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Rodeo

Alvord

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Fred Alvord, II, Collection
Creator: Fred Alvord, II
Dates: 1920s
Quantity: 1 inch
Accession: 1989.27

Abstract

Fred Alvord was once rodeo secretary, director, and champion cowboy. This collection from his son includes several photographs and postcards featuring well-known rodeo personalities.

Biography

There is next to nothing mentioned in the rodeo books and articles about Fred Alvord. Some books mention him as a rodeo secretary or arena director in the production of several rodeos. One mentions that he was also a champion cowboy, and was married to Ruth Roach for a time.

Ashby

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Mrs. Grant E. Ashby Rodeo Collection
Creator: Mrs. Grant E. Ashby
Dates: 1924-1983
Quantity: 1 foot 3 inches
Accession: 2001.048

 

Abstract

Personal letters to Mrs. Grant E. Ashby written by Marie Gibson, Dorothy Hunt, Lorena Trickey, and Vera McGinnis from 1924 to 1983 are the greatest part of the collection. In addition to personal letters, the collection includes 36 photographs, published materials, and clippings related to the 1924 and the 1934 London rodeo. Organized by Charles Cochran, and managed by Tex Austin, the June 14 – July 5, 1924 London rodeo of Wembley, was the First International Rodeo. The National Sporting Club Ltd., under the direction of Tex Austin, presented the 1934 London rodeo held at White City, London, June 9 – July 6, 1934.

Biography

Mrs. Grant E. Ashby , also known as Freda Ashby, resided within the district of Friern Park, London, England. She attended the 1924 and 1934 London rodeos and developed personal relationships with many rodeo women, maintaining friendships through correspondence. Although a rodeo fan, there is limited information regarding Mrs. Ashby’s life. Personal letters from Vera McGinnis refer to Mrs. Ashby’s work with a hospital and references within the collection refer to the British Charities Association and The Hospital Charities of Great Britain. Letters written by Marie Gibson and Vera McGinnis refer to Mrs. Ashby’s love of music,and art. Unfortunately, no other information is known about Mrs. Ashby.

A major portion of the collection contains 56 years of letters from Vera McGinnis to Mrs. Grant E. Ashby. Since Vera McGinnis is a prominent figure within the collection, a biographical reference has been added.

Born in Missouri, November 12, 1892, Vera McGinnis became America’s premier rodeo champion. Her riding life started on a burro at the age three, after the family moved to Clayton, New Mexico. What began at age three developed into a lifetime passion for rodeo and racing. Nicknamed “Mac” by her rodeo friends, Vera won her first race in 1913 and developed the reputation as a superior jockey. Competing against male jockeys on the 1916 Colorado racing circuit, she led the way for future woman jockeys. In 1924 she traveled with Tex Austin to London for the First International Rodeo, won two championships, and introduced a new women’s style of dress, long pants. At the conclusion of the rodeo, she traveled throughout Europe and Asia exhibiting her unique talent for trick riding and racing. In 1926, she became the first woman to win all four days of the Pendleton rodeo and established herself as the foremost woman rodeo champion. Unfortunately, in 1934 her rodeo career ended prematurely when she sustained a tragic racing accident. She incurred a collapsed lung, three broken ribs, a broken hip, a broken neck bone, and broken back in 5 places when a horse named China Rose somersaulted on top of her. Suffering a near fatal accident, the doctors thought she would never walk again. Surprising everyone, Vera left the hospital on her feet in six weeks. Although unable to ride on the rodeo circuit, she returned to her “Farraway” ranch with her husband of three years, Homer Farra. Devoted to her ranch, and husband, she lived a quiet life attending to her horses, family and friends. Vera died in 1990, but not before she was inducted into The Cowgirl Hall of Fame and this museum’s Rodeo Hall of Fame.

Bell

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Don Bell Collection
Creator: Don Bell
Dates: 1910-1999
Quantity: 8 inches
Accession: 2001.032; 2001.033; 2001.066; 2002.151

Abstract

The Don Bell Collection approaches the lives and events of rodeo from the perspective of a collector, admirer, and desiring historian. Toward the end of his life he frequently wrote brief anecdotes and memoirs of his rodeo experiences, friend, and his own ideas about the rodeo sport and history. He collected photographs, poetry books, and memoirs from other rodeo performers, often sending them to the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum’s liaison with the Rodeo Historical Society, Judy Dearing.

Biography

Born on June 12, 1911, Don had a love of horses and the open range and everything he did in life had him close to both. He grew up in Eastern Colorado and worked with livestock his entire life. He entered his first rodeo at the age of 12 and spent 17 years as a rodeo contestant. He worked as a farrier, big game guide, packer, and range cowboy. A showman at heart, he was a part of the Clyde Miller Wild West Show, the Bill King Rodeo Co., and Rufus Rollins’ Wild West Show. He worked on movie sets and had small parts in the Western movies Shane and Indian Love Call. He contested in rough stock events through 1942 competing in venues like Soldiers Field in Chicago and the Boston Gardens.

In 1943, he served in World War II until being honorably discharged in1945. He served in the 29th Infantry Division, one of the first units to land on Omaha Beach during the invasion of Normandy. Despite the tremendous losses his infantry experienced, Don survived and became a decorated soldier earning two purple hearts and four bronze stars for his wartime bravery. Don would wear one of the bullets that struck him for the remainder of his life.

It may have been Don’s encounter with WWII war correspondent Ernie Pyle that led him on a path to writing following the war. The famed correspondent told Don, “Anyone that can tell stories like you should be a writer.” The rider turned writer began “henpecking” on a Smith-Corona typewriter much like the one Pyle left behind in the foxhole he and Don fled from while under attack from artillery shells. Like rescuing an old friend, Don retrieved the black Smith-Corona typewriter from the foxhole and had it shipped back home. Years later he would donate it to the Albuquerque, NM, Museum -where Pyle retired and where it still remains on display today.

In his retirement, Don’s love of writing never faded. He continued to write about his life and times while dutifully serving as a rodeo historian for the Rodeo Historical Society and the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. He succeeded at inducting eight cowgirls and four cowboys into the Hall of Fame. He is an original Gold card-holding Cowboy Turtle Association member, the first professional rodeo association and an honorary life card holder of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.

As Don said, he has “fooled around with an old typewriter juggling words.” In fact, his writing career spanned 30 years and he was still being published at age 93. His articles have appeared over the years in Western Horseman, Guideposts Magazine, The Ketchpen (the official publication of the Rodeo Historical Society), True West, and Good ‘Ol Days. At age 78 he published a book of poetry “Reflections of A Cowboy.” Some of Don’s most treasured and weathered belongings like his saddle, lariat, boots, and hat are at rest at the Smithsonian Institute’s American History Museum in Washington, D.C. In 2000, these artifacts, on loan from the Smithsonian, as well as a life-sized image of Don went on display at the Origins All Sports Museum located at The Ballpark in Arlington, Texas.

In February 2005, Don’s longtime friends at Guideposts Magazine reprinted one of his first stories originally published in 1976 titled, “The Lonely Trail.” In addition to his public achievements, it was his never-ending love of life and positive attitude Don shared with so many that he will be most remembered. Despite his battle with cancer, Don lived for every moment and told stories from his hospital bed to everyone who visited him. As he reminded the Guidepost readers in February, “I’ll ride this storm until it takes me home.” He died on April 21, 2005.

Don Bell was a Special Award Recipient of the Rodeo Historical Society in 2002, but due to ill health, he did not attend. Don’s daughter, Vicki Bell Abbott accepted the award for him. Abbott told that her dad put a sheep wagon in his front yard, and had the telephone company hook up a telephone in the wagon. This was his office and where he did his writing for many years.

Source: Powell Tribune, Obituary, April 21, 2005.

Blakely

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Reba Perry Blakely

Reba Perry Blakely Papers
Creator: Reba Perry Blakely
Dates: 1903-1997
Quantity: 15 inches
Accession:

Abstract

Papers and photographs of rodeo performer and researcher Reba Perry Blakely, which include extensive correspondence with the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and fragmentary correspondence with several rodeo personalities, subject files connected with various writing and research projects, some of Perry’s articles in manuscript and printed form, and over 60 photographic images, mostly copy prints associated with her writing projects. Some correspondence connected with her research and writing activities and very sparse and fragmentary financial records are also included in this small collection.

Biography

Rodeo performer and writer Reba Perry Blakely was born on April 3, 1908 near Puyallup, Washington. Her father was a rancher and former railroad surveyor who married late in life, and her mother grew up around horses in Minnesota. Reba was the last of nine children. Her mother had typhoid fever while she was pregnant with Reba and, probably as a result of her mother’s illness, Reba had to wear leg braces during her first 13 years. She took to horses early and by age nine was delivering more than 200 daily and Sunday newspapers on horseback. The Perry ranch overlooked the Puyallup Fairgrounds and the rodeo performances she witnessed there, especially the horse riding of the Drumheller family of Walla Walla, Washington, inspired her dreams. By 1926 Reba Perry had become a rodeo performer.

