Animal trainer Micky Bohannon dies at 68
BY TIM STANLEY World Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
4/18/12 at 2:53 AM
JENNINGS - He had taught dogs to parachute from ladders and a buffalo to seesaw.
But for animal trainer Micky Bohannon, his most gratifying job might've been just getting a horse to lie down.
A deceptively simple trick, it was key to preparing the animal for a special client of his - a girl who had been paralyzed in a horse-riding accident.
Training the horse to lie down so that the girl, who had dreamed of riding again, could climb on from her wheelchair "was difficult," Bohannon once told the Tulsa World. "But it was very rewarding. The glow on her face meant more to me than anything I've ever done in training."
Considering how many of his trainees had ended up in the glow of the spotlight, which he often shared with them, that was saying a lot.
A former rodeo clown-turned circus performer who once toured with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Bohannon worked with all manner of the wild and exotic - lions, tigers, rhinoceroses, bears, monkeys and more - many of them at his own arena in Jennings.
Mitchel H. "Micky" Bohannon died April 13. He was 68. A memorial service is set for 10 a.m. Saturday at the First Baptist Church in Cleveland, Okla., under the direction of Chapman-Black Funeral Home of Cleveland.
Bohannon's indoor training arena became an irresistible draw for Jennings residents, who liked to bring along their out-of-town guests.
Often as not, though, the show would come looking for them.
Whether it was washing an elephant at the car wash, or riding a camel to the local café and leaving it hitched outside, Bohannon left his neighbors with plenty of stories to tell.
A native of Maury City, Tenn., where he grew up on a farm, Bohannon trained his first animal at age 5 - a baby fox that he taught to do tricks.
In his teens, he moved to Oklahoma to live with his great-uncle, an animal trainer and rodeo clown who became his mentor.
Training horses and other animals for rodeo, Bohannon later developed a touring rodeo clown act with his son.
Expanding into exotic animals, Bohannon first made contact with Ringling Bros. in the 1980s when he sold the circus a trained buffalo. Later, the circus hired him full time because of his experience working with zebras.
He trained and performed in acts with zebras, camels, horses and the buffalo.
The big-top life became a family affair: Bohannon's wife, Sandy Bohannon, joined him, along with their son and daughter, assisting with performances and riding animals.
They traveled the country and did dozens of shows at New York's Madison Square Garden.
After being seriously injured in 1988 while working with a rhino, Bohannon retired from the circus, and, reluctantly, from training animals.
"He had lost some quickness, and he was smart enough to know he shouldn't do it anymore," Sandy Bohannon said.
But he stayed in close touch with some of the people he had met. In addition to the paralyzed girl, he also worked with a quadriplegic veteran, training a horse for him.
To better understand their specific needs, Bohannon had worked from a wheelchair himself as he trained their horses.
Bohannon, who served on the board of a therapeutic riding program at St. Gregory's University in Shawnee, felt good about the people he helped.
"They had as much influence on him as he did on them," his wife said.
Survivors include his wife of 46 years, Sandy Bohannon; one son, Chris Bohannon; two daughters, Donna Fox and Deanna Norton; a brother, Earl Bohannon; five grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.
Original Print Headline: Animal trainer had a knack with people, too
Tim Stanley 918-581-8385
Micky Bohannon of Jennings, a professional animal trainer who once traveled and performed with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, converses with his horse, Flash, in this 1983 photo. Tulsa World file