PARRISH -- An honest to God cowgirl.
The kind you read about in books.
That’s how Andy Reasoner and others will remember Faye Blackstone, Parrish resident and National Cowgirl Hall of Famer, who died Tuesday at the age of 96 from complications of cancer.
During her riding days, Mrs. Blackstone traveled all over the world showing off her tricks. She even had one named after her: the Blackstone reverse fender drag. That’s when the rider hangs off the side of the horse with one arm and one leg extended.
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Reasoner knew the professional trick rider his entire life; she even taught him how to ride.
“I remember her telling me I would not be good until I fell off a horse time at least seven times,” he said.
The Nebraska-raised woman moved to Manatee County with her husband, Vick, in 1951. They managed Reasoner’s grandparents’ ranch.
Although she didn’t have children, Mrs. Blackstone made an impact on the lives of Reasoner and other children who grew up around her. She and her husband gave to local childrens charities, and Blackstone Park in Palmetto is named after them.
“As kids, we were a little bit terrified of her. We knew if we did something wrong, Faye would call us out,” Reasoner said, joking that Vick was the preferred person to catch you misbehaving on the ranch.
“Faye wasn’t about short cuts. She was about doing it right the first time. She was tough, in a very fair and caring way.”
Among her achievements Mrs. Blackstone was inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in Texas in 1982; her cowboy husband was in the National Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame.
Mrs. Blackstone focused much of her energy on her passion for animals.
“All the time I’ve been around horses, I’ve never seen anyone like Vick or Faye who could put their hand on a horse and understand them,” Reasoner said.
Mrs. Blackstone even played a role in the career of singer, author and actress Reba McEntire in 1978 by helping to land her first big show at a county fair at the Manatee fairgrounds in Palmetto.
“That was my first big fair by myself,” she said in a previous interview with the Bradenton Herald. “It was huge to me.”
The Blackstone and McEntire families knew each other through the Western riding circuit, where they first met at the Rodeo Historical Society.
“I think she’s an incredible woman,” McEntire said. “Very caring, spunky, feisty, and I just love her to pieces.”
Even with a lifetime of achievements, Mrs. Blackstone rarely, if ever, spoke of them.
“She redefined the word humble,” Reasoner said.
He said Mrs. Blackstone was a true independent woman, “50 or 40 years before it was the thing to do.”
He recalled a time when Mrs. Blackstone hired workers to help with the yard; they didn’t show up on time.
“She just went out and took care of it herself,” Reasoner said. “That’s the kind of woman she was.”