Rodeo ring, Protection, Kansas, ca. 1910
Unknown photographer, Protection, Kansas, ca. 1910
Photographic Study Collection, 2003.272Before there was a motocross and BMX freestyle trick called the “One-handed No-footed Can-Can” or the skateboarding trick called “Carving a Frontside Boneless,” there were the competitive events of cowboy contests, tournaments and early rodeos from the late 19th century into the early 20th century. One can make the case that some events in the sport of rodeo are precursors to what are now called extreme sports. In effect, these were the first homegrown extreme sports.
Smoky Moore Bulldogging, Pendleton Round-Up, 1923Ralph R. Doubleday, Pendleton, Oregon, 1923
Photographic Study Collection, 2004.089.2Steer wrestling, derived from bulldogging wherein a rider drops from a galloping horse onto a running steer’s head, twists the steer’s head toward the sky, bites the humbled steer’s upper lip, and wrestles it to the ground, is most certainly extreme. Bill Pickett (ca.1860-1932) imitated the lip-biting action of a bulldog to gain control of or throw a steer. But, what was his thinking when he tried this the first time? Pickett stated, “Ropes is all alright for to hang people wif, but dey gets in de way when ya’ wants to rope a steer.”
Bobby Burke Bulldogging, Roundup, Seattle, 1915Unknown photographer, Seattle, Washington, 1915
Photographic Study Collection, 2004.139What possessed the first person to climb on the back of a bull or steer and attempt to ride him? Who in his right mind would sit without a saddle upon the back of a wild horse and ride until the horse quit bucking? What was Montana Jack Ray thinking when in 1910 he originated the extremely hazardous trick “Going Under the Belly” where the rider of a galloping horse goes from the saddle to under the horse’s belly? Was it out of boredom or a twisted sense of machismo mixed with an urge toward pretentious display?
Bea Kirnan, Prairie Rose, Mable Strickland, Princess Mohawk [Florence Randolph], Ruth Roach, Kittie Canutt, Prairie Lillie Allen
Ralph R. Doubleday, ca. 1920
Photographic Study Collection, 2005.087The sport of rodeo originated in the days of the Spanish ranchos when the annual roundup or rodeo (from the Spanish word rodear meaning “to go around” or “to surround or encircle”) and branding of cattle was an occasion for a display of horsemanship and roping. When the principal chores of the rodeo were completed, there was usually an exhibition and contest of skills by the cowboys, or “vaqueros.”
Walter Glenn Winner, Roping Contest, Time 45 sec.
J. B. Burrell, Ontario, Oregon, 1911
Photographic Study Collection, 2004.190.2After the Civil War, when cattle herds spread out throughout the West, the ranks of the American cowboy grew. Between 1867 and 1886, it is estimated that six to nine million head of cattle were driven from Texas to Kansas by cowboys who were mostly in their twenties. The trail drive era faded as railroad stock cars replaced cattle drives and open rangelands were divided up and defined by barbed wire. The demand for cowboy labor dwindled and many had to seek a new way of life through local competitions, contests and Wild West shows based on the skills, talents and demands of a working cowboy.
Roping and Tying Contest, Malheur Co. Fair, Ontario, Oregon
J. B. Burrell, Ontario, Oregon, ca. 1915
Photographic Study Collection, 2005.115Range-cattle competitions were not known as rodeos, but as frontier days celebrations, roundups and stampedes. The Wild West show employed the term “rodeo” for cowboy competition. As the Wild West shows disappeared, rodeo emerged. Between 1915 and 1925 the term “rodeo” slowly became the word applied to this sport.
Cow Boys Waiting For Their Turn in the Bucking Contest, Round Up, Pendleton, Oregon
Walter S. Bowman, Pendleton, Oregon, 1910
Photographic Study Collection, 2005.047.1In 1993 the programming department of the sports network ESPN coined the phrase “Extreme Sports” while planning for the first Extreme Games held in 1995. According to Wikipedia, “An extreme sport (also known as an action sport) is a general, somewhat hazily-defined term for any of several newer sports involving adrenaline-inducing action. They often feature a combination of speed, height, danger and spectacular stunts. Levels of danger vary widely, but there is always an element — an “extreme” factor — that causes an adrenaline rush which keeps participants loyal to their sport.” Often called “alternative sports,” extreme sports originated as recreational activities for young adults, often in a group context, with individuals showing off skills for the rest of the group members to imitate or emulate.
