Individual Sports

American Rodeo: From Buffalo Bill to Big Business by Kristine Fredriksson

By Kristine Fredriksson

The operating cowhand of previous used to be a dusty laborer, yet trendy rodeo performers can hone their talents ahead of small-town crowds and be stars in city coliseums.

Historian Kristine Fredriksson follows the evolution of rodeo from the variety to Buffalo Bill's Wild West to the extravaganzas nowa days. How a regular, low-paying task grew to become an leisure that pulls hundreds of thousands of spectators is a lesson in American tradition and a narrative that would entice somebody who spells "western" with a capital W.

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Up until this time, several rodeos had claimed that their winners were world champions simply because they had won their event or events at that particular rodeo. Being proclaimed a world-championship rodeo increased the drawing power of a contest and attracted more and better cowboys by offering the winners greater prestige. As a result, however, there could be several world-champion cowboys in each event every year. "8 Nevertheless, the long-running rodeo in Madison Square Garden, New York City, was advertised as the World's Championship Rodeo well into the 1940s.

Ward proposed an organization that would arrange its own contests through so-called camps in various states. The members, after having duly proven themselves competent, would support both the contests and the management for the organization, as well as fellow-cowboys under a doctor's care and those who had "crossed the Great Divide" without leaving funds for funeral expenses. " 23 However, his ideas apparently remained just a dream, with no steps taken to realize them. Gradually, however, rodeo cowboys recognized that the odds were against them as they faced a powerful and well-organized rodeo management with an impressive number of member rodeos adhering to its dicta.

Moreover, transportation in the early years of rodeo was not as readily available as today, especially for those who also had their roping or steer-wrestling horses to take along. When several ropers and steer wrestlers could get together and travel at one time, they would occasionally get the use of a baggage car or horse car for their horses and equipment as well as themselves. 19 But often they had to find their own means of transportation. 20 Finally, especially before the formation of the RAA, rodeos were scheduled on a haphazard and rather undependable basis, although some contests had already become regular annual features in their respective communities.

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