of the McLain Roundup rodeo in Sun City.
- McLain's Round-Up, Sun City, Kansas, July 8-9-10:
Big Barber Co. Attraction Announces Entry of World Famous Performers.
Barber County Index, June 25, 1938.
- Coldwater Rodeo, October 1923, Comanche County, Kansas, photos by Homer Venters.
- McLain's Annual Roundup, Sun City, Kansas. Photograph by Murphy
Courtesy of Nathan Lee and William Lee.
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