Perry sought out specialists to teach her what she needed to know to be successful in rodeo. Vera McGinnis taught her trick riding, Gordon Jones taught her trick roping, and Ollie Osborn taught her relay racing. Between 1928 and 1935 Reba Perry relay raced against the best and had her share of success. She also trick roped and trick rode with her horse Buddy. By 1936 she was out of rodeo, although she did make a brief comeback between 1940 and 1943. She settled in California and started writing, primarily about horse subjects.

Perry began a relationship with the Yuba/Sutter 13th District Agricultural Fair in Yuba City, California and was a fair and horse show manager at the facility off-and-on between 1942 and 1954. During World War II she took a 5-year lease on the Yuba City Fairgrounds to start a horse boarding business, but the facility reverted to the city after World War II and she ended up losing money on the venture. Also during World War II, she was married to William E. Blakely, a sheep rancher from Redmond, Oregon. The marriage ended, but it is not clear how or when.

Over the years Reba Perry Blakely worked at a variety of occupations including postal and government employee, grant funded researcher, practical nurse, and writer. In 1979, she was inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame primarily for her rodeo writing and research, but also for her rodeo career. In 1985, she was awarded a historian/journalist award by the Rodeo Historical Society. As the 1980s and 1990s wore on, she continued to write, but failing eyesight and mental acuity began to take their toll. She died in a nursing facility in Alturas, California on September 13, 2002.

Burson

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Polly Burson Scrapbook
Creator: Polly Burson
Dates: 1939-1998
Quantity: 5 inches
Accession: 2010.015

Abstract

The scrapbook contains many photographs and newspaper clippings spanning Burson’s career as a trick rider and Hollywood stunt woman.

Biography

Known for being a trick rider and stunt double, Polly Drayer Mills Burson was born Pauline Shelton on December 24, 1919, in Ontario, Oregon, to parents who were rodeo riders. She grew up in Oxnard, California, was married and divorced twice, and had no children.

Burson spent the majority of her life working in rodeos and films. She made all her own trick riding outfits and traveled the world performing with different rodeo groups. She eased into the Hollywood business in her late twenties, and acted as a double for actresses such as Yvonne DeCarlo, Joan Leslie, and Betty Hutton. She also is credited as being a double in True Grit (1969).

Polly Burson was the first recipient of the Tad Lucas Memorial Award of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in 1990. She was inducted into the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, Texas, in November 2002. Polly died in 2006.

Dearing

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Judy Dearing Collection of Harley Tucker Photographs
Creator: Judy Dearing
Dates: n.d.
Quantity: 1 inch
Accession #: ROD.97

Abstract

This collection features two photographs of livestock contractor and rodeo producer Harley Tucker.

Biography

Harley Tucker (1908-1960) was a livestock contractor and rodeo producer for most of his life. He owned an operated the Harley Tucker Rodeo Company and provided rodeo livestock to events across the Pacific Northwest including helping to start collegiate rodeos in the area. He also provided animals to major rodeos like the National Finals Rodeo and the Pendleton Round-Up. Tucker was inducted in the Rodeo Historical Society’s Rodeo Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in 1997.

Doubleday

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Ralph R. Doubleday Rodeo Photographs
Creator: Ralph R. Doubleday
Dates: c1910-1955
Quantity: 12 feet 6 inches
Accession: 1979.026

Abstract

This collection contains 4,003 photographs taken by rodeo photographer Ralph R. Doubleday.

Biography

Ralph Russell Doubleday was a prominent rodeo photographer from 1910-1952. He was born on July 4, 1881, in Jackson County, Iowa, and after his family moved to Sycamore, Illinois, in 1900, he became interested in photographing local events. In August 1910, he traveled to the Cheyenne Frontier Days in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and photographed his first rodeo. He captured Gus Nylen being thrown from bucking horse “Teddy Roosevelt,” and that image is considered to be the first shot of a man being thrown from a horse at a rodeo. Due to the success of selling prints and postcards of his photographs, Doubleday decided to make a career from rodeo photography. He shot his last event in 1952, and died on June 30, 1958.

In recognition of Doubleday’s photographic accomplishments and his promotional and documentary activities with regard to the sport of rodeo, the Rodeo Historical Society inducted him into the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum’s Rodeo Hall of Fame in 1988.

Elliott

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Verne Elliott Collection,
1 folder
Location: 0164; 685
Accession #: R.271

Introduction

The Verne Elliott Collection presents a photo album containing photographs of rodeo performers, possibly featuring McCarty-Elliott Company livestock.

Biography

Verne Elliott was born on the family’s homestead ranch in Platteville, Colorado, on July 4, 1890. Elliott’s grandfather left Kentucky in 1852 on his way to California but ended up settling down and building his homestead in Colorado. Elliott’s father, Jackson, was a cattleman, cowboy, and at one time sheriff of Weld County. Verne went to grade school in Greeley and Manual High School in Denver, but at 16 decided to withdraw from school and pursue the cowboy and rodeo business. His father didn’t argue, but said “he had better be good at it.”

Elliott roped and rode in the roughstock events in rodeo arenas before he became a contractor. His first rodeo was the 1907 Cheyenne Frontier Days in Wyoming. He was forced to retire from participating in rodeo events due to an injury in 1910.

He still wanted to be involved in rodeo events and culture, so he turned to the livestock contracting business. Elliott partnered with Ed McCarty of Chugwater, Wyoming, just after World War I in 1918, and they produced the first indoor rodeo in Texas, in 1917. Elliott built bucking chutes at this Fort Worth rodeo, when previously broncs were either snubbed or held in the arena until the rider climbed aboard.

The famous saddle broncs Midnight and Five Minutes to Midnight were owned by the McCarty-Elliott Company, and both broncs are interred on the Plaza Gardens at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. In an open letter printed in Rodeo Sports News, Casey Tibbs remembers “I know that Midnight and Five Minutes to Midnight were great horses and you loved them so much that you nearly choked up every time you talked about them.”

The McCarty-Elliott Company also produced the first Denver National Western Rodeo in 1931, a contract maintained by Elliott even after McCarty died in 1946. Elliott also produced the Cheyenne Frontier Days, the Pendleton Round-Up, and the Calgary Stampede in Alberta, Canada. The company took a rodeo to New York in 1922 and to London in 1924 and 1934.

In 1936, Elliott was initiated into the Navajo Indian Tribe of Arizona with the name “Acalthe Binantai” which translates in English “Mr. Head Cowboy.”

In 1954 the Rodeo Cowboys’ Association presented Elliott with a plaque at the Denver National Western Rodeo, “In recognition of his many years if producing fine rodeos, his success over the years in helping to raise the standard of Rodeo as an American competitive sport, and his generosity in helping the cowboys.”

In 1962, Verne Elliott at the age of 71 died from a heart attack while working in the pasture of his St. Vrain Ranch near the same town he was born, Platteville, Colorado. The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum inducted Verne Elliott into the Rodeo Hall of Fame in 1973, for being a rodeo producer and livestock contractor.

Sources:
“Verne Elliott, Stock Contractor.” ProRodeo Sports News, April 18, 1990. No. 7.

“Verne Elliott Given Hall of Fame Honors.” Rodeo Sports News, January 1973. Vol. 21, No. 4.

Tibbs, Casey. “The Quantity and Quality of Today’s Bucking Horses Good As Those of ‘Old Days.’” Rodeo Sports News, 1957. Vol. 5, No. 13.

See Also: Verne Elliott file in Rodeo Honorees Vertical Files. The file includes correspondence, articles, and photocopied pictures.

Gilbert

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Estelle Gilbert Papers, 1923-2003
0.6 cubic feet (1 document box, 1 oversized folder)
Location: 0174; Flat File 2/Drawer 1
Collection #: 064
Accession #: 1993.009, 2004.104

Introduction

Papers and photographs of Estelle Gilbert, a horsewoman, rodeo performer, and longtime friend of Rodeo Hall of Fame steer wrestler Mike Hastings. The collection features more than 40 letters written to Gilbert by Hastings over a period of 18 years and almost 20 photographs of New York rodeos and rodeo performers in the late 1940s and early 1950s. A Mike and Fox Hastings scrapbook covering 1925-1927, photographs of early rodeo performers including a Mabel Strickland photograph inscribed to Fox Hastings, and a reminiscence of Fox Hastings by Reba Perry Blakely are also included.