Mable [sic] Strickland Trick Riding
Pendleton Ore. Association Photo, Pendleton, Oregon, ca. 1915
Photographic Study Collection, 2005.041Extreme sports are similar to cowboy competitions in their “friendly” recreational origins, the age of their participants and their inherent danger and requisite dangerous behaviors. The main difference between rodeo and extreme sports is in the fact that rodeo events require an animal while extreme sports require inanimate devices and vehicles. Animals have behaviors that are unpredictable and oftentimes uncontrollable. To be successful, the riders, ropers or wrestlers must have flexible and adaptable skill sets to meet and mesh with the variety of animals they are riding, roping or wrestling. Insuring more predictability in his performance, the extreme sportsman relies solely on his abilities in co-ordination with a well-maintained, technologically current skateboard, BMX bike, snowboard or street luge. Whereas the animal causes the most unpredictability in rodeo (outside of the participant’s health), the variety of courses, parks, settings and weather are the primary determinative factors of performance success in extreme sports.
Leonard Stroud going under his horse while at full speed
Doubleday-Foster Photo Co. Inc., Tucumcari, New Mexico, ca. 1915
Edith Jones Waldo Bliss Collection, R.241.211The images in this exhibition derive from scanned photographic postcard images dating between 1900 and 1920. Comparisons and analogies between rodeo contests and skateboarding (as a representative extreme sport) are made sporadically throughout this exhibit. The common element which links them is danger. However, each of their shared group experiences informs a unique cultural identity expressed through clothing, music and lifestyle.
Bonnie McCarroll thrown from “Silver” Pendleton, Oregon
Ralph R. Doubleday, Pendleton, Oregon, 1915
Edith Jones Waldo Bliss Collection, R.241.236Bonnie McCarroll (1897-1929) was bronc riding champion at Madison Square Garden in 1922, at Yankee Stadium in 1923 and at Wembley Stadium in London in 1924. McCarroll was thrown and fatally trampled by a bronc at the Pendleton Round-up of 1929. Ironically, this was to be her last rodeo since she and her husband, Frank McCarroll, had planned to retire. As a consequence of her death, the controversy over whether or not cowgirl bronc riding should or should not be included in rodeo programs was ignited. The Pendleton Round-up committee dropped cowgirl bronc riding immediately. Moreover, the newly created Rodeo Association of America (R.A.A.), the first organization which attempted to regulate and standardize rodeos, was opposed to cowgirl events. R.A.A.-sanctioned rodeos, which never included more than 100 rodeos in its 17-year existence, had to include eight recognized contests, sometimes at the expense of cowgirl contests and events.
Everett Wilson, Friends Must Part
Walter S. Bowman, 1913
Photographic Study Collection, 2003.017Today, videography and still photography play a key role in the marketing and development of the sport of skateboarding as photography played the same role for rodeo in its early years. One such pioneer photographer was Walter S. Bowman (1865-1938) who was Pendleton, Oregon’s premier photographer between 1890 and the mid-1930s. While documenting daily life in eastern Oregon, he also photographically captured the personalities and event of the Pendleton Round-up. Bowman owned the first car in Pendleton, possibly a Maxwell, and was arrested for driving twelve miles an hour down Main Street. Ironically, he died from injuries received in a car crash.
Jack Joyce on Angel
Walter S. Bowman, 1912
Photographic Study Collection, 2003.031The image of the saddle bronc rider on an untamed horse has not only come to represent the sport of rodeo, but also in a way to symbolize the American West and its conquest. Anthropologist Elizabeth Atwood Lawrence delves deeper into this symbolism when she compares saddle bronc riding with bareback riding. She states, “the horse wears a halter and the attached rein gives the rider some control of his mount’s head. A saddle with stirrups provides more apparatus to signify control, and the event becomes more highly suggestive of the overcoming of the wild through the imposition of these objects representing culture . . . the rider is judged on the amount of force exerted over the animal, and the horse is evaluated on the degree of wildness exhibited in opposing the contestant.”
