HOWDY! I’m Kirsten Lynn a new author at Prairie Rose and thrilled beyond measure to be here!
My story RACE TO MARRY published in the anthology LASSOING A GROOM takes place while a Wild West Show is visiting Sheridan, Wyoming. Part of this show is what later would be called a rodeo, but the word rodeo did not make it as far north as Wyoming until 1916. Until then, cowboys and cowgirls gathered for the thrill and the glory in Wild West Shows, ranch round-ups, and summer carnivals.
The first such event in Sheridan County was the “Old Settlers Reunion” in Dayton, Wyoming, 1895. The three day event was planned by J.D. Jennings a local sheriff and stock inspector. Jennings’ (nicknamed Shorty even though he stood over six feet) competition had no formal rules, judges, timer, or even designated rodeo grounds. Contests took place in the street where bronc riders saddled their own mounts with the help of one man to ear it down until the saddle was on the rider mounted. The wild horse was turned loose in the middle of Main Street.
This exhibition also included cowpony races, hurdle races, fancy trick riding, and roping. The first Reunion attracted 2,000 spectators. The next year the event was staged for five days and drew the attention of men from Cheyenne looking to stage a similar show. With Jennings help their show would become the Cheyenne Frontier Days.
The city of Sheridan set aside the first three days of July 1897 for THE OLD TIMERS AND COWBOYS STATE REUNION AND REVIVIAL OF THE DAYS OF THE WILD AND WOOLY WEST. Stores dawned bunting and at the fairgrounds numerous stands where cigars, nuts, candy, cooling drinks and appetizing edibles stood ready for the first rodeo-like competition in Sheridan.
Crowds gathered for bronc riding, riding yearling steers, horse races, and other events all leading to a reenactment of an attack on the Deadwood coach at the end of each day.
By 1900, over 3,000 spectators dressed in the height of fashion including wasp-waisted dresses, birthday cake-sized hats and men in suits and derbys viewed a MIDSUMMER CARNIVAL, in a natural amphitheater in the hills east of Sheridan.
Cowboys from ranches from miles around competed in roping and tying down and horse races. A polo game between an English team and cowboys as well as a shooting tournament and reenactment of the Battle of the Little Big Horn rounded out the events. Between 1,000 and 1,500 Crow, Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapahoe took part in the spectacle.
|Crow Tepees at Sheridan Stampede 1914 (courtesy of Sheridan County Museum)|
The Midsummer Carnival continued through 1913. The entire series of shows became known as Bots Sots, a Crow term meaning “the best.”
By the 1920s local ranchers got into the act and began staging rodeos. Ira Nash owner and his son Archie of the U-Bar-U Ranch opened the rodeo season, June 27, 1927, on their ranch on Lower Prairie Dog Road.
The rodeo started at one o’clock to 1500 people in attendance. Approximately 400 automobiles passed through the gates to form a circle facing the chutes.
The U-Bar-U hosted the first rodeo of the 1928 and 1929 seasons, as well, boasting “some of the best outlaw horses in the region secured for the annual rodeo.” The rodeo could claim some of the best outlaw riders, too, including Curly Wetzel, “Doc” Alber, Junior Spear, Lee Owen and Jim Lemon.
|Curly Wetzel at local rodeo (courtesy of Sheridan County Museum)|
Mary Morgan, wife of P.J. Morgan, owner of the PK Ranch might not have hosted the first rodeo of the 1928 or 1929 season, but she staged one of the best.
The cost to attend the PK RANCH RODEO was unique to the other rodeos mentioned. That’s because it was free. The PK Ranch provided the prizes including a “flashy Hupmobile roadster” for the all-around cowboy in 1928.
There were no stands. Spectators parked their cars and gathered on the hillsides around a natural amphitheater.
At the first rodeo over 28 states were represented and 20,000 attended. In 1929, families camped on hills the night before and cars streamed onto the ranch as early as eight o’clock for the one o’clock show. A count of license plates indicated 35 states were represented.
A familiar figure, Curly Wetzel, won the bronc riding at both the 1928 and 1929 events.
The PK Rodeo was holding its own against Cheyenne Frontier Days, Pendleton Roundup, Calgary Stampede and Belle Fourche rodeo when in 1930 Mary Morgan fell ill and she could not hold such a large event.
|Roper at last PK Rodeo (courtesy of Sheridan County Museum)|
Morgan, not willing to give up the event completely, held a miniature rodeo, “just a little party for friends and their amusement.” Over 5,000 people still attended this small gathering, but no official records were kept.
By 1931, a group of local citizens wanted to bring visitors to Sheridan and decided to organize a professional rodeo. After years of highs and lows, building seating, pens, bucking chutes among other things, this rodeo became the Sheridan WYO rodeo. The WYO is held every July and is one of the rodeos on the PRCA Million Dollar Tour.
Now here’s a bit about cowboy Cal Jenner just looking to ride broncs at JIM JENNINGS WILD WEST SHOW in 1903, and his run-in with his toughest challenge…rancher, Josie Allison.
He’s in town to tame a man-killer. She’s accused of being one. When she proposes marriage the race is on.
Desperate to save her family ranch, Josie Allison, signs up for a bride race then begs a cowboy to put his John Hancock down to catch her. Marrying a man you don’t know is crazy, but there’s something about this cowboy that makes Josie want to trust him with her land and maybe even her heart. And Josie knows marrying a man you do know can be twice as loco.
Cal Renner came to Sheridan, Wyoming for one thing: ride the horse known as a man-killer and use the purse money to buy his own ranch. When a woman proposes to him five minutes after his feet touch Sheridan dirt, he’s sure a Wyoming asylum is missing a patient. But when she turns those summer green eyes his way the promise of a family to go with that ranch is too hard to resist.
When secrets are revealed and enemies join the race, Cal and Josie will have to learn to trust each other because the race to the altar has turned into the race for their hearts.
I hope you all will enjoy this wild and crazy “courtship” in the old west story! I am also over-the-moon, as I recently signed a contract with Prairie Rose for a full-length novel, HOME FIRES. I cannot wait for everyone to meet Cord and Olivia.
Kirsten is thrilled to be a part of Prairie Rose Publications! It’s a blessing when work feels like play and play feels like an adventure!
BLOG (Campfire Coffee): http://www.kirstenlynnwildwest.com/blog/