Biography

Estelle Gilbert was born December 8, 1912 in Ansonia, Connecticut, but moved to Great Neck, Long Island when she was four years old. As a child she learned to ride horses and always had a great love for animals. After graduating from high school, she moved to New York City where she took a position as a secretary for an insurance company. In 1939, Gilbert bought a horse, which she boarded at Cimarron Ranch, a dude ranch near Peekskill, New York. She enjoyed life at the dude ranch, and in 1940 accepted an office position at the ranch, which allowed her to spend more time riding. Work as a trail ride escort and riding instructor soon followed. She became acquainted with Mike Hastings, a former rodeo performer who was foreman of the ranch.

She also worked for a time at Gene Autry’s Flying A Ranch near Ardmore, Oklahoma, a job she got through Hastings who had worked as a stock contractor for Autry. Under the tutelage of Hastings, she was able to expand her riding abilities to include barrel racing and trick riding, and she was eventually able to rodeo competitively in these events in the late 1940s and early 1950s. During this period she became a dude ranch commuter, spending summers at the Cimarron Ranch in New York and winters at the Desert Willow Ranch near Tucson, Arizona.

In the late 1950s, when she was too old to rodeo and commute, she settled down near the Cimarron Ranch on her own “two-horse ranch.” She was friend and companion to Mike Hastings until his death in 1965. She continued to live in the Peekskill, New York area, most often working as a waitress, until 1979, when she moved to California. She eventually settled in Yucaipa, where she became active in civic affairs, including the local animal shelter. She died at the age of 90 on August 17, 2003.

Mike Hastings, who is a primary focus of the collection, was born Paul Raymond (Mike) Hastings in Cheyenne, Wyoming on October 23, 1891. At 11, he ran away from home and found work breaking wild horses. He entered his first rodeo in 1910 at Laramie, Wyoming. He was an old school rodeo performer who was willing to take a crack at just about any rodeo event, but steer wrestling was his claim to fame. It is said that African American rodeo cowboy Bill Pickett, who introduced the bulldogging or steer wrestling event to rodeo, taught Mike his technique, which included biting the lower lip of the steer after throwing it to keep it down. He was also the owner of Stranger, one of the greatest bulldogging horses ever.

In 1917, when the late Duke of Windsor (then Prince of Wales) was a boy, he and the Royal Family attended a rodeo performance at Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in which Hastings was participating. During a backstage visit, Mike put the young Prince on a horse and led him around the corrals. In 1924, when Mike was participating in the first international rodeo in London, the Prince presented Hastings with a thoroughbred horse in appreciation of the thrill he had had riding a real American cowboy horse.

Mike Hastings was married to Eloise Fox Hastings, who ran away from convent school at 16 to join a Wild West show. After she met up with Hastings, he taught her to ride and rodeo, and in 1924 she became the first woman steer wrestler. Later they were divorced.

Between 1928 and 1936 Hastings was the stock boss for rodeo impresario Colonel W. T. Johnson. In 1939, after he returned from working rodeo in South America, he took a ride up to the Cimarron Ranch dude ranch near Peekskill, New York; he fell in love with the place and was at Cimarron until the end of his life in 1965. He was responsible for the ranch livestock and staged weekend rodeo performances for the guests.

His only two extended absences from Cimarron were at the request of Gene Autry. In 1941 he purchased the stock that served as the nucleus of Autry’s new Flying A Ranch Rodeo, and in 1942 Autry brought Hastings out to help on his ranch near Ardmore, Oklahoma, which he did until Autry entered the United States Air Force in 1943.

In addition to his work on the Cimarron Ranch and his friendship with Estelle Gilbert, Hastings also found time to mentor Peekskill local Harry Tompkins, who would go on to be one of the top bull riders in the world. Mike died in 1965, and Estelle Gilbert scattered his ashes on the Texas property owned by the children of Col. W. T. Johnson, which had been his request. In 1974, Mike Hastings was inducted into the Rodeo Hall of Fame.

Sources
LeCompte, Mary Lou. Cowgirls of the Rodeo. Urbana, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 1993.
Porter, Willard H. Who’s Who in Rodeo. Oklahoma City: Powder River Book Company, 1982.

Gray

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Bonnie Gray Papers, 1916-1985
1.0 cubic feet (2 document boxes)
Location: Row 8, Bay A, Shelf 5
Collection #: MS103

Biography

Verna Smith, later known as Bonnie Gray, was born in Kettle Fells, Washington, in 1891. She graduated from Moscow Idaho University with a degree in music, and taught music in Kettle Fells for a short time. Bonnie, having grown up around horses, quickly decided to focus on rodeo and trick riding. She married Donald Harris and celebrated by having her horse, King Tut, jump over a car with people inside. This trick was very popular and they performed it often.

Throughout her career she participated in rodeos and shows across the United States and several international countries including, Mexico, Canada, England, and Germany. She is considered to be the first woman ever to attempt, and succeed, riding a horse at full gallop while under the horse’s belly. Bonnie was also a pioneer in the western film industry by being one of the first women stunt and double riders. She often took the place of western stars such as Tim McCoy, Tom Mix, and Ken Maynard. Gray died in 1985.

Sources:
Crandall, Judy. Cowgirls: Early Images and Collectables. Atglen, Pennsylvania: Shiffer Publishing Limited, 1994.
Wills, Kathy Lynn and Virginia Artho. Cowgirl Legends from the Cowgirl Hall of Fame. Salt Lake City: Gibbs-Smith Publisher, 1995.

Gregory

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Bern Gregory Rodeo Photographs, 1958-1988
84,346 negatives, 17 three-ring binders, 6 document boxes
Location: 0918-0921; Reading Room Shelves; File Cabinets
Collection #: 044
Accession #: 1999.025

Introduction

Between 1958 and 1988 Bern Gregory photographed rodeo events and participants in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. In 1975 professional rodeo competitions were divided into 4 regions with each region having 3 circuits. While many of Gregory’s photographs record activities in the Great Lakes and Southeastern ProRodeo Circuits of region 4, a significant quantity record the activities in the Prairie ProRodeo Circuit of region 3.

In 1974 and 1975 several of Gregory’s rodeo action photos were chosen among the Top Ten Rodeo Photos of the Year by Horse and Rider Magazine. His action shots appeared in the Western Horseman, Rodeo Sports News, and in a 2002 documentary about Chris LeDoux on Country Music Television.

Biography

Known by some as the St. Louis Kid, Bernard “Bern” Gregory photographically documented rodeos between 1958 and 1988. In 2002, the eighty-seven year old Gregory reported, “We [he and his wife, Mary] went to rodeos in 24 different states and Canada and in 81 towns and God only knows how many motels.” When this writer asked about his health, Gregory stated he had recently undergone a series of operations including hip replacement and spinal surgery and suffered a slight stroke. In a typical understated manner he declared “other than that I’m doing pretty doggone good.”

Born on September 29, 1914 in Alton, Illinois, Bern was the son of Cora Tracy Gregory and a man who abandoned them when he was baby. A small hardworking lady, his mother moved to St. Louis when he was about three. Working 6 days a week in a tin manufacturing place making cups and pie pans, Cora earned between $8 and $9 a week. Gregory was educated in St. Louis public schools through high school.

Living about a block away from a packing house, Gregory naturally soon developed an interest in cowboys and rodeos. He wrote, “I lived near a packing house area of North St. Louis where cattle were driven horseback from the National Stock Yards at E. St. Louis, IL to the packers on the St. Louis side of the river. The kids in the neighborhood would all have broom sticks with a piece of rope or leather on the end and help the drover turn the cattle at corner intersections. These drovers were pretty good cowboys and that was my first interest in wanting to be a cowboy.”

In a 1976 Western Horseman article by Gary Vorhes, Gregory characterized these drovers, saying “Well, some of those drovers may not have worn cowboy boots and cowboy hats, but they were dang sure cowboys.”

When he was about 16 or 17, Gregory befriended a man who owned a packing house and who spent every day in the stock yards buying cattle for his packing plant. He recalled, “He had a farm on the outskirts of St. Louis and was very interested in rodeo. He had a rodeo arena and would buy stag steers, calves, and horses that would buck. Little jack-pot rodeos were held during the summer and I would ride in them. [I] tried calf roping but was not very good. [I] would take pictures at these jack-pots for [my] own pleasure. This was all before WWII.”

On January 2, 1935 Gregory started work at $45 per month as an office/messenger boy in the freight traffic department of the Missouri Pacific Railroad. From this position he worked his way up to general freight agent negotiating freight rates for the piggy-back traffic (trailers on flat cars). He also served as chairman of the rules committee for southwestern railroads in working out rules for handling piggy-back traffic. But, his interest continued in rodeo and cowboys. In 1942 he joined the Cowboy Turtles Association.