Roy Adams Riding Sea Lion?, Let ‘er Buck, Round Up, Pendleton, Oregon
Walter S. Bowman, Pendleton, Oregon, ca. 1915
Photographic Study Collection, 2003.280.1A bucking bronco event at Montrose, Colorado in 1887 nearly ended in a fatality, not for the rider, but for a spectator, thus proving the notion that there are no innocent bystanders. “One of the cowboys was riding a bucking broncho when the animal made a dash towards where the ladies were seated and could not be checked before he struck Mrs. James A. Ladd, who was thrown violently to the ground beneath the animal’s hoofs. The horse struck the lady with its front feet on her chest and pinioned her to the earth for a second or two, but he was quickly grasped by one or two gentlemen who stood near the lady and prevented from trampling her to death. Every lady on the grounds screamed and one or two fainted.”
C. E. Morton Six Feet Up on Bucking Bull, Round Up, 1914
Walter S. Bowman, Pendleton, Oregon, 1914
Photographic Study Collection, 2003.280.2Steer riding (bull riding) began as a humorous and crowd-pleasing exhibition in 1889 at Prescott Frontier Days in Arizona. A youthful cowboy by the name of Jeff Young jumped on steers as they were untied during the steer roping and rode them back to the herd, much to the delight of spectators. In 1913, steer riding became a contested event, and according to the rules, “The steer will be allowed to buck with head free and must be ridden without saddle, reins or surcingle.” By 1925 real bulls were used.
Charlie Bowlsby Piled by Fuzzy, Pendleton Round Up, 1912
Edward F. Marcell, Portland, Oregon, 1912
Photographic Study Collection, 2004.050Recalling a Fourth of July bronc riding contest at Cheyenne, Wyoming many years prior to 1896, a cowboy reported, “The regular thing was for everyone around to bring in the meanest horses they could get hold of and have some fun. The worst one is picked out and some one goes around and takes up a collection. The next is the riding. A good man tops the horse and stays with him until he gets the dirt out of him. The man busts the horse or the horse busts the man . . . That will be sometimes ten minutes and sometimes half or three-quarters of an hour, and sometimes until the horse is played out. The rider who succeeds in staying with the horse takes the money. If he is thrown they try other riders until one succeeds.”
A Nice Gentle Saddle Pony?
Doubleday-Foster Photo Co., Inc., Miles City, Montana, 1916
Photographic Study Collection, 2004.118.1In the pre-rodeo, cowboy contest era, most competing cowboys lived in the area in which the contest was held. These ranch cowboys did not follow the more professional rodeo competitors’ circuit, but competed only in these local contests. Their pride in competing in front of the home crowd was demonstrated by the clothing they wore. Historian Kristine Fredriksson writes, “At the Pendleton Round-Up, which prided itself on being strictly a contest of working cowboys, the contestants showed up in ‘gaudy shirts’ that contrasted with the dress of the rest of the townspeople. Angora chaps, dyed in brilliant colors [an example shown in this picture] were in vogue, and those who wore leather chaps adorned them with silver conchas.”Skateboarders wear hoodies, hats and beanies with company logos; tee shirts with provocative icons or slogans; and clothing stylistically designated as Urban, Hip Hop, Graffiti and Urban Skate Wear. One of the more important components of a skater’s apparel is his footwear and for years Vans was the go-to company. Some skaters defend their Vans against all comers as evidenced in these lyrics from “Vans Song” by the Suicide Machines:You think Doc Martens are the coolest invention
since someone sliced a loaf of bread in someone else’s kitchen
The plain truth is that you just plain suck so why should I tell you not to waste a hundred bucksVANS, in my head, VANS, on my feet
My sole is on the ground when I’m walking down the street 2,3,4
Don’t need no Doc Martens
Can’t wear no Birkenstocks
Just a crummy old pair of chuka boots
and a smelly old pair of socksIf you want to wear them you don’t have to ride a skateboard
You can even wear them with a pair of old cords
Someone’ll probably tell you that they’re not in trend
Just tell them that’s the reason why you don’t have any friends–no friends.
