I am headed to Oklahoma City this week for Rodeo Weekend at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. It should be a great time with the well-qualified people that are getting inducted. I have been blessed, by a request by Rodeo Historical Society President in 2002, Jimmie Gibbs Munroe, to be the Chairman of the Oral History Project. My job it to get the Oral Histories recorded by audio or video for all those being inducted, plus the Tad Lucas Memorial Award recipient, the Ben Johnson Memorial Award honoree and the Director’s Choice. This is a fun project for me because I get to research each of these people and get my questions ready for a video interview with each person. Congratulations to: Lydia Moore; Frank Shepperson; Rob Smets; Wacey Cathey; Jack Ward, ‘Buddy’ Cockrell, and families of deceased inductees, Buck LeGrand and T. J. Walters. The Tad Lucas honor goes to Cindy Rosser, and the Ben Johnson honor will be bestowed on Doug Clark. The Directors Choice is Dr. Charles ‘Bud’ Townsend.
Seeing so many of the former honorees and former contestants and rodeo personnel is always fun, and there is always someone or several I have never met before. Being a rodeo historian, I primarily live in the past. I enjoy reading and researching events that happened a hundred years ago, and how much our sport has evolved, and is still evolving. It’s just so exciting to me. I will be visiting and catching up with my rodeo ‘family’ for three days and there is nothing I enjoy more than hearing what they know I haven’t learned.
I hope you got to see the Wright Family, from Utah, section of Sixty Minutes on television Sunday, night, Nov. 3rd. What a fabulous family, and what heritage of our important western way of life they have lived. They have a wealth in family and determination to love and help each other in every way they can, whether it be on the ranch or in the rodeo arena in the saddle bronc event. Great comments were made by various members of the family, and there was lots of humor in their remarks. Their commitment to each other, their families, the ranch, and rodeo is obvious and makes me so proud to see them get some well deserved publicity of their amazing family.
Shortly after I return home from Rodeo Weekend I will be off to enjoy the induction at the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, at the new Dickies Arena next door. My favorite honoree, Dixie Reger Mosley, has invited me to sit with her family at the luncheon. She is an amazing woman that I admire in so many ways. She has been blessed to have found her ‘Mr Wonderful, Bill Mosley, who adored her and the feeling was mutual. When he passed a few years back, her children, and their families, were there for her. In fact, daughter, Judy, and husband, have retired so they can help Dixie enjoy the things she has on her ‘bucket list’. For a gal who started performing in rodeo at 5 ½ years old, and didn’t get to go to a real school until high school, she is mighty bright, and raised those kids right. A two-time survivor of breast cancer, she says she feels great, and goes to the gym five days a week – and is pushing 90!
In December I go to Las Vegas to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. I enjoy ten days of watching the top fifteen competitors in each event do their magic. I help the ProRodeo Hall of Fame and Boyd Gaming by being host at the Gold Card Room for ten nights on the floor level of Thomas & Mack UNLV stadium where the rodeo is held. We open the room at 5:15 before the evening performances. It is a place for yesterday’s competitors that are Gold Card members to come visit with friends, make new friends, and have supper. Everyone is in their seats at the rodeo by 6:45 when the Opening Ceremonies begin. My tenure to host this room is my way of giving back for all the stories and histories of cowgirls and cowboys I have gleaned from this room over the last 32 years.
I was blessed to be mentored by some of the most well-respected cowboys and cowgirls in professional rodeo when I began to writing and researching rodeo history. I have never forgotten how they introduced me to so many people. I knew their names because of what they had done for the sport of rodeo, but had never met. Of course, I interviewed them, and often I went back and interviewed them again and again, they had so much to share. It has been a great ride and I will never stop appreciating what they did for me. I lost my running buddy, Imogene Veach Beals, age 96, a few years back, and that was difficult. She and I had traveled together to rodeo events for fifteen years. This year I lost my second dear traveling companion, Liz Kesler, age 93. Both of them taught me so much, so subtly, and I’ll never forget what I learned from them. They were both truly committed to rodeo in every sense of the way. Their accounts of their early days in rodeo, with their husbands who also gave so much to the rodeo world, were truly amazing. I listened eagerly every time they reminisced about a rodeo, a cowboy, or an incident – sometimes difficult to hear, but made me realize how truly dedicated these people were to the sport of rodeo.
I just finished researching and writing my book on the history of barrel racing in rodeo. It was a commitment I was determined to finish this year. I do believe we have some amazing women in the sport of barrel racing and their story is so important. These women, both in the beginning and today, are so strong and committed, and not only are they outstanding horsewomen, they are business-savvy and making their sport one that is equal to all other events in rodeo. Rodeo is for everyone, the young, the old, the guys and the gals. Hopefully the book will be published early next year.
I am also in to another book, that I decided about seven years ago, needs to be written. It is a book on the early-day rodeos at Madison Square Garden in New York City. In my research I feel that although anyone could enter a Madison Square Garden rodeo, it was at the end of rodeo season and going to New York was a lot of fun. Cowboys & cowgirls in their ten gallon hats and fancy boots were a fascination to the locals. They were treated amazingly well, got lots of publicity, and the rodeo grew and lasted so long most contestants could make enough money to get back home. The National Finals Rodeo only allows the top 15 in each event, but to me Madison Square Garden Rodeo was the ‘unofficial predecessor to the National Finals because it ended the season with a BANG! Even though I have collected numerous articles and information on this rodeo, over the years, there is still much that needs to be found. Wish me luck!
Word got to the movers and shakers of the Cowboy Channel on television and I was asked to appear on the Western Sports RoundUp with Steve Kenyon and Amy Wilson a few weeks ago at the studio in Fort Worth Stockyards. It was a fun time and we mainly visited about the history of rodeo and my books. Steve and Amy do a great job in their interviews and since the Cowboy Channel is holding a rodeo in 2020 on June 19 ththrough 21, at Madison Square Garden it was timely.
What else is on the horizon rodeo-wise? Your guess is as good as mine, but I’ll bet it will be fun and challenging. I can hardly wait! Til next time . . .