On February 13, 1943 Gregory was inducted into the Army, served in Normandy, northern France, Rhineland, and central Europe and landed on Omaha Beach on June 16, 1944. He was awarded the Bronze Star four times. After the war in September 1945 he helped organize what might have been the first armed forces rodeo in Europe. Sponsored by the Red Cross and located in Furth, Germany, the rodeo was realized through the efforts servicemen trading chocolate bars and packs of cigarettes for large work oxen for “ bucking bulls.” The “bucking horses” were 20 head of green, three-year-old mules requisitioned from the Russian sector. The arena was built with pine poles and airstrip landing mat for fence. Cowbells were made out of artillery shells. On December 5, 1945 Gregory was discharged as Buck Sergeant and upon his return to St. Louis he renewed activities with his packing house friends. He timed, flagged, and judged the little jack-pot rodeos.

A true partnership emerged when Gregory married Mary Harman on June 29, 1946. Mary, the daughter of a livestock farmer, grew up on a farm at High Hill, Missouri and helped her father with farm work after her mother died around the age of 12. A graduate nurse, Mary resumed her work as a private duty nurse after their marriage.

Around 1955 the couple began taking rodeo photography vacations and attending rodeos on weekends. He used a German 35mm Realist SLR camera which could sync with a strobe light at 1/500 of a second. He called this “the greatest rodeo camera ever made” because other cameras could only sync at 1/125 of a second. The faster the shutter speed, the sharper the captured action image. Wearing out four of these Realist cameras, Gregory went to a Nikkormat with a 55mm lens for bucking stock and a zoom lens, 85 to 204 mm, for roping and steer wrestling events. By 1958 Gregory had sold his first action photographs at $1.50 a print to stock contractor, Tommy Steiner, at the St. Louis rodeo sponsored by the St. Louis firefighters. Thus began an avocation which would consume his life through 1988.

In 1968 the Gregorys bought a house in Black Jack, Missouri in which Bern built his first darkroom. While Mary attended night school taking classes in photographic developing and printing, Bern read books on the same subjects. In the darkroom he used the enlarger to expose the image to paper while Mary ran the paper through the chemicals and wash. In the arena he kept the log books while Mary marked up rodeo programs with times and scores which served to reconcile Gregory’s records. “Without Mary’s help,” he said, “it would never have been possible.” In later years Gregory carried his own darkroom components on the road enabling him to set up in a motel room, develop negatives at night, and print 8×10 prints and contact sheets the following morning.

After his retirement from the Missouri Pacific Railroad on April 30, 1975 Bern devoted more time to rodeo coverage. Through various rodeo and western publications and building up confidence with the cowboys and stock contractors such as the Kajun Kid, Tommy Steiner, and Walt Alsbaugh, Gregory’s rodeo action shots gained notoriety and his reliability and good reputation became well-known.

Gregory lists many sensational action shots among his favorites. Perhaps a more unusual one was the wreck of Clyde Kimbro being bucked off the bull “YD” in St. Louis in 1968. Kimbro was bucked off as the bull kicked the bell off the rope. The bell flew up into the air and landed on the head of a fellow sitting in a box seat. Gregory laughingly exclaimed, “You had to see it to believe it.”

Gregory’s rodeo photography career ended in a somewhat ironic fashion. Covering the 1988 American Royal rodeo in Kansas City, Missouri, he was run over by an announcer on horseback, an accident which caused injuries to his shoulders and one leg. “I had ducked bulls and horses for 30 years but it took an announcer on horseback to get me.” This, however, was not the first time he had been run over. During the 1970s he was hit by pickup man, Ron Conatser, in Memphis from which he suffered broken ribs, a bruised shoulder, a swollen knee, and “mashed up” hat. In a second accident in Kansas City, he was hit by a pickup man from which he was “just shaken up a little and dazed for a couple of minutes.”

Reflecting on his first time in the arena, Gregory stated he was not nervous or scared. He knew what to expect with stock. Vorhes wrote, “Bern knows whether the bull or bronc will come out of the chute to the right or left, or spin, or bog down.” Gregory’s biggest concern was his desire and hope to sell the pictures. As all great rodeo photographers do, he anticipated the shot. He saw the picture before he took it.

To any up and coming photographers, Gregory advised that they first cover amateur and high school rodeos and learn what the action and the danger are before getting in the arena. Because many novice photographers inadvertently obstruct professional photographers and judges, Gregory admonished, ”Most of all, don’t get in the way.”

Following Mary’s death after a long battle with cancer on August 21, 1998, Gregory moved from his home in Black Jack to an apartment in Flourissant, Missouri. Quoted in a 1976 Western Horseman article by Gary Vorhes, perhaps Gregory’ s comments about how a photographer fit into the rest of the rodeo world best summarizes his profession in that era.

“It’s interesting, because you’re doing something for your own satisfaction, and you’re doing something the fellas like. And they know that you’re just about in the same position they are. You’re not makin’ any money and they’re not makin’ any money and you’re doin’ it because you like it. But most of all you are recording rodeo history.”

The Bern Gregory photographic collection, preserved in the Dickinson Research, Center documents thirty years of rodeo history. It, along with the Ralph R. Doubleday and DeVere Helfrich collections, documents the activities, events, and personalities of over 75 years of the sport of rodeo.

Helfrich

Helfrich 150 150 ctx

DeVere Helfrich Rodeo Photographs, 1941-1970
John DeVere Helfrich (1902-1981). 37,369 Negatives, 1941-1970
Collection: MS040
Accession: 1981.023

Biography

John DeVere Helfrich was a professional rodeo photographer from 1939-1967. He was born on April 16, 1902, in Lamonta, Oregon, and as a child he spent time at his uncle’s ranch working with cattle and horses. In 1926, he married Helen Reed, and they worked as small business owners until World War II rationing forced their stores to close. He became interested in rodeos and photography in 1939, and in 1941 he won the World Championship Rodeo Corporation’s best picture of the year prize. It was for an image of Gene Pruett on Colonel Dean at the Prairie City Rodeo in Oregon. Helen and DeVere spent most of their time traveling to rodeos, and even transformed a travel trailer into a mobile dark room. The Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association used Helfrich’s photograph of Bill Ward on Sea Lion at San Angelo, Texas, as inspiration for their official logo. He retired from photography in 1967, and died September 1, 1981.

Long

Long 150 150 ctx

Hughie Long Rodeo Photographs, 1930-1950
1 folder
Collection SMS008
Accession 1985.053

Biography

Hughie Long
Joseph Hugh Long was born May 12, 1907, in Battleford, Saskatchewan. His father James Patrick “Joe” Long spent twelve years as a Mountie and served in the Boer War in South Africa during World War I. During this time, when Hughie was 11, his mother Sarah died, leaving an elder sibling to care for the family until Joe Long came home from the war. When he did arrive home, he gave the nine children to other families to take in. Hughie was sent to live with another homesteader out in the country. “The work was hard, although it didn’t hurt me a bit,” Hughie said once. He left within a few months, but before he did, he and a neighbor boy had “our own private little bronc bustings” when the farmer would go into town for union meetings. At 14, he finished the third grade. It would be his last formal education.

In 1924, a 17-year-old Hughie went to work as a cowboy on the Sweet Grass Reserve Ranch not far from Prongua. Most of that summer he rode fences and checked cattle. It was during that summer when he learned he needed boots to ride a bronc. The same summer would provide his first exposure to a “stampede,” or rodeo. “I had got to thinking I was a bronc rider.” Hughie, in his first try at bronc riding, made the finals.

In 1926, Hughie and an Indian bronc rider known as Cowboy Hamern made the 75-mile trip from Prongua-Battleford to Seagram Lake for the Saskatchewan Bronc Riding Championship. Hughie Long, at 19, won the Saskatchewan Championship.

Leon Lamar approached Hughie with a deal. Lamar owned two Wild West shows, one which was part of the big Johnny J. Jones operation in Canada. He could use a good bronc rider, especially one with Hughie’s dazzling and careless spurring style. Hughie and his good friend, trick roper Gib Potter soon left for the next big show. Soon Hughie found himself ensconced as the protagonist in an old Wild West show tradition — the Pony Express act.

Through the end of 1927 and well into 1928, Gib and Hughie did the sideshows, but then headed for rodeos in Pampa and Miami, Tex., with a master plan of going back to Calgary. After nearly starving while the Pampa rodeo was postponed two days due to rain, Hughie placed in the money, which bought him and Gib a good meal, and hitched a ride to Miami, where the Prongy Kid placed in steer and saddle bronc riding.

