Former NCHA President Lonnie Allsup, 84, of Clovis, New Mexico, passed away January 28 from complications following surgery. Allsup, who was NCHA Non-Pro World Champion in 1996 with his great mare Little Badger Dulce, was inducted into the NCHA Non-Pro Hall of Fame in 2001.
Lonnie Allsup was born in Morton, Texas, about 50 miles west of Lubbock, in 1933. He was active in sports in high school, where he met his future wife, Barbara, a majorette in the school’s band.
He joined the Air Force in 1952 and worked as a radar instructor in Japan and the Far East, as well as in the States. Thirty days before completing his service †in 1956, he signed a contract to buy one of the two convenience stores in Roswell, New Mexico. He and Barbara started working in Lonnie’s Drive-In three days after his discharge. Along with the usual goods, that first store even sold watermelons from a horse trough in the parking lot.
He grew his enterprise to include a dozen stores in Roswell, Ruidoso and Alamagordo, New Mexico, before selling them to Southland Corporation, which operates the 7-Eleven chain. But within a year, he built a new store in Clovis, and he was back in business. Today, the Allsup’s chain has more than 300 stores in 160 towns and cities. One of the company’s innovations in the 1960s was to introduce self-serve gasoline to the region.
He also owned ranches, several radio stations, and was active in community life.
Allsup’s father had been a horse and mule trader, a mechanic and a blacksmith before eventually becoming a Chevrolet dealer.
“He really taught me to work,” Allsup recalled, “but he had me handling greasy parts, so I told him, ‘I’m going to get a cleaner job.’ He said, ‘As long as you work, I don’t care.’
“My father loved cutting horses, and I knew what they were back in the late ’40s or early ’50s,” Lonnie told me in 1995. “He used to show a little bit around the rodeo cutting shows, and I had ridden some just to practice on his farm.
“When I got my ranches and needed horses to work cattle with, I remembered those better bred horses. Back in those days, he had King-bred horses and some Leo blood. They’d just started using the Three Bars blood, and he crossed some King and Three Bars, but Doc Bar had not shown up at that time.”
In the 1980s, the Allsups had an AQHA World Champion Cow Horse named Tasmanian Tari, along with some reiners and roping horses.
“But I liked cutting a lot better,” Allsup said, “and besides, I could participate, so I started showing them in the early ’80s.”
He credited Gary Ray with getting him started in cutting. Hall of Fame Riders Ascension Banuelos and John Tolbert trained for him in the early days, and then he hooked up with Pete Branch in a relationship that has spanned three decades.
Allsup took over hosting the Adrian Berryhill Futurity and as the El Cid Futurity, on the Texas-New Mexico border, it became a featured event on the limited age circuit. He drummed up local support, and called on his business associates to pitch in.
“We feel that the more you can get the town involved with your cutting, the better off both you and the town are,” he said. “It’s been estimated that each year we put about $1 million worth of direct funds through the El Cid into the community in the 10 days people are there.”
The straight-shooting Allsup was elected President of NCHA for its 50th anniversary year. “I don’t know how to politic,” he said. “My only motive is to help NCHA. I’ll do everything I can and use my business expertise and all of my energies to try to help NCHA do a better job and serve the membership.
“This (the presidency) doesn’t pay very good!”
Lonnie and Barbara Allsup owned many great horses over the years. Little Badger Dulce ($657,276), shown by Pete Branch, was NCHA’s first Horse of the Year, and she carried Lonnie to the 1996 NCHA Non-Pro World Championship. She is also the granddam of Kit Kat Sugar, the Allsups’ 2012 Horse of the Year, also shown by Branch.
Branch also showed their mare Ms Peppy Cat to two Open World Championships. Robert Rust showed Glo Little Lena to a World Championship for them.
The Allsup breeding program produced many other stars including Reyann Hickory ($313,000), Rey Jay Play ($215,000), Mississippi Cat ($207,000) and million-dollar sire Dulces Smart Lena, out of Little Badger Dulce.
Details are pending for a public memorial service for Lonnie Allsup.