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Rodeo Oct-2015

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Rodeo Oct-2015

  1. 1. One quality that Americans, and especially Texans, have always touted about their ancestors is toughness. We marvel at the determination and fortitude of the early settlers, and idolize the grit of the old west cowboys. As time has marched forward, people's focus has shifted from the gruff and grizzled John Waynes of the world, to the brilliant and savvy entrepreneurs of the 21st century. The rodeo is one of the last vestiges of true toughness and skill that remains in our modern world. However, the rodeo did not just appear out of thin air, but developed slowly over time into the spectacle we know it as today. EARLY RODEOS AccordingtorodeohistorianandauthorGailHughbanks Woerner, there is no one city or group of individuals that can be credited with the invention of rodeo, although many placesvieforthathonor.CitiessuchasPecos,Texas;Prescott, Arizona; Santa Fe, New Mexico; and Deer Trail, Colorado all claim to be among the first rodeos. Payson, Arizona claims to be “the oldest annual continuous rodeo.” The truth, according to Woerner, is no one was really first. When the Spaniards originally brought horses and cattle to the U.S., the cowboy lifestyle followed. “A cowboy is someone who breaks horses, and that's where bucking horses come from,” explains Woerner. “He also has to rope cattle to doctor or brand them.” Written By: Rebecca Canfield PhotosProvidedBy:FortWorthRodeoandStockShow October 2015 | 9
  2. 2. The word rodeo is actually a derivative of the Spanish verb rodear, which means “to surround or round up.” The vaqueros, or cowboys, would round up the cattle to move them to another location. Eventually,therodeowouldbethetermused to gather cowboys for “cowboy contests” as they were first called. No one knows when or where rodeos originally took place, because according to Woerner, they began happening everywhere simultaneously. Woerner explains that rodeos would spontaneously start at neighborhood events throughout the year, perhaps at a Fourth of July party or a Labor Day celebration. “The ladies all brought fried chicken and the trimmings, and the guys all sat around and talked, visited, or played baseball. Then, somebody challenged somebody else, and pretty soon you had a bronc riding contest.” Naturally, guests would argue over who was better and small wagers were made as to who would win. As early as the 1850s, states with strong ties to Mexican culture, such as Texas and California, held charreadas, contests of ranch and horsemanship skills which originally began in the haciendas of Mexico. The main event was always bull fighting, which originated with the Spanish matador, jaripeo, while bull-riding was one of the secondary events. It was a type of bull-fighting where charros, or cowboy riders, would ride a bull until it died. In 1852, Corpus Christi held Texas's first charreada-style event at Lone Star Fields. The event was a huge hit and word of the contest spread all over the U.S. In later years, cowboys would stop riding the bull when it stopped bucking, which was considered more humane. Today, the ride lasts only eight seconds. And while bull- riding is not exactly a necessary skill for a cowboy, Woerner speculates the origin of the ride was to prove that a cowboy was so tough that he could ride virtually anything. THE CONTEST EVOLVES InotherareasofTexas,differentcowboy events such as the “West of the Pecos Rodeo” were beginning to take place. This rodeo began on July 4, 1883, when cowboys Trav Windham and Morg Livingston, who both had a reputation for roping, decided to forgo a formal match of bronc riding and steer roping. The event ended up with more contestants and offered prizes, eventually becoming a growing, yearly activity. While cities are still arguing over who invented the rodeo today, they do all seem to agree on one thing: the impact that legendary Texas cowboy Bill Pickett had on the rodeo. Pickett, a Taylor native who was the son of a former slave, began cowboying after completing the fifth grade. In 1880, at the age of 10, Pickett began watching how herder dogs could subdue humungous steers by biting their upper lips, and decided to attempt the same technique. Pickett would ride horseback alongside a steer, jump from his horse, and wrestle the steer to the ground. Then he would bite the sensitive nerve between the steer's nose and upper lip, which in turn would startle the steer into submission. LEGENDARY TEXAS COWBOY BILL PICKETT PhotoCourtesyOf:WilliamsonCountyMuseum PhotoCourtesyOf:WilliamsonCountyMuseum LIFESTYLES
  3. 3. Eventually, Pickett made quite a reputation as a “bulldogger,” the term given for his special method. He frequently gave exhibitions as a part of the 101 Ranch Show and was part owner of the Pickett Brother's Bronco Busters and Rough Riders, which specialized in taming wild cattle. Pickett, who was often banned from rodeos because of his race (white, black, and Native American), was believed by many to be the greatest cowboy of all time, although lack of access to rodeo events prevented him from setting any real records. Bulldogging, referred to as steer wrestling today, is still a rodeo event, although contestants subdue the animals differently. Up until the early 1900s, rodeos were sporadic, and the listed events, prizes awarded, and rules varied from town to town. Some cities had bronc riding and steer wrestling, while others had horse racing and roping, and still others had bull-riding competitions. This all changed in 1929 with the formation of the Rodeo Association of America, bringing together rodeo promoters and managers. By then, the rodeo had become more mainstream, and cities like Fort Worth had begun holding rodeos in large, indoor coliseums, adding events for women such as the ladies’ bucking bronco event. RODEO AS WE NOW KNOW IT It was not until 1936 that rodeo developed any uniform structure. The formation of the Cowboy's Turtle Association (CTC) helped cowboys to collect larger purses. They also provided competent judges, set up uniform rules, and enforced safety regulations for both the contestants and the animals. Since then, the CTC has grown and evolved and is now known at the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association (PRCA). From the early 1930s to the mid-1980s, the rodeo scene found inspiration in a rather unlikely place. A prison manager from Huntsville, Texas named Marshall Lee Simmons came up with the idea to hold a prison rodeo in 1931. He believed it would provide a diversion for prisoners as well as recreation for families. He held the first rodeo behind “The Walls” on the prison baseball field. The successful prison rodeo earned a reputation as the wildest cowboy show, growing dramatically each year. It hosted traditional events such as calf roping, bronc riding, and bull riding, but also included bareback basketball, wild cow milking, and the “mad scramble,” an event where 10 Brama bulls would be loosed and the inmates would race them to the other side of the arena. Another popular competition was the “hard money” event, where inmates in red shirts would attempt to remove a sack full of cash from in between a bull's horns. The inmate to successfully do this would be allowed to keep the cash. Within two years, the prison rodeo began charging admission. The funds were used to subsidize a successful education and recreation fund for the city of Huntsville. The rodeo continued prospering until 1986 when the stadium that hosted the rodeo was condemned and shut down. Rodeo today has taken on a life of its own. A far cry from its humble beginnings in the dusty towns of Texas, the big city rodeos such as the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo have all but taken over. Fort Worthnowhostsoneofthelargestrodeosin the U.S. with over 150,000 visitors per day. Today's rodeos operate on a much larger scale, and in addition to larger purses and meaner bulls, they also offer corresponding activities such as large parades, shopping, concerts, carnival rides, children's exhibits, and livestock shows, ensuring that rodeo patrons stay entertained. Although Texas rodeo history began a little rocky, Texans still cherish their cowboy culture today, and will probably be enjoying rodeos for years to come. Look for the second installation of this rodeo series next month as we dig deeper into the world of bull riding. PhotosProvidedBy: FortWorthRodeoandStockShow October 2015 | 11

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