At a by-invitation-only, 21-day rodeo staged at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933, Hughie took second in bareback average and third in bull riding. In the entire three weeks, the Prongy Kid had ridden all but two of his bulls, including one that crashed through a fence as Hughie stayed aboard. How many total titles Hughie won is probably a figure forever lost as no records were kept in those days. Further, because the Prongy Kid chose not to compete during the winters on the California-based Western circuit, which was the only rodeo organization at the time that kept records, he wasn’t represented.

For a time in 1943 he worked as a mounted guard at the Bluebonnet Bomb Plant in McGregor. In 1944, Hughie, at the age of 37, joined the Army and was stationed initially at Camp Bowie near Brownwood, enabling him on weekend passes to go to Cresson to work with numerous reining horses he owned. Then the war ended and Hughie was discharged. In the years that followed he owned, co-owned or trained numerous quarter horses that have won registers of merit — Quick Silver Long, Jiggs Bailey, Mucho Stampede, Aledo Red Man, and so on.

Though there weren’t many new injuries, the old ones began to nag Hughie. He often said the most painful was a separated shoulder that tended to go out on him and required a general anesthetic to put back in place. “He also had some short ribs on his left side that overlapped and stuck out,” Helen said. “He got that from riding a spinning bull. As the bull was spinning, Hughie went to get off and the bull caught him with his horn, buried his horns right in Hughie’s short ribs down by his belly. “In that particular case the pickup men or whatever had to come out and physically take Hughie off that bull’s horn.

In July 1987, the Prongy Kid “was sick for a month and went into the hospital, then when he came home he was not himself, his mind was gone,” Helen Long said. He continued to have complications with his health the following months. A few nights before he died Oct. 27, 1987, Helen Long was at her husband’s side at All Saints Hospital in Fort Worth.

McCarroll

McCarroll 150 150 ctx

Bruce McCarroll Collection of the Bonnie & Frank McCarroll Rodeo Archives, circa 1900-circa 1940
887 photographic postcards; 38 photographic prints, 11 panoramic photographs, 2 postcards, 1 box of 15 miniature photographs, 2 publications, 1 letter, and 1 scrapbook
2 cubic feet (3 postcard boxes, 2 document boxes)
Location: 0523-0524; 0526
Accession #: RC2006.076

Introduction

The married rodeo partners, Frank and Bonnie McCarroll, were an extremely popular and successful pair during the 1910s and 1920s. Frank was known for his bulldogging abilities and Bonnie for her trick riding, steer riding, and saddle bronc riding prowess.

Bonnie’s death due to injuries sustained in a bronc riding wreck in 1929 at the Pendleton Round-Up was a significant event, a turning point for women in the rodeo. It marked the beginning of the end for cowgirl participation in rodeo. The women’s bronc riding was scratched from Pendleton and by 1941 the event was banned from all major competitions including Madison Square Garden.

Biography

Frank Leo McCarroll was born on September 5, 1892 in Morris, Minnesota on a 1250 acre farm. At the age of 13 he struck out on his own drifting to North Dakota and Montana. He eventually drifted into Idaho where he took up wrestling and boxing. He took a business course in Butte, Montana where he continued to wrestle and box. In 1911, while in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, he wrestled his first steer winning a dollar bet. Having taken up the sport in earnest in 1912, McCarroll broke the world’s record for bulldogging at Boise, Idaho in 1913. It was here that he met Mary Ellen “Dot” Treadwell, better known as Bonnie.

McCarroll won championships in steer wrestling at Pendleton twice, Chicago three times, Cheyenne once, Detroit once, St. Louis once, Fort Worth twice, and three times in New York at Madison Square Garden. Following Bonnie’s death, Frank became involved in the film industry in 1934 McCarroll as a stuntman in The Man from Hell and as an un-credited actor in Romance Revier. Ironically, on March 8, 1954 he died from an accidental fall in his home in Burbank, California.

Born in High Valley near Boise, Idaho in 1897, Mary Ellen Treadwell grew up on her grandfather’s 2,000-acre cattle ranch. She rode her first horse at age 10 and, she wrote, “By the time I was fourteen, I could sit most ‘broke-in’ horses.” At about this time as well, she rode her first bronc. She describes the event, “I mounted, the boys let go, and the broncho began to behave like a wild cat. I held for about five seconds and then all at once I seemed to grow wings. Up I soared, and turned a sumersault [sic], and the earth seemed about ten miles below. Then I went to sleep and woke in bed.”

Following the rodeo events at the Idaho State Fair in Boise in 1913, Bonnie persuaded Eddie McCarty to let her ride his bronc “Bear Cat.” After surviving the wreck, she said, “I was badly bruised and shaken up, but then and there I made up my mind that I would never quit until I became a champion.” It was here also that she met her future husband Frank along with Hoot and Helen Gibson and Art Acord. At eighteen, she married Frank in 1915. While she won first place at her first big show at the Pendleton Round-up in 1915, Bonnie participated that same year in her first professional contest at Vancouver, British Columbia where she rode six horses and won second place. Together she and Frank began traveling steadily the rodeo circuit in 1917.

The blue-eyed, dark-haired cowgirl was a crowd pleaser. Often referred to as “about as big as a minute,” Bonnie was a tenacious competitor while weighing between 95 and 112 pounds. She wrote once, “I don’t have to diet or attend reducing salons or do rolling exercises to keep slim, nor starve to death to wear those boyish-cut things the fashion kings are handing out now. If there is anything a cowgirl can keep, it is the slim silhouette.” When asked if a cowgirl’s life was any different than that of other women, Bonnie replied, “Not at all, I like my home. I like pretty clothes. I like to sew and do all sorts of feminine things. I live in Boise, Idaho, at home with my mother and my husband during the winter. I don’t ride much then, but I do swim and engage in all sorts of athletics to keep myself in trim for the roundup season.” Husband Frank called her “the best little cook in the world and some dressmaker, too.”

In 1922 Bonnie won the bronc riding championships at Cheyenne Frontier Days and Madison Square Garden. In fact she was the first Madison Square Garden cowgirl bronc riding champion. She won again in 1923 at Yankee Stadium and Detroit, Michigan. At the Detroit venue, in what would presage a life-ending event, Bonnie got caught in a stirrup during the bronc riding and was being dragged. Fortunately, clear thinking prevailed and she grabbed the bronc’s tail and pulled herself high enough to keep from being kicked to death.

During June 14-28, 1924 Bonnie won the bronc riding at the First International Rodeo at Empire Stadium in Wembley, England, where she procured the World Champion Cup called the Lord Selfridge Trophy. She won the bronc riding in Chicago in 1926. On July 5, 1927 Bonnie performed before President and Mrs. Calvin Coolidge at Belle Fourche, South Dakota.

According to one account, when Bonnie was ready to mount a bronc, Frank would pick her up, “small-boy fashion,” and place her in the saddle. One writer declared that Bonnie had the “distinction of being the only lady rider who rides the wild ones without hobbling her stirrups.”In other words, Bonnie rode slick. When asked why she rode slick, she replied, “We cowgirls have butted in on a so-called strictly man’s game–and if to ‘play’ on the hurricane deck on a sun-fishin’, whirlly-giggin’, rearin’-up, fallin’-over-backward, squallin’, bitin’, strikin’, buckin’, roman-nosed cayuse ain’t a heman’s game, there never will be one–still, as I say, we cowgirls that like the game well enough to play it should play it just like the cowboys do. Why, I’d feel insulted…if I was told to tie my stirrups down!”

On September 19, 1929 at the Pendleton Roundup Bonnie McCarroll participated in her final rodeo. Ironically, she and Frank had planned to retire to their Boise, Idaho home following this rodeo. With her stirrups hobbled (a requirement of the Pendleton Roundup Committee) Bonnie mounted Black Cat. Shortly after his blindfold was removed, the bronc fell and, while attempting to recover, went into a complete forward somersault. Eyewitness to the event, Reba Perry Blakely described the horrific action, “Once all the way over Black Cat did the instinctive thing, he leaped to his feet and continued his bucking while Bonnie McCarroll, so obviously knocked out in that fall, hung head down, her body limp and one left foot still caught in the stirrup. For six more horrible leaps and bucks Black Cat’s weight literally shook the ground and at each leap Bonnie’s head banged on the earth with sickening repetition, until mercifully that boot came off and she lay limp upon the ground.” Suffering severe spinal injury and developing pneumonia, she died eleven days later in a Pendleton hospital on September 29, 1929.

Nesbitt

Nesbitt 150 150 ctx

Donald Nesbitt Collection, circa 1930s
1 folder
Location: 0164
Accession #: R.219

Introduction

This collection features several portrait proofs of Donald Nesbitt by Distinctive Portraiture of Denver, Colorado. Nesbitt was a well-known rodeo contestant in five of the major rodeo events and was one of the first rodeo honorees to be inducted in the Rodeo Hall of Fame, in 1955.

