The man widely considered to be the grandfather of the region’s neo-cowboy tourist economy has died.
Harold “Hub” Hubbell, 94, died on Saturday while sitting on the back porch of his Sarasota County, Fla., retirement home.
But it’s what Hubbell meant to numerous dude ranches and rodeos in the Lake George region that has the local horse community reflecting.
“I can’t express what he meant to the region,” said Shana Graham, who operates the Painted Pony Rodeo in Lake Luzerne with her husband, Shawn. “He was a superstar.”
Hubbell, a Connecticut-born World War II veteran and noted trick shooter and rope handler, worked with the likes of Roy Rogers, Dale Evans and Gene Autry. He was the rodeo announcer and an accomplished calf roper at Painted Pony in the 1950s and 1960s.
The Adirondack region never had the expansive open plains and grasslands ubiquitous with the 19th century cowboy. Horses in upstate New York in the late 19th century were more likely found skidding logs than herding cattle.
But the rise of the big screen Westerns in the mid-20th century forever rewrote how Americans perceived the cowboy.
And Hubbell, who operated a Western store in Lake Luzerne for decades and performed at shooting and riding exhibitions across the nation, was instrumental in cementing the luster of the pistol-packing Western free-spirit in the Lake George region.
Dave Reynolds of Hudson Falls spent 50 years on the rodeo scene as a calf roper. Reynolds first met Hubbell in 1956 on the national tour and got to know him well during local competitions.
“Hub was like Roy Rogers to us,” Reynolds said. “He always looked the part. You’d never see him in sneakers or a ball cap.”
Hubbell and his late wife of more than 50 years, Eunice, toured the country for decades as the “Shooting Hubbells,” wowing onlookers with their feats of marksmanship.
Hubbell was active in the local rodeo and dude ranch scenes right up to his final few months of life and annually visited the area’s ranches long after his retirement, friends said.
He brought his renowned sportscasting talent as the “voice of rodeo” to the area just last summer, well into his 90s, and was a common visitor to all of Warren County’s ranch resorts.
He announced rodeos last year at the Ridin’ Hy Ranch Resort in Warrensburg and 1000 Acres Ranch Resort in Stony Creek, friends said.
“He was a good promoter for the rodeo business,” Reynolds said. “It’s just another era gone.”
Hubbell even maintained his status as a renowned horse-trainer, teaching ponies and horses to appear to answer mathematical questions and complete other complicated tasks to the amazement of audiences.
He thrilled thousands of young people in the Lake George area for decades with his sheriff badges and trick shooting exhibitions.
But in the end, Hubbell was more than an icon to the people who knew him best.
“We’d all get six- or seven-page letters from him regularly,” Graham said. “He always signed it the same. ‘As ever, old Hubs.’ ”