First Annual Steer Roping
“After many years of misery thru the Depression and World War II, postwar posterity is starting to get underway with companies now able to supply cars, TVs, and other goods demanded by consumers. Cars and televisions are getting bigger. China has MaoTseTung and Russia has the Bomb. The Cold War has begun. . .”
Everett turned down the radio, reducing the static as he put out his roll-your-own cigarette in the turned up cuff of his indigo jeans. He and Clark had just pulled in from Oklahoma to MaBridgers Boarding House to inquire about a room for a few days. Three days crammed in the car with his roping buddy and all their gear while pulling two horses had been quite the trip. The horses were already turned out up at the rodeo grounds, stretching their legs, bucking a bit to ease their cramped backs, heads already deep in the green grass. Even in August, the mountains of Pinedale were a cool respite from the summer heat of Oklahoma and the road.
MaBridger finally ambled downstairs to answer Everett’s ring, flustered and fussing over the unaccustomed commotion in town. Located on Highway 191 running between Rock Springs 100 miles to the south and Jackson Hole 80 miles to the north, her Boarding House didn’t miss much of the action. But, when a little berg balloons from 700 citizens one day to over 3000 the next, it’s darn sure claustrophobic. There were people everywhere, from all over the state and then some, all in town to watch world class cowboys compete for the $12,000 pay out. The First Annual Steer Roping dreamed up by Joe Johnson at the Stockman’s Club Bar and Ross Meeks in Big Piney looked like it would really pay off.
MaBridger thought a moment before she offered the two dusty cowboys her last room. Rooms usually went for $2 a night, but who knew how long it would be before she saw a crowd in town like this again. Besides, those rodeo cowboys ate more than city folks ever could. “That’ll be $4 with your breakfast tomorrow at seven and your supper tonight at six” MaBridger demanded, not looking Everett in the eye.
Everett winced as he dug his money roll out of his front jean pocket. Seems like these small towns swung one way or the other – prices low or way too high. They would only need one night as long as the two of them didn’t get hung up too long at the Stockman’s Club Bar after the rodeo on Sunday. His entry fees were safely stashed in his saddle roll; it had taken him most of the summer to squirrel away the $1000 needed to enter this steer roping. Sure, he had won the World Championship Steer Roping last year, but it just didn’t seem like that $2800 prize money ever lasted long after you paid your living expenses, kept your car running, and doctored and fed all the horses. Everett had thought long and hard about buying a brand new pickup truck for $1400 to haul himself and his horses all around the country chasing rodeos. Whereas those pickups were great for working on the ranch, they just weren’t as comfortable as a car to spend long days on the highways crossing the country. After filling up with 17cents a gallon gas and buying hay to last the horses a week, his old car would have to do. As long as he made sure he and Clark didn’t miss that six o’clock supper tonight, they would get their moneys worth.
Everett and Clark dropped their gear bags in the small upstairs room, dusting off their cowboy hats best they could before hanging them on the hooks by the door. After a quick once over in the washroom down the hall, both guys put their hats back on and were ready to walk into town.
Clark, fresh to the rodeo circuit outside of Oklahoma, couldn’t believe all the people roaming around this tiny Wyoming town. He took Everett’s lead as the two walked downtown to Stockman’s Club Bar to sign up and pay their fees. Pushing their way through the swinging double doors, Everett peered through the smoky haze and recognized other steer ropers in the crowd. King Merritt from Federal, Wyoming had already dropped off his load of fresh Mexican steers up at the rodeo grounds and was seated at the poker table in the dark corner with Ike Rude from Dodge City, Kansas, Shoate Webster from Noweta, Oklahoma, and John Scott of Miles City, Montana. Money would be won and lost in more places than the rodeo grounds this weekend. Everett put coins on the bar for his VO/7 and Clark’s root beer as the two faded back to the walls to watch the crowd.
For this moment, on this day August 21, 1949, Pinedale, Wyoming was the center of the Rodeo World. One thousand dollar entry fees with twelve thousand dollar pay out was more money than these road hardened cowboys had seen in a long time. Everett’s check at the World Championships last year had been a fraction of that amount. Clark was new to the rodeo trail, but he was in good company traveling with the pros.
After the dust cleared 5pm Sunday afternoon, Everett and Clark loaded their horses and car to start the long road back to Oklahoma. The First Annual Steer Roping results were posted in the Stockman’s Club Bar downtown for all to see.
FIRST: Everett Shaw $6000.00
SECOND: Shoate Webster $3600.00
THIRD: John Scott $2400.00
Clark McEntyre didn’t get a check that day in Pinedale, but he would be fifth in the World Championship standings that year as well as the youngest steer roper on the road. He would go on to win this event in 1953, 1954, and 1957, but meanwhile Clark had a lot of steers to rope and miles to travel before he would meet and marry Reba McEntyre’s mother.
Pinedale, Wyoming would be forever marked on the road maps of all steer ropers for the next twelve years.