Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Cowboys and Turtles

Have you ever heard of the Cowboys' Turtle Association? 

Legend has it that rodeo was born on July 4, 1869 when two groups
of cowboys from neighboring ranches met in Deer Trail, CO, to
settle an argument over who was the best at performing everyday
ranching tasks. That competition is considered to be the first rodeo.

During the late 1920s the Rodeo Association of America was formed by rodeo committees and promoters. World Champions were to be selected in the following events: bronc riding, bull riding, bareback riding, calf roping, steer roping, bulldogging, team roping and wild cow milking. The name was changed in 1946 to the International Rodeo Association.

The Cowboys’ Turtle Association, the first true national organization for the benefit of rodeo cowboys started in 1936. After a rodeo at Madison Square Garden, a group of cowboys and cowgirls boycotted Colonel W.T. Johnson. Johnson was arguably the biggest rodeo producer of the times.

Colonel Johnson had hired the Rodeo Train to take some contestants from San Antonio to New York. A cowboy or cowgirl was charged $50 for himself or $100 if he or she had a horse to ride from Texas. Imagine how worried the cowboys were that the Colonel would strand them in the East with no way home. That's a long way to ride your calf roping or team roping horse. Richard Merchant, took the responsibility of finding alternative ways for cowboys to return home provided the Colonel pulled the train ride after their impending strike. 

Sixty-one cowboys and cowgirls signed a petition and refused to compete at the Boston Gardens Rodeo until Johnson met their demands.

They forced the Colonel to listen to their demands for qualified judges and more prize money. Johnson finally gave in, and the Cowboys’ Turtle Association was born. The cowboys picked the name because they felt they had been slow to act, but had finally stuck their necks out for their cause.

Among the organizers was the young woman, Alice Greenough Orr, a four time national bronc riding champion.

Sixty-one cowboys and cowgirls signed a petition and refused to compete at the Boston Gardens Rodeo until Johnson met their demands.

In 1945 that the Turtle Association became the Rodeo Cowboys Association (RCA). In 1975, the RCA evolved into the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) of today.

If you'd like more information on the Cowboys' Turtle Association, check out Gail Woerner's website and her book, The Cowboys' Turtle Association and the Birth of Professional Rodeo.

If it wasn't for the cowboys and cowgirls who stood up to Col. Johnson, rodeo wouldn't be the sport it is today. Who's your favorite current or old time rodeo cowboy?

1 comment:

Lori L. Robinett said...

Interesting. Um . . . wild cow milking? WHY is that not a thing anymore?! I may very well have to put that in a future book! ;o)