Tex Parker on Lady Green, Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Ralph R. Doubleday, Cheyenne, Wyoming, 1919
Photographic Study Collection, 2004.159Known variously as bronco busting, bronco riding, and pitching contest, saddle bronc riding is rodeo’s classic and cornerstone event. Originally, the only disqualification rule was being bucked off. Moreover, contestants were required to ride the horse until it either quit bucking, stopped, or ran off. Called “ridden to a finish,” this early iteration of the event could conceivably go on for some time causing spectators to lose interest and to begin chatting among themselves.An 1887 newspaper account of a successful ride at a Denver, Colorado tournament reads, “Buck! Buck isn’t a name for it. Up in the air and down with all four legs bunched stiff as an antelope’s, and back arched like a hostile wildcat’s, went the animal. But the rider was there, and deep into the bowels he sank the spurs, while he lashed shoulders and neck with the keen stinging quirt. It was brute force against human nerve. Nerve won. A few more jumps and the horse submitted and carried the man around the corral on a swinging lope. It had all been done in seven and a half minutes. The crowd cheered, and an admirer dropped a box of cigars into the hands of the perspiring but plucky victor.”
The Bull Gets His Man at the Round Up
Walter S. Bowman, Pendleton, Oregon, 1918
Photographic Study Collection, 2004.172Regarding rodeo injuries, anthropologist Elizabeth Atwood Lawrence writes that bareback riders “suffer trauma to the arm that holds the rigging, and steer wrestling leads inevitably to some degree of knee trouble. Bull riders, in addition to the major injuries resulting from falls, tramplings, and gorings, usually have pulled groin muscles from gripping the bull. Saddle bronc riders most frequently break their legs, either in the chutes or when they are bucked off.”As of 1995, there were an estimated 8 million skateboarders in the US. An estimated 56,435 skateboard injuries were treated in emergency departments in 1992. In addition, an estimated 1,900 hospitalizations occurred due to skateboard-related injuries during this period. The vast proportion of admissions were from head injuries. Analysis of Consumer Product Safety Commission data from 1991 indicates the following salient features of the current outbreak of skateboard injuries:95% involved skateboarders younger than 25 years; 61% involved 5- to 14-year-olds; 87% of victims were male; 74% of injuries involved the extremities—usually fractures of radius and ulna, 21% to the head and neck, and 5% to the trunk; severe injuries (intracraneal, internal) were uncommon, moderate injuries (long bones fractures) were most common, and deaths occurred almost always from collisions with motor vehicles.
Lewis Mosely on “Sunfish Molly,” Riding for the Championship of the World
Walter S. Bowman, Pendleton, Oregon, ca. 1915
Photographic Study Collection, 2004.265.4Nowadays, disqualification during the saddle bronc riding event results if, prior to the 8-second buzzer, the rider fails to have his feet in the proper “mark out” position at the beginning of the ride; if either foot slips out of a stirrup; if he touches the animal, himself or his equipment with his free hand; or if he drops the rein. A rider must begin his ride with his feet over the bronc’s shoulders giving the horse the advantage. Judging is done by one judge on each side, scoring both the horse and the rider from 1 to 25. Judges’ scores are then added together for a possible 100. To obtain a high score, a rider should synchronize his spurring action with the bronc’s bucking rhythm and maintain control and long spurring strokes throughout the ride. Albeit there are more opportunities for disqualification, the 8-second ride certainly has a number of obvious advantages over riding to a finish.
Fannie Sperry-Steele, Champion Lady Bucking Horse Rider, Winnipeg Stampede, 1913
Edward F. Marcell, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, 1913
Photographic Study Collection, 2004.273.1World champion bronc rider at Calgary in 1912 and 1913 champion at Winnipeg, Fannie Sperry Steele (1887-1983) remarked, “Sometimes it takes a lot of grit to do what you want to do, but I can’t see how people can stand the monotony of doing work at which they are not happy. Rodeo teaches you that death is right around the corner, and the ‘now’ is all you have, so make the most of it. It may be the old Anglo-Saxon creed, ‘Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow you die’ carried over into rodeo, but it fits. We live each day as if it’s our last. Steele died at the age of ninety-five and rode horseback until she was eighty-seven years old. Her legacy as a pioneer cowgirl, according to historian Mary Lou LeCompte, was that she helped make women’s contests an integral part of professional rodeo. “[She] demonstrated that females were capable of far greater physical achievements than was generally believed possible.”