Biography

Nesbitt was born on May 15, 1907, and raised on his father’s ranch situated in Old Everetts, South Dakota. His parents were William H. Nesbitt and Lucy A. Howell Nesbitt. He came into possession of the first peace pipe smoked between the Sioux and the whites, which was given to his father by Mad Bear.

Even at the age of ten he and his brother were breaking wild horses for their father. Don naturally went a step further into the saddle bronc riding competitions.

He was a well-known contestant at the Frontier Days in Cheyenne, the Pendleton Round-Up, the Calgary Stampede in Canada, rodeos in Chicago and New York, and the big 33 day London, England show. He participated in the five major rodeo events: bulldogging, saddle bronc riding, calf roping, bareback bronc riding, and bull riding. In 1932, he won the World Champion All-Around Cowboy honor.

He rode Midnight and 5 Minutes to Midnight, two of the greatest rodeo broncs that lived. Nesbitt wrote the eulogies for these horses which were soon after interred in the gardens at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.

In the 1930s Nesbitt began working for the rodeo producer McCarty and Elliott Company. After fifteen years of bronc riding, Nesbitt retired in 1936 to judge most of the McCarty and Elliott Company produced rodeo shows. Don Nesbitt died in 1988. He was inducted into the Rodeo Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in 1955.

Sources:
“Profile West: Don Nesbitt.” Eastern/Western Quarter Horse Journal, June 1977.

See Also: Donald Nesbitt Rodeo Honoree Vertical File which includes articles, photographs, and correspondence.

Packard

Packard 150 150 ctx

Donald Packard Collection,

2 folders
Location: 0165
Accession #: 90.32; 90.57

Introduction

The photographs in this collection are of Bill Pickett, well-known African-American bulldogger of the early rodeo. The collection is open for viewing, but we are not allowed to duplicate them in any manner because they originate from another collection not associated with the Museum.

Biography

No biographical information about Mr. Donald Packard is included in the

 

collection. He generously donated these copy photographs to the Museum for research purposes only. Some of these same photographs can be found in the other collections.

Willie M. “Bill” Pickett:

Pickett was born on December 5, 1870 or 1871 in the Jenks-Branch community of Travis County, Texas. He was the second of 13 children born to Thomas Jefferson Pickett, a former slave, and Mary Gilbert. Pickett attended school through the fifth grade, after which he took up hard ranching work.

He invented the technique of bulldogging, the skill of grabbing cattle by the horns and wrestling them to the ground. Pickett’s method for bulldogging was biting a cow on the lip and then falling backwards. This method eventually lost popularity as the sport morphed into the steer wrestling that is practiced in rodeos today. Pickett and his brothers started their own company, the Pickett Brothers Bronco Busters and Rough Riders Association, to offer their services as cowboys. He also made a

 

living demonstrating his bulldogging skills and other stunts at county fairs.

In 1905, Pickett joined the 101 Ranch Wild West Show that featured the likes of Buffalo Bill, Will Rogers, Tom Mix, and Lucille Mulhall. He was headlined as the “Dusty Demon.” Colonel Zack Miller of the 101 Ranch described Pickett as “…the greatest sweat-and-dirt cowhand that ever lived, bar none.” He was such a popular performer that he also appeared in some early motion pictures.

In 1932, Bill Pickett was kicked in the head by a horse while working horses at the 101 Ranch and died of his injuries eleven days later on April 4, 1932, at the age of 61. Will Rogers announced his funeral on the radio. He is buried north of Marland, Oklahoma.

Pickett was named to the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in 1971 and was the first black honoree to that organization. He was enshrined in the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 1989.

Sources:
Powell, Lee. “Bill Pickett: An Unlikely Rodeo Pioneer,” , December 3-9, 2004.

Porter

Porter 150 150 ctx

Willard H. Porter Rodeo Collection, 1903-1986
1.0 cubic feet (2 document boxes)
Location: 0233; Rodeo Programs 0351-0358
Collection #: 047
Accession #: 2001.049

Introduction

The subject files, photographic materials, Rodeo Hall of Fame and Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Championship Awards invitations and London rodeo research were Willard Porter’s office files while employed at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. The collection contains rodeo photographic postcards, rodeo programs, subject files and research on the 1924 and 1934 London rodeos. In addition to the rodeo photographic postcards, 62 passport photos from the 1924 and 1934 London rodeo are part of the Porter collection.

Biography

Willard A. Porter, rodeo journalist and former rodeo director of the National Cowboy Hall of Fame between 1979 and 1986, was born in 1920 in New Jersey. He served as editor of the “Quarter Horse Journal” from 1949 to 1953 and was editor and publisher of “Hoofs and Horns” during the mid 1950s. Porter wrote a weekly rodeo column in the “Sunday Oklahoman” newspaper between 1930 and 1991. In 1982 his book “Who’s Who in Rodeo,” an informational work on the Rodeo Hall of Fame inductees, was published. Porter died at his home in Port Salerno, Florida on April 24, 1992.

Privett

Privett 150 150 ctx

Samuel Thomas “Booger Red” Privett Papers, 1895-2007
4 boxes
Collection#: MS102

Biography

Samuel Thomas “Booger Red” Privett was born in west central Texas sometime in the 1860s. His nickname came from his red hair and scars from a childhood accident. Booger grew up on ranches and became known for his skill with horses. The stories say he often challenged local residents of towns his wild west show performed in to bring their rowdiest bucking horse to the show, and if he was tossed off while riding it, he would give the owner a hundred dollars. Legend says he never had to pay up.

In December 1895, Booger married Mollie Webb. They decided to start their own traveling Wild West show, The Booger Red Wild West Wagon Show, in which both of them performed with Booger Red as the chief attraction. They had six living children: Roy (1896), Ella (1897), Thomas (1902), Luther (1906), Alta (1908) also known as “Lady,” and William (1915) also known as “Bill,” who travelled and performed with them. As the children grew older, they began branching off and joining different circuses. Ella and her husband Frank Linton worked as performers in Tom Mix’s circus for several years.

Booger died in Miami, Oklahoma, in 1924. Because of financial difficulties, he was buried without a headstone. In January of 2011, through the efforts of people around the state, a grave marker was dedicated.

Rodeo Historical Society Records

Rodeo Historical Society Records 150 150 ctx

Creator: Rodeo Historical Society
Dates: 1905-2012, bulk 1968-2012
Quantity: 35 feet, 4 inches
Accession: RC2011.004

Historical Sketch
In December 1966, Dean Krakel, then director of the National Cowboy Hall of Fame, began planning an organization to celebrate the history of rodeo. By summer 1967 the Rodeo Historical Society (RHS) was formed and accepting members. Krakel wrote in 1966 that the main focus of the RHS was to “establish a repository for books, documents, clippings, photographs, voice recordings, etc. that will be a major source for students and historians and writers looking to portray the history of rodeo.” Members of the RHS were encouraged to donate items to the Society’s archive.

Founder of the Museum Chester A. Reynolds created the Rodeo Hall of Fame in 1955 and began honoring rodeo greats. After the formation of the RHS, Krakel decided the Society should choose the inductees. From 1967 to the mid1970s, members of the Rodeo Cowboys Association chose candidates for nomination into the Rodeo Hall of Fame, the RHS board members narrowed down the list, and finally the RHS members voted for inductees. In the mid1970s the Rodeo Cowboys Association’s affiliation with the RHS ended and the Board chose candidates that were then voted on by the members. This process continues today.

Once a year, the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum hosts the RHS members during Rodeo Weekend. It is a time to remember the history of rodeo and honor those that made it great. The Rodeo Hall of Fame Induction Banquet is the climax of the event.

In 1983, Krakel wrote an article in the Daily Oklahoman that sparked furor among several of the RHS board members who thought Krakel was devaluing the importance of rodeo in the Museum. The upset board members were led by Jean Curtis, an active RHS member and wife of bronc rider Andy Curtis. They broke away from the RHS and formed the Pro Rodeo Historical Society based in Fort Worth, Texas. The split resulted in hurt feelings, bitter resentment, a confused membership, and lawsuits. After a series of events led to the removal of Krakel from the Museum and RHS, and the removal of Jean Curtis from the PRHS, a consensus between the two organizations was found, and they reformed in 1989.

The present day RHS serves as a vehicle for preserving rodeo history and celebrating the many accomplishments of the sport’s past participants through specific programing. In 2003, the RHS, working with the Donald C. and Elizabeth M. Dickinson Research Center, began the Oral History Project as a means of collecting valuable information about rodeo from the people who witnessed it. The interviews are conducted throughout the year, but a majority of them are recorded during Rodeo Weekend. The team of volunteers that continue the Project is led by Gail Woerner.

