|Plain Dealing racetrack and grandstand, Circa 1910's. Beulah Findley collection, 1997.054.045|
When death claimed Robert Leonard McLeish the Bossier Banner- Progress recalled how he became a famous jockey in its December, 1955 issue.
“When Robert Leonard McLeish answered the call to his last ‘roundup’ on last Monday morning at his Collinsburg home, there passed from the scene of action one of Northwest Louisiana’s most famous jockeys, a daring horseman who won his first spurs when a lad of 12 at the colorful lists or tournaments, held around Plain Dealing in the mid-nineties.”
“While there is no definite evidence at hand to establish the fact, it is probable that at old Collinsburg, Red Land and Plain Dealing, the last days of ‘Knighthood in Flower’ were ushered into final oblivion. Old copies of The Bossier Banner give accounts of some of these tournaments when Mrs. W.E. Swindle, formerly Miss Davis, a relatively near cousin of Jefferson Davis, and daughter of Dr. Davis, Plain Dealing’s first physician, and Mrs. W.F. Bell, formerly Miss Maude Moses of Oxford, Miss., were crowned queens of the royal courts by some gallant knight of that day who, wearing the favor of the ‘fairest’, proved the conquering hero at the lists. At these lists prominently mentioned were Dr. W.F. Bell, Bobbie Doles, N.W. Sintel and Jim Walker, the latter, chairman at various times. Yes, Mrs. Mollie Banks Gray was one of the belles of those famous games.”
“Since our friend, Ardis Manry, is particularly interested in local lore and historic data, it is here suggested that he check on the significance of these games, not of personal combat, but centered about equestrian skill.”
“Reverting to our jockey hero, his role was that of dare devil riding and totally abandoned racing. He, from time to time, would recall the days when riding old ‘Salem’, ‘Lost John’, ‘Superintendent’ and other equally famous mounts, he won innumerable races, first at the lists, later at the parish and state fairs. His last victory was in the mid-thirties when riding ‘Lost John’ he was winner in one of the last parish fairs held in Plain Dealing. He was then over fifty. A winner over a period of forty years is certainly a record seldom, if ever, equaled.”
“Yes, while at the lists or fairs, Leonard McLeish may not have worn ‘my lady’s favor’, nonetheless he thrilled the hearts of thousands of true horsemanship and now, shall we say, figuratively, he has gone to his reunion with ‘Old Salem,’ ‘Lost John’ and ‘Superintendent’.”
“Leonard’s average weight thru life was about 110 pounds.” Robert Leonard McLeish, 69, a Collinsburg community farmer, died Monday, November 28, 1955, at his home.
To find out more and to read Mr. Dale Jennings’ article about the knighthood tournaments in Cottage Grove in the 1880s and 1890s pay a visit to the Bossier Parish Library Historical Center.
By: Ann Middleton, Director