Trouble with the “Bronc’s,” Walla Walla, 1913
Edward F. Marcell, Portland, Oregon, 1913
Photographic Study Collection, 2004.301Before there were enclosed arenas and front, or shotgun, delivery chutes, horses were snubbed to another horse and usually blindfolded. According to historian Bob Jordan, “The helpers would saddle the bronc, the rider would crawl on from the snubbing horse, and get his stirrups and rein. When he was ready he would say, ‘Jerk ‘er,’ meaning jerk the blindfold and the snubber would release the horse at the same time.” Whether this picture illustrates a breakdown in this process or the collision of the pickup man’s horse with the bronc, one will never know.
Bertha Blancett on Eagle, [Pendleton Round-Up]
Walter S. Bowman, Pendleton, Oregon, ca. 1920
Photographic Study Collection, 2005.023.01In 1904 Bertha Kapernick Blancett (1883-1979) entered the bronc riding and wild horse race events at Cheyenne, Wyoming. The first Calgary Stampede in 1912 showcased Blancett’s and other cowgirls’ talents. By 1920 rodeos regularly featured three cowgirl events–bronc riding, trick riding, and relay racing. Cowgirls had to stay on a bronc for 8 seconds (men 10 seconds), ride with two reins instead of one, and ride one-handed like the men. Most cowgirls rode with hobbled stirrups (stirrups tied together) supposedly making the horse easier to ride. The ladies’ bronc riding event was dropped by 1941.While the vast majority of skateboarders are male, women are gaining ground and creating their own role models for young girls to emulate. In 1990 the first All Girl Skate Jam, a series of skating competitions in Reno, Nevada, was organized in an effort to recognize female skateboarding. Since then, there have been 15 jams held nationally and internationally. ESPN broadcast female skateboarding as part of its Philadelphia X-Games in 2002.However, some male skateboarders still resent females “skating in on their turf.” They use the derogatory term “Skating Betty” to describe girls who want to meet cute guys and not skateboard seriously.
Art Acord and Outlaw, Both Down, Try Out, [Pendleton] Round Up, 1914
Walter S. Bowman, Pendleton, Oregon, 1914
Photographic Study Collection, 2005.047.06By the age of nine, Artemus Ward Acord (1890-1931) was wrangling horses at a ranch near Stillwater, Oklahoma. In 1909 Acord began performing daredevil acts for the Dick Stanley-Bud Atkinson Wild West Show in New York. Soon he performed as a stuntman in one-reel westerns produced by the Bison Film Company in New Jersey. There for only a year, he then toured America, Canada and Europe with Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show. Acord competed successfully in rodeos, winning many trophies and cash prizes in bronc riding, calf roping and steer wrestling events. In 1912 he won the steer wrestling championship at the Pendleton Roundup and won again in 1916, defeating Hoot Gibson. He would spend the remainder of his life starring in western motion pictures.
Jess Stahl on Glass Eye, [California] Rodeo, Salinas
Trout Photo, Salinas, California, ca. 1910
Photographic Study Collection, 2005.047.08African American competitor Jesse Stahl (1883-1938) began riding broncs in 1913. It is widely believed that due to his color and the effects of discrimination, Stahl was seldom awarded first place when sometimes clearly he should have been. Stahl won several steer wrestling and bull riding championships and is considered by some rodeo aficionados to be the greatest of all bronc riders. Edwin Cantlon recalled seeing Stahl at the fourth or fifth Reno Rodeo in Nevada in the 1920s: “And my lifelong remembrance of one of the characters at the rodeo that day was a colored man named Jesse Stahl, who, because of his color, was not allowed to compete in the rodeo, but he put on an exhibition where they put the saddle on a bronc backwards, and he mounted the horse with a suitcase in his hand. And then they turned the horse loose, and he made a real impressive ride. And his statement was, ‘I’m going home.'”
Henry Warren [Saddle bronc riding at the Pendleton Round Up]
Walter S. Bowman, Pendleton, Oregon, 1913
Photographic Study Collection, 2005.063.03In the early days of rodeo, saddle bronc riders, according rodeo historian Bob Jordan, “could do about anything to stay on; commonly, they carried a quirt to urge the horse a little if they felt they needed it. They usually fanned the horse with their hat. Commonly, two reins called pull reins were used with a halter. Later they went to one rein and called it a hack rein, or bronc rein.” Humor is a way in which the cowboy deals with life’s vicissitudes. Undoubtedly, the cowboy, laying on the ground in the middle of the action, briefly catching the afternoon sun, had some understated story to share about his day in the arena. If he had been the rider and bucked off, he could have said, “I lost my hat and got off to look for it.” Likely story, dude.
