I missed this year's Bill Pickett local appearance--it closed July 11 in Hayward--but you can find out more at the site.
There's also the Cowboys of Color National Rodeo Tour (the site also hosts the National Cowboys of Color Museum and Hall of Fame website; you can take a virtual tour.)
Update: The more you know, the more you find out. An enormous Black Rodeo. Black Rodeo in Harlem . There's the Black Rodeo, and the Federation of Black Cowboys
(Phone: 718-925-0777 Fax: 718 -925-0474). Here's a page of photos; a biography of Alonzo Pettie and an amazing album here.
3,000 attend Bill Pickett Rodeo Competition reminds spectators of the part
By William Brand, STAFF WRITER
ROWELL RANCH -- Cowboy legend Bill Pickett would be proud, but really not surprised that more than 3,000 spectators -- predominantly African Americans -- turned out here Saturday afternoon for the 20th annual Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo.
When Pickett -- the cowboy who invented the rodeo sport of steer wrestling -- was born in 1870, one out of every three cowpokes riding the range and driving cows up the Chisholm Trail was black, said Jesse Guillory, the rodeo's general manager.
But segregation and discrimination wiped the saga of America's black cowboys from the history books, he said.
The rodeo this weekend -- it concludes today -- was a mix of a highly professional rodeo with top-notch cowboys and a Wild West show.
"I've been coming for the last five years,** said Casandra Coleman, of San Francisco. **It's nice to see black cowboys.**
It sometimes surprises Americans looking at historical photos from the era to see a huge mix of ethnicities, including many, many African Americans -- all wearing trademark angora chaps and tall Stetsons, historians point out.
Even Pickett, who toured the world and won many a championship buckle was often billed as "The Dusky Demon" with no mention of his ethnicity.
The son of freed slaves, he was the first African-American cowboy inducted into the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City in 1971 and into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs a year later.
The Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo began in Denver in 1983. The rodeo came to Rowell Ranch rodeo grounds near Dublin the next year.
Founder Lu Vason started the rodeo to destroy the perception that African Americans took no part in the development of the West.
Today -- the circuit features 300 cowboys and cowgirls -- who compete in Bill Pickett Invitationals around the country. There now are other predominantly black rodeos as well, including rodeos sponsored by the Southwest Cowboys of Color and the Real Cowboy Association.
World champion Fred Whitfield lends his name to the calf roping event, for example. And Saturday and today, Gary Richards, a champion bull rider who regularly appears on television as a competitor in the PBR -- the Professional Bull Riders -- was a judge in the bull-riding.
The truth is, black cowboys and cowgirls never went away, Guillory said. There are lots and lots of black cowboys in Oklahoma and Texas.
Nearby, bareback bronco rider Harold Miller unloaded his rigging bag, waiting for his event to come up. "I used to ride bulls, too," said Miller, 48, of Liberty, S.C. But now it's just bareback broncos; they're easier, he said.
He tied for first in his event -- even though he was riding with cracked ribs. He has a crack at a share of more than $15,000 in cash prizes today.
Behind the chutes, barrel racer Carolyn Carter and her muscular quarter horse "Katt" waited for their event. "I got into this by accident," Carter said. "I was 16 and my sister dragged me to an event. I had a horse that worked on auto-pilot and I won $900."
Twenty-seven years later she still has her hat in the ring, she said. Racing time are fast and there's real competition. Barrel racers from the Bill Pickett Rodeo haven't made it to the PRCA, mostly because of money, she said. A good barrel horse in that league can cost $100,000 or more. But a good ride, turning tight around all the barrels and sprinting home -- it's a feeling that's hard to beat, Carter said.
The Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo concludes its Bay Area run this afternoon at 2:30. Tickets are $18 for adults, $12 for children
If the website is broken, try this:
Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo
PO BOX 39163
Denver, CO 80239-1163
Street: Bill Pickett
4943 Billings Street
Denver, CO 80239
Cowboy from black rodeo circuit deserving of honor
By Bob Ray Sanders Star-Telegram Staff Writer
Long before I had ever heard of Bill Pickett, the ranch hand credited with inventing the rodeo sport of "bulldogging," there was another black cowboy who had become my hero.
He was a man who was born and grew up in Mosier Valley, Tarrant County's oldest African-American community, and someone I've known all my life.
Walter Charles "Budah" Morse was the first man I ever saw jump off a running horse onto a steer and wrestle it down to the ground.
One of my most vivid childhood memories -- and I think it was a Fourth of July evening -- was seeing an angry steer lunging toward Morse's abdomen, quickly jerking his horns upward and tearing off part of Morse's brand-new western shirt.
Those were fascinating times.
You see, in those days the famed Fort Worth Stock Show permitted black people on the grounds only one day out of the run, and even then we were not allowed to attend the rodeo performances.
But so what?
There was always the "colored rodeo," which played in small arenas in Fort Worth, Mansfield and a few other North Texas towns, often around the holidays of Juneteenth and July Fourth.
Those events had everything that the stock show rodeo had -- bareback bronc riding, bull riding, calf roping, barrel racing and, of course, clowns. Naturally, they also had what the stock show didn't have, and wouldn't have, for a long time to come: black cowboys. All the participants were African-American, including the women racing on horseback around the barrels and the kids who chased after a bandanna tied to a calf's tail.
Morse, who has been a part of many other western events through the years, including being one of the drovers for the Fort Worth Herd, didn't make a living on the limited black rodeo circuit. But he always worked around animals (horses in particular) as a trainer, groomer and veterinarian's assistant.
He was one of the original members of the Tarrant County Black Rodeo Association, which was started by Wayman Alexander, the black Tarrant County extension agent and 4-H Club leader. In 1954, Morse won the bulldogging championship at a rodeo in Denton.
It is only fitting that on May 21 he will be inducted into the National Cowboys of Color Hall of Fame, where he will join the legendary Bill Pickett, inducted posthumously in the first class last year. Pickett died in 1932.
The induction ceremony will be at 7 p.m. at the National Cowboys of Color Museum and Hall of Fame, 3400 Mount Vernon Ave. in Fort Worth.
The brainchild of Jim and Gloria Austin, the museum and hall of fame was founded "to give recognition to outstanding pioneers who contributed to the settling of the early American Western Frontier as well as acknowledge individuals who continue to be trailblazers committed to the legacy of western culture."
Fort Worth Councilman Jim Lane, a champion of American Indian and western culture as well as a staunch advocate for the Fort Worth Stockyards, will also be inducted into the hall of fame.
The two other honorees this year are: the first female inductee, "Stagecoach" Mary Fields, an ex-slave who, with her mule, Moses, delivered the mail in the Cascade County region of Central Montana; and the late film star Mantan Moreland, known mostly for his comedy roles but who was in two early films that featured black actors as heroic cowboys.
Although the induction ceremony is free, organizers ask that those planning to attend call (817) 922-9999.