Rodeo Information Commission (RIC)

Rodeo Information Commission (RIC) 150 150 ctx

Rodeo Information Commission Membership Files, 1953-1968
2 linear feet (4 manuscript boxes)
Location: Row 8, Bay A, Shelf 6
Collection #: MS104

Historical Sketch
The Rodeo Information Commission (RIC) was formed January 1955 as a part of the Rodeo Cowboys Association (RCA). Its function was to provide rodeo news and articles to newspapers and magazines across the country. In 1967 it merged with the National Rodeo Foundation to become the Rodeo Information Foundation. In 1973 it became the RCA’s Rodeo Advisory Committee to serve as the connecting link with the business world.

Rodeo Photographs

Rodeo Photographs 150 150 Kera Newby

Creator: NCWHM Staff
Dates: c1900-1988
Quantity: 2 feet 11 inches
Accession: 1988.009

Abstract

This collection contains 1,532 rodeo photographs featuring contestants such as Casey Tibbs, Larry Mahan, Fox Hastings, Freckles Brown, and 310 other rodeo participants and animals.

Biography/History

Rodeo photography has been popular since the early days of the sport and is one of the primary forms of documenting the events, history, and evolution of rodeo. Famous rodeo photographers include Ralph R. Doubleday, Devere Helfrich, Bern Gregory, Ferrell Butler, James Cathey, and Louise Serpa.

Rodeo Programs

Rodeo Programs 150 150 ctx

Collection of Rodeo Programs and Ephemera, 1905-2004
21.5 cubic feet (42 document boxes, 1 flat box)
Location: 0351-0365
Collection #: 063

 

Introduction

The Collection of Rodeo Programs and Ephemera includes more than 1,500 souvenir programs, daily programs, brochures, prize lists, rules and other ephemera from a wide variety of rodeos throughout the United States and several foreign countries.

History/Biography

Over the years the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum accessioned many donated rodeo programs, brochures and related ephemera from the Museum affiliated Rodeo Historical Society and other sources. This material had been kept as a vertical file collection, but to increase researcher access the decision was made to improve the arrangement and create a finding aid.

Sam Garrett

Sam Garrett 150 150 ctx

Sam Garrett Trick Roping Photographs, 1920s-1950s
1 folder
Collection SMS009
Accession 1986.011

Biography

Sam Garrett
Sam Garrett was born on December 8, 1892, in Mulhall, Oklahoma. Garrett began performing at the age of 14 after being discovered by Will Rogers who was impressed by his trick roping. Rogers himself taught Garrett a few rope tricks.

Starting in 1905, he travelled with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, Texas Cattle Theatrical Show, Pawnee Bill’s Show, and the Barnum and Bailey Circus. Garrett also starred in over 90 films, especially during the silent era, and taught many Hollywood stars how to trick rope, including Debbie Reynolds as pictured in this collection. He kept a ranch with his wife Ruby near Burbank, California. He was a headliner act at the Madison Square Garden rodeo for four straight years during World War I. He was also an active participant in steer wrestling, steer roping, calf roping, and trick roping. He was world champion trick roper at Cheyenne Frontier Days seven times from 1916-1926. As All-Around Champion at Pendleton in 1914, he won the Police Gazette belt. From 1915-1916, he was All-Around Champion Cowboy at Billings, Montana.

He died on April 4, 1989, in his home at Fallbrook, California, at the age of 97.

He was inducted into the Rodeo Hall of Fame of the Rodeo Historical Society at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in 1985.

Shoemaker

Shoemaker 150 150 ctx

Arthur Shoemaker Collection on Henry Grammer, 1902-2000
1.0 cubic feet (2 document boxes)
Location: 0220
Collection #: 076
Accession #: 2003.232

Introduction

A research collection documenting the short, tumultuous life of rodeo performer Henry Grammer assembled by Oklahoma writer and amateur historian Arthur Shoemaker. The collection includes correspondence, photocopied clippings, interview notes, photographs, and other material documenting the life and times of Grammer. Shoemaker’s handwritten and typed notes and timelines help amplify and summarize the research material. In addition, other members of the Grammer family and related topics such as rodeo are also subjects of the collection. Several of Shoemaker’s articles and the book The Road to Marble Halls: The Henry Grammer Saga, written based on this research, are briefly covered.

Biography

Arthur Shoemaker is a native of Laredo, Texas. After attending school at Texas Technological College in Lubbock and serving in the U.S. Eighth Air Force during World War II, he taught school in the Sapulpa, Oklahoma school system for several years. Later, he was employed by Texaco and worked in the oil business in Kansas and Oklahoma. As an avocation, Shoemaker pursued historical research and writing, focusing on western and Oklahoma subjects. Shoemaker has been published in a variety of publications including, The Chronicles of OklahomaTrue WestOklahoma Today, Ketch Pen, and the Tulsa Tribune. He is a member of the Western Writers of America, the Rodeo Historical Society, and the Osage County Historical Society.

***

Henry Grammer was born on July 20, 1883 in Falls County, Texas. He grew up in Texas, eventually becoming a cowboy on a ranch near Carrizo Springs, Texas. In 1901, he arrived in Osage County, Oklahoma Territory with a trainload of Texas cattle. Grammer stayed in Osage County, finding work as a cowboy for Sylvester Soldani, a rancher and influential member of the Osage Tribe.

In 1903, Grammer moved to Montana where he worked for the Circle Diamond Ranch under ranch foreman and Great Westerner inductee John Survant. While employed at the ranch, he shot and killed a man in a Malta, Montana saloon during an altercation. Henry Grammer spent his next three years in the Montana State Prison, Deer Lodge, Montana. Photocopied newspaper clippings and prison ledgers in the collection document this incident.

Grammer was released from prison in May 1907 and boarded the train for Ponca City, Oklahoma Territory. In July 1907, he married Maggie Alexander, a quarter-blood Osage Indian. Later that year, he began his rodeo career when he engaged in a match roping contest against Texas roper, Buck Matthews. During the next year his rodeo career really took off when he worked for the 101 Ranch Wild West Show in Ponca City along with his brother Tom and Tom Mix; he and brother Tom participated in the Ride and Roping Contest in Dewey, Oklahoma (later called the Dewey Roundup); and Henry toured South America with the IXL Wild West Show.

Henry Grammer’s rodeo career continued, and in 1912 he found himself in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, a participant in the first Calgary Stampede. In the following years he toured England with the 101 Ranch Wild West Show, participated in the first East Coast rodeo to feature real cowboys in 1916, participated in Cheyenne Frontier Days in 1917, and won a match roping contest with Ben Johnson, Sr. at Fairfax, Oklahoma. He was also stabbed and nearly killed during an argument in Burbank, Oklahoma.

In December 1919, Henry Grammer shot and wounded Harry Church in the Leland Hotel in Ponca City, Oklahoma. He posted a $3000 bond, and after the trial was postponed a number of times, Grammer was acquitted in November 1920. During 1920, he was active as a rodeo judge, helped the Miller brothers with the 101 Ranch roundup, participated in roping contests, and traveled with his wife and youngest son, Buster, to Hot Springs, Arkansas. He also got involved in another shooting, this time shooting and killing Jim Berry in an argument over a steer; because Berry sought out Grammer on Grammer’s ranch at night and shot at Grammer first, the shooting was judged to be in self-defense.

In the early 1920s, in addition to his rodeo and ranching activities, Henry Grammer was also apparently involved in the moonshine whiskey business, servicing workmen during the Osage County oil boom. In early 1923, Grammer and another man confronted a bootlegger over an alleged hijacking; the bootlegger was shot and wounded by Grammer’s confederate. Three months later on June 14, shortly after a fight between Grammer and John Mayo and three other men, an automobile driven at high speeds by Mayo left the road near Shidler, Oklahoma killing Grammer, but throwing Mayo and his wife clear with minor injuries. Grammer had $10,500 in cash on his person at the time of his death. On June 17, Henry Grammer was laid to rest in the mausoleum at the IOOF Cemetery in Ponca City, Oklahoma. Best remembered for his rodeo career, Grammer is considered one of the greatest steer ropers of all time.

Snyder

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Smokey Snyder Collection of Pendleton Round-Up Photographs, 1938-1953
1 folder
Location: 0164
Accession #: R.257

Introduction

Former rodeo bull riding champion of the 1930s and 1940s Smokey Snyder collected a number of photographs that were also printed alongside feature stories about the Pendleton Round-Up in The Oregonian. These photographs, with their newspaper clipping bylines taped or glued on the reverse side, feature events of the round-up from 1937-1953.