Everybody is Doing It, Even the Horses Ride at the Round-Up
Walter S. Bowman, Pendleton, Oregon, 1913
Photographic Study Collection, 2005.190.03The best broncs are considered “outlaws” and viewed as rebels against society with an image of unpredictability. The best ones are mean and tough. The International Rodeo Association conveyed through a publicity information sheet that “power, violence, and rebellion” are “terms of pride” when applied to broncs. Elizabeth Atwood Lawrence writes that “the bronc, central symbol of rodeo, seems to represent an outlaw, a force of resistance to conventional society. Rodeo people believe that its rebelliousness is genetic and cannot be taught. Something within a particular animal causes this behavior, and makes it incorrigible, even though the horse may appear docile at times and go through stages of its life when it appears to have been tamed . . . The unpredictability of a bronc is a key quality, and one which expresses the essence of rodeo itself.” It would seem that broncs and skateboarders have similar “outlaw” auras, one naturally derived, the other effectively studied.
“Sharkey the famous bucking bull”
Edith Jones Waldo Bliss Collection, R.241.178Skateboarders listen to punk rock groups such as the Dead Kennedys, Goldfinger, Primus, and Jody Foster’s Army (JFA). Lyrics reflect their sense of non-conformity and, in some instances, utilize imagery evoked from their jargon, especially drawing from their glossary of skateboarding tricks. The JFA song, “Skateboard,” is an example.Frontside air–you beef
backside air–you beef
ollie* pop–you beef
can’t get up–you bleedskateboard is all I do
skateboard I’m better than you
ollie in the deep end
backside air over your chin
frontside air–six feet
backside air–six feet
ollie pop–six feet
contorted andrecht** contest sweep*In 1978 Alan “Ollie” Gelfand revolutionized skateboarding by perfecting what became known as the Ollie. While riding, he pushed downward with his back foot, causing the front of the board to rise. Then jumping with the board, he caused both the board and himself to lift into the air about five inches.**For those big-air snowboarding aficionados, an Andrecht is a rear handed backside handplant with a front handed grab.
Ralph R. Doubleday, Rock Springs, Wyoming, 1915
Edith Jones Waldo Bliss Collection, R.241.205Jimmie Ramsay is shown here winning second money at Pinedale, Wyoming rodeo of 1915. Ramsay was one of many unassuming, oftentimes unheralded cowboys who participated in local contests during an era of rodeo infancy which preceded the current times of professionalism, big business and commercialism. Similarly, the sport of skateboarding, from its scooter origins through parts of a roller skate nailed to a board to its clay-wheeled skateboard in the 1950s, had non-commercial, recreational beginnings. Justin Regan writes, “Despite being a relatively new phenomenon, skateboarding . . . has its own rich history of nonconformists, free spirits, and rebels. A segment of the nation’s youth reacting against an intolerant stiffening of society’s moral fabric as the population at large desperately tries to cope with world events. These . . . , outcasts, and hopeless ne’er-do-wells don’t have agents, and you won’t see their shiny faces on TV hawking Mountain Dew or Right Guard. But they’re still here and they comprise the pure essence and the backbone of what this industry has been built upon.”
Tex Crockett on “South Dakota,” Cheyenne, Wyoming
Ralph R. Doubleday, Cheyenne, Wyoming, 1919
Edith Jones Waldo Bliss Collection, R.241.248Two or more mounted hazers kept the bronc from bucking into the crowd, trees, creeks, rocks, cactus, corral, fences, and other obstacles. They would then catch the horse to retrieve the rider (if he was still there) and the saddle. The role of the hazers evolved from one of salutary guidance into that of pick-up men.In a December 2005 article in The Skateboarding Mag, Justin Regan could have been writing about these early rodeo participants, “The freedom of the individual is alive and well within these rambunctious personalities, living on their own terms and never thinking to ask permission first. This is what gives skateboarding its outlaw bent and its resistance to authority. From here springs defiance and true innovation. This is what makes us, as skateboarders, intrinsically different from the mainstream population. And this is why an outsider will never fully understand or accept some of the things we all take for granted.”