Dean Calkins was one of the last true American cowboys of the Old West. Born in Kansas he helped his dad drive horse-drawn combines (5 abreast) during harvest season before the family eventually moved to Oregon. At the age of 17, Dean joined the Navy in 1952 during the Korean War where he served on a Landing Ship, Tank. He received the National Defense Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, and the Korean Service Medal (2 stars). He was honorably discharged in 1955.
After coming home, he earned his livelihood riding bulls, bare-back broncs, and saddle broncs on the rodeo circuit and was a lifetime member of the Pro Rodeo Cowboys’ Association. He drove truck to make ends meet and would often stop at farms and ranches along the way to do some trading. He was able to accumulate many wagons, harnesses, and wagon wheels that farmers were no longer using.
After more than a few broken bones from riding broncs, Dean turned to coordinating and performing in Wild West shows. He would supply horses, crews, wagons, and some hair-raising stunts to the delight of many.
In 1985 he bought a ranch out by Lake Lahontan and built up a western town known as the C Bar D Film Ranch. It was the location of documentaries, commercials, and a booming wagon train business. Dean became nationally known as an expert wagonmaster, horse trainer (training horses to harness), and owner and driver of one of the last authentic 20-horse hitches using a jerk line and voice commands.
After working on some stage productions he made his way into the film industry. Some of the more well-known movie sets he worked on included: The Shootist with John Wayne, Honkytonk Man with Clint Eastwood, and Bonanza The Next Generation with Michael Landon, Jr. All totaled Dean was in over 60 films, documentaries, commercials, and stage shows. He was also a regular in the Reno Rodeo Parade and the Nevada Days Parade in Carson City.
Dean was most noted for his wagon train business, where people from all over the world would come to experience the Old West. Some of Dean’s other accomplishments included: getting his pilot’s license and eventually his own airplane; becoming a lifetime member of the Screen Actors Guild; and teaching himself how to play the guitar and keyboard.
Dean Calkins was a man who accomplished much with what little he had. He was respected by many and deeply loved by his family. He is survived by his three daughters, Patty Kay Lim, Gail Sederquist, and Christa Budinoff; his long-time partner, Beverly Countryman; his brother, Vernon Calkins, seven grandchildren, and ten great-grandchildren.
Graveside services with military honors will be held on Friday, Feb. 3rd at 11:00 am at the Northern Nevada Veterans Cemetery in Fernley, NV under the direction of Smith Family Funeral Home (775) 423-2255.
Wonderful outline of accomplishments. Interesting life. Well written.
I was Dean's neighbor up in Fallon behind Lahontan lake.
I knew him when I was a teenager. I was invited to play guitar on one of his wagons as we rode around Fallon during the 4th of July parade. Dean was a quiet man and the words that he seldom spoke were poetic, thoughtful, and worth of taking note.
I'm sorry to hear about his passing.
Love to Beverly and the dogs.