Biography

Smokey Snyder
Albert Edward “Smokey” Snyder was born June 1, 1908, in Cripple Creek, Colorado. When he was a small boy, his family moved to Washington state and then to Alberta, Canada. He saw his first rodeo at Curlew, Washington, and soon after began his rodeo career at the age of fifteen at a rodeo in Hussar, Alberta, Canada.

Snyder competed in roughstock events – saddle bronc, bareback, and bull riding – but won most recognition in his bull riding competitions in the 1930s and 1940s. Snyder’s career brought him seven world championships. He won his first national title in bull riding in 1931 when he was just 23 years old. He then tied for crown in 1932, and won bareback bronc riding that same year. He went on to win bull riding championships in 1935, 1936, and 1937, including a bareback bronc riding title in 1936. Snyder competed and collected trophies for both bull and bareback bronc riding in the rodeo produced by Verne Elliott in London, England, in 1934. He also won the Canadian all-around cowboy title in 1934, and in that same year won the Bareback Riding Championship in Sidney, Australia, at the Easter Royal. It was in 1946 when his rodeo career as a rider ended when he broke his back while bull riding in Reno, Nevada. The name of the last bull he ever rode is not known.

Smokey was one of the leaders in organizing rodeo cowboys for their mutual benefit and protection, and helped raise the standards of rodeo when he was one of the founders of the Cowboys Turtle Association in 1936. He was elected to the Turtle’s board of directors several years.

He was employed by the Kern County Land and Cattle Company when he died in an automobile wreck on October 24, 1965, in Kern County, California. He was returning from a rodeo in Taft when the accident occurred.

Sources:
“Famous Old Timer Killed in Wreck.” Rodeo Sports News, November 1, 1965. Vol. 13, No. 23.

See Also: Smokey Snyder file in Rodeo Honorees Vertical Files. The file includes correspondence, articles, and photocopied pictures.

Pendleton Round-Up
The Pendleton Round-Up is meant to be “a frontier exhibition of picturesque pastimes, Indian and military spectacles, cowboy racing and bronco busting for the championship of the Northwest.” Participation of Native American tribes in the area has been a strong attraction in the Round-Up arena, at Happy Canyon, in the Indian Village and in the Westward Ho! Parade. Women have been active at the Round-Up as well; Cowgirls in the early days of the Round-Up could be as tough as men. Midway through the Round-Up’s colorful history, a Eugene newspaper summed it up with a characterization that remains applicable today:

“In good times and bad, Pendleton has gone on with the Round-Up. People over on the Umatilla have always been willing to take a chance. Maybe that’s the real cowboy spirit. Maybe it’s a little bit tougher brand of civic spirit. Anyhow, in Pendleton, the show goes on.”

Sources:
“History of the Round-Up.” Pendleton Round-Up Official Website. http://pendletonroundup.com/about/history/

Studer

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Carl Studer Rodeo Scrapbook and Ephemera Collection, 1921-1941
3.6 cubic feet (1 document box, 2 flat boxes, 3 oversized folders)
Location: 0125; 0693; Flat File 2/Drawer 1
Collection #: 049
Accession #: 89.27

Introduction

The Carl Studer Rodeo Scrapbook and Ephemera Collection documents the Anvil Park and Amusement Company, Inc.’s business transactions and inquiries from 1927 to 1931, and contains rodeo advertising posters along with 5 scrapbooks of clippings ranging from 1921 – 1941.

Biography

In 1928, Carl Studer was the Secretary-Treasurer of the Anvil Park and Amusement Company, Inc., J.C. Studer and O.B. Studer were the company’s President and Vice-President. In 1922, the Company began producing the Annual Rodeo and Cowboy’s Reunion held at Hemphill County, Canadian, and Texas. Throughout his lifetime, Carl Studer was active in Rodeo and Studer Market and Acme. For twenty years he collected rodeo clippings from across the United States.

Sugg

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Laura K. “Doddie” Sugg Collection
Creator: Laura K. “Doddie” Sugg
Dates: 1940-2009 and n.d., bulk 1940-1945
Quantity: 3 inches
Accession: RC2019.004

Abstract

This collection contains 89 photographs by Dudley Young and others of the Ada Fireman’s Rodeo, parade, and festivities.

Biographical Sketch

Laura K. “Doddie” Sugg was raised in Ada, Oklahoma, and participated in the Ada Fireman’s Rodeo. The annual rodeo started in August 1935, and in 1948, it beat the Cheyenne Frontier Days as the most-attended outdoor rodeo in the world that year. In its modern era, the rodeo raises money for the Ada Fire Department and serves as the Southern Region Tour Finals for the International Professional Rodeo Association.

Tegland

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Above image: “Howard Tegland on Stranger.” Ralph R. Doubleday, photographer. #1991.046.178, Howard Tegland Rodeo Postcards Collection.

Howard Tegland Rodeo Postcards Collection, 1910-1930
1 box, 1 folder
Location: Row 3, Bay F, Shelf 3
Accession #: 1991.046

Biography

Howard Tegland, son of Mike Tegland, was a Salt Creek, Montana bronc rider. He won every big rodeo in America in 1922 by participating in 19 and winning 18, including New York, Cheyenne, Chicago, and Pendleton. At the Bozeman Round-Up in 1922, he was the winner of the Waldorf-Astoria Challenge Trophy presented for the title of World Champion Bronco Buster. He also was successful at Yankee Stadium in New York in 1923 bronc riding.” He was one of the greats on top of a bucking horse. He couldn’t be beaten unless he bucked off or blew a stirrup. In 1924, he won the World Bronc Riding title in London, England. He also won the Roosevelt trophy in 1924.

Howard Tegland was inducted into the Rodeo Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in 1991.

Sources:
Bell, Don. “You See Some of the Strangest Things… Sometimes on a Horse.” World of Rodeo and Western Heritage, August 1981.
“Howard Tegland.” Ketch Pen, Winter 1991.
“He Rides ‘Em.” Newspaper clipping photocopy. Unknown newspaper. No date.
“Howard Tegland.” Rodeo Honoree Vertical File. Dickinson Research Center.

Ward

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Fay Ward (1887-1979) Papers
3 cubic feet (4 document boxes)
Location: Row 8, Bay B, Shelves 5-6
Collection #: MS109

Biography

Fay Ward was born on October 8, 1887, in Ackley, Iowa. He grew up in foster homes, but at a young age he left the state system to live the cowboy life. He worked as a bronc-breaker, rodeo contestant, and cowboy clothing tailor for years. After reading 1920s western stories in pulp magazines, Ward tried his hand at writing and illustrating. He discovered a passion and talent that would become the focus of the rest of his life. In 1927 he attended the Chicago Art Institute to improve his illustrating skills, and quickly began work on many different articles about western life. Eventually Ward decided to write a book about how to live like a cowboy and The Cowboy at Work was born. He went on to write several other manuscripts for how-to books. These manuscripts include a guide to rodeo events called “Rodeo and How,” and an anthology titled “Cowboy Verse and Song.” Ward also worked toward creating an index of rodeo event results called “Rodeo, Roundup, and Stampede Fact Finder.” In 1975 he was honored as the man of the year by the Museum and three years later the Museum recognized him for his expertise on rodeo history. Fay Ward died from illness on August 12, 1979, in Prescott, Arizona.

Wilson

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C.G. Wilson Collection, 1920s-1950s
3 folders
Location: 0143
Accession #: 72.02

Introduction

C.G. “Buckshot” Wilson created a scrapbook named “Western Memories,” for which he wrote requests to such persons as G.W. Lillie, Frank Eaton, Lucille Mulhall, and Robert Lindneux for letters and photographs to be included in the book. He elaborately designed each page, paginated the poems, photographs, newspaper clippings, and other ephemera into a cohesive book documenting the personalities he treasured. There are also several poems about western culture, persons, the Dust Bowl, and rodeo.

Biography

“Western Memories,” arrangement of verse written biographies, and illustrations, originating from the elements of inspiration, color and action, which will ever spot-light the great spirit of Oklahoma.

It’s Big Show Country, where the famous ranches of Pawnee Bill, the Miller Brothers, and Mulhall, produced more original western show talent than any other area on the face of the earth. Such match-less performers as Jose Barrera “Mexican Joe,” the lasso genius of the western show arena. Fabulous Lucille Mulhall, the world’s most exciting steer roper, and “Old Red,” one of the best in the annals of great roping horses. The God made Cattle Trail and the Devil made Dust Bowl, along with many other subjects featuring this panorama drama of Oklahoma.

I dedicate “Western memories” to those gracious ones who inspired me to compile it; Gordon W. Lillie “Pawnee Bill,” and the lovely Lucille Mulhall, somewhere on that “High Range of Western Stars” where the show will ever go on.

– From the “Introduction” of “Western Memories,” C.G. Wilson’s Scrapbook.

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