BEHIND THE CHUTES AND ELSEWHERE

COWBOYS, TODAY AND YESTERDAY, HERE AND ELSEWHERE       

When rodeo burst forth in the late 1800s and early 1900s the cowboy had a new opportunity that was previously unavailable to him. He could still use his skills as a cowboy, and travel the countryside, meet new and different people where ever he went, and learn new and different things, plus hopefully win a few bucks. How many life stories I have heard where an early day cowboy competed in his first rodeo, won some money that often equaled a full months pay he had been making on a ranch. The thrill that cowboy must have felt, and to know he could increase his earnings, must have given him great joy. Realistically, in those days there weren’t that many rodeos, and the competition was keen. Eking out a living wasn’t easy. But it was an option to ranch-life, which some cowboys preferred.

Today, over one hundred years later, cowboys truly have the choice. Ranch or rodeo, and some even do both. The calendar is filled with rodeos and competitions, not just in the west but across this great nation. The money to be won has increased greatly and not only the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, but the Professional Bull Riders and the United States Team Roping Championship, and many other groups too numerous to name, are doing a great job. Every year the World Champions, and top competitors of the previous year, attempt to repeat their successes. Will it happen or will a new name be up on the marquees? 

Justin McBride, just won the PBR Finals, amid the top competitors riding bulls. From my viewing position I saw bull riders with chipped vertebrae, collapsed lungs, broken bones, and who knows what other unknown injuries those men were nursing. McBride drew the same bull, named Camo, for the final go-round, that he had drawn in 2005, when he won the World Championship by hanging off the side of the savagely bucking bovine. This year he looked like he rode him with ease. I guess practice makes perfect. Congratulations, Justin, and as he said about his win, “I am one rich cowboy!”

Meanwhile the competitors and rodeo personnel from the past, the Rodeo Cowboys Alumni group, met in Bandera, Texas, the 13th of October. A small group attended but the afternoon was lively while great visiting went on and reminiscing about “remember when ole so-and-so rode that bad horse of Beutlers for the first time?” or “Toots had the best time of the year when he roped that calf at Cheyenne,” and so much more. Ferrell Butler, who the oldtimers call “Flashbulb”, because of his years in the rodeo arena taking great action photo shots, brought a DVD player and I had the privilege of sitting and watching his latest DVD called, Legends of Rodeo, with Kajun Kidd, retired rodeo clown, and Tom Hadley, retired rodeo announcer, and hearing their comments as we saw 854 photos of various ‘legends’ in rodeo ride and rope. There is nothing that thrills me more than to hear what those rodeo cowboys have to say about their days going ‘down the road’, and about those they knew in the sport. This DVD prompted many stories from these two gents. 

If you are interested in buying one of Ferrell Butler’s DVDs, Legends of Rodeo, send him $23.00, this includes shipping, and he’ll get it right back to you. It is two hours of photos, 854 photos, from 1960 to 1974 era, with the name of the competitor on each photo, accompanied by music. Mailing address: Ferrell Butler, P O Box 2188, Red Oak, TX 75154. 

The Rodeo Historical Society annual Hall of Fame Induction Weekend was the 20th and 21st of October and the place really ‘rocked’. Congratulations to those who were inducted (and you can find their history on the website: cowboymuseum.org. Some of the people I visited with there were 90 year young Cecil Jones, who was the ramrod of the Rowell Ranch Rodeo, after the death of Harry Rowell for many years; Buff and Janie Douthitt, of Santa Fe; Donna and Clem McSpadden (Donna is the outgoing President of RHS and the weekend would not be complete without Clem’s wonderful introductions of all the inductees); Dr. Billy Bergin, author of two volumes of history of the Parker Ranch in Hawaii, and ramrod of a celebration to be held in Hawaii next August to celebrate the 100th year anniversary of Ikua Purdy, a paniola (cowboy) from Hawaii, who went to Cheyenne Frontier Days (1908) and won the steer roping. It should be a great celebration. I will give more details of the Hawaii event next year. Wilbur Plaugher gave a presentation to the public on Saturday afternoon entitled “My Life in Rodeo”, and Trick Riders Mitzi Lucas Riley and Garlene Tindall Parris were featured as “Rodeo Rascals and accompanied by music from the Cowtown Opty. If you are not a member of the Rodeo Historical Society and are interested in the history of the sport and would like to be a voting member as to who is inducted in to this great Rodeo Hall of Fame join today. You’ll find it very rewarding.

I recently returned from a ten day trip to Argentina. My second trip in less than a year. The country has much beauty and my husband enjoys shooting doves there. We also enjoy Buenos Aires, one of the most impressive cities we have ever been to. I am always interested in the counterparts to the cowboy in other countries, and in Argentina it is the gaucho. Last year I rode with two gauchos across a very fertile area of the country called Otre Rios. This trip I rode a polo pony at an estancia (large ranch) that has been converted to a hostel for tourists. I read in a book called, “The Gaucho” by Monica Gloria Hoss de la Comte, published in 2003, “The Gaucho was a nomadic horseman of the Pampas. Of mixed ancestry, he led a free and independent life and has been looked at in fascination by all those who met him. All travelers agree that he was the embodiment of freedom“ The author also quotes T. W. Hincherff who wrote about gauchos in the book, South American Recollections, published in 1868, and said, “They abhor discipline and are distinguished by a naughty and independent dignity.” Sounds a lot like the American cowboy, if you ask me. 

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