Michael Lee Dawson was born May 7, 1943, to Dixie Lee “Dick” and Jean Dawson. His exact place of birth is questionable, as it could have been Victorville or Cima, Calif., where Dick worked for the railroad; Las Vegas, Nev., where Dawson spent his childhood years; or south of Las Vegas near Clark Mountain and east Mojave Desert, where his dad and Uncle Eb ran cattle on the 264,000-acre 7IL Ranch.
He attended school in Las Vegas, where his childhood friend Marilyn Gubler recalls as “a little red-haired, freckle-faced boy at Bonanza Elementary School who
Dawson’s favorite topic, even in third grade, was rodeo. He was a delightful rascal and definitely not your average kid.”
“Mike was always bringing something home, a baby cottontail or bird,” recalls Pat, Dawson’s younger sister. “When he was about 18 or so, Dawson asked his mom whether he could bring home a pet, and she said OK. Here comes Mike with this gal and tells mom this is the ‘pet.’
“He was a devilish big brother, holding me under water when we went swimming, or hide in the shadows and spook my friends and me when we were out after dark. And he was a big show off.”
As a child and into adulthood, Dawson wrangled and tended cattle, fenced, fixed windmills, shot varmints, shod horses and did all the things cowboys did and had a deep respect and love for that way of life. Another childhood friend Don Triolo, who also attended elementary school and graduated from Las Vegas High School in 1962 with Dawson, reminisced about competing together with all their horse friends at Twin Lakes Tex Gates for gymkhanas and junior rodeos.
“In those days, there was a Jackpot Gymkhana every Saturday night and all of us showed up in droves,” Triolo says. “Those were grand times. The entry fees were 25 cents and that was a fortune to most of us.”
Dawson’s young adult years found him competing in rodeos all over the country. He rode mainly bareback broncs, saddle broncs and even got on bulls. He raced wild burros and had some interesting training techniques. He worked hard and played even harder.
Dawson attended Oklahoma School of Horseshoeing and apprenticed under Bill Brown. He shod horses for countless folks, including Benny Binion, the Lamb’s and the Kaiserosa Ranch. Shoeing many breeds of horses for all kinds of disciplines, Dawson always stepped up to the challenge. Trimming wild horses for the BLM to Lippizans that performed on treadmills of Vegas stage productions, he was always there to lend a hand. Dawson loved to “work in the fire” to create a specialty shoe or a work of art, and he had a passion for writing stories and poems.
He married in1965. He has one son, Ed Dawson, and a granddaughter, Jessie Dawson. Over his 71 years, he made a zillion friends, many whom he took under his wing, taught to shoe, ride broncs, bulls or horses.
Dawson changed the lives of young people by introducing them to horses and a good way of life. He was a founding member of the Southern Nevada Horseshoers Association, which began when a fellow farrier lost a thumb in an accident and could not work. The “$10 Insurance Policy” united the farriers in the area when they paid their dues — $10.00 — and shod horses for other clients and gave the money to the injured man.
Dawson held the presidency for more than 12 years and spearheaded the Southern Nevada Desert Classic Horseshoeing Competition, which grew to 45 contestants in five years. He supported Wednesday Night Forging (practice making shoes), clinics, fundraisers for injured farriers, camp outs and trail rides.
In the early 2000s, Dawson spent time coaching rough stock riders for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, the Professional Armed Forces Rodeo Association and Senior Pro Rodeo riders. He loved to have breakfast at Peg’s Place and the Sunshine Café and coffee was his drink of choice.
The final years of Dawson’s life found him battling throat cancer, which resulted in a tracheotomy and the loss of his voice. He continued writing his stories and poems and dealt with everyday life in a positive way.
He passed away Aug. 4, 2014. More than 200 friends and family came together to celebrate his life on Aug. 30 and Dawson’s ashes spread on Clark’s Mountain. Fellow farriers created a horseshoe cross memorial that was placed at Buzzard’s Roost near Sandy Valley, in honor of him. This was one of his favorite places throughout his life.
Lee Green of The Shoein’ Shop in Yucaipa, Calif., wrote this tribute: “I remember the first time I met him and also the last time I saw him. Mike was a true friend always. He spent his life going out of his way to help anyone who needed it. I believe there are many stories of how he gave of himself and his abilities to help and do things for others. He spent years furthering and promoting our great profession of horseshoeing. When I think of Mike, I remember a man who was an example of a great human being and the kind of person we should all be. Mike and I grew up rodeoing at about the same time. We have had many good times remembering cowboys, horses, times and places. I would like to have met him 50 years ago instead of 30. Many people go through life wondering if they had made a difference. Mike did make a difference and had a great affect on everyone he met.”
This is a poem written and presented at the Memorial Service:
“Mike Dawson” by Richard Schneehagen
Ride cowboy ride into the sunset.
Old cowboy, you slipped away over yonder hill.
The trails you rode are all history now.
The round-ups, cow camp and brandings,
No longer will be blessed with you.
The old campfires are all ashes, the irons are all cold,
And no cows are standing around for the Dawson brand.
But back in the day on Desert Lane when youth was king,
The Little Wranglers was the moniker of the Rodeo Club.
You never shied from a bronc or honky tonk,
And Mike, I know you always rode for the brand.
It’s just a small matter of fact, it was owned by your old man.
Well time has passed and things have changed,
And you have one last trail to ride.
You will be mixing with some mighty fine company,
And if you could do me just one last little favor.
When you get among the old hoots,
Tell them all God Bless and my best to them I send,
And you Mike, I will always remember as my friend.
>> Condolences may be sent to Dawson’s family via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.