April 29, 2018

Cowboy Escapades #2: Autos on the Range

When automobiles were new inventions, it was inevitable that at least some cowboys would decide to try to replace their horses for cars in cow punching chores.

Indeed, at least twice it was suggested to start using autos in traditional events during the Frontier Days rodeo!

In April 1917, well known, award winning cowboy CW "Doc" Pardee and MS Plummer issued a proclamation. They challenged "any two men in the State of Arizona to rope three steers from an automobile for $100 a side. The contest (was) to be pulled off during the Frontier Days celebration at Prescott."

The rules for auto-steer-tying were listed as follows: "The car must be a touring car and must start from a dead stop. The roper and his saddle must be on the hood of the car. The steer is to get a 20-foot head start."

There were penalties if the horse picked-up both of his front feet when roped and the throw had to be be "over the steer's rump." In other words, the car was not allowed to pull even with the horse. Both the roper and the driver of the car were to be cowpunchers.

In 1919 a dare-devilish cowboy by the name of JP Morgan also issued a public challenge to perform bulldogging from an auto. For those unaware, bulldogging is the stunt of jumping from the saddle of a horse unto the prey. Morgan was going to perform it from an automobile at the 1919 Frontier Days.

"He will take on all comers no matter how they are mounted, and he feels quite sure of holding himself together at a speed of 30 miles (per hour) if necessary."

It seemed that JP had been spending a great deal of time "practicing lately by jumping from freight trains coming into Congress Junction, and his footwork is perfect."

Morgan stated: "If the boys adopt my system and crowd me out to 2nd place hereafter in bulldogging, I purpose to get into a baby aeroplane and do the trick from that angle..."

In the end, neither one of these challenges was officially taken up by the Frontier Days, and if either was performed during the fair, it was not reported in the newspaper. Even then rodeo officials wanted to keep the event traditional--a wise choice.

Still, many Yavapai county cowpunchers did attempt these tricks. In June 1912, two Williamson Valley ranching partners decided on a friendly wager. George Carter bet Joe Stephens that he "could successfully cope with any cowboy method in rounding up a certain bovine on the range...by using his big auto exclusively."

Stephens agreed to the bet, jumped into the passenger seat and the two were on the chase. "The critter...kept the lead for over two miles, but suddenly changed its course and made a beeline for the barbed wire fence, with the steady arm of Mr. Carter at the wheel following a few yards behind." Just then, the animal tried to veer away, but lost its footing and "the car came pounding into its prostrate body."

The impact threw the animal into the fence with "the auto as a close second." The passenger, Mr. Stephens, was thrown 8 feet over the fence into the pasture, while Mr. Carter stayed wedged in the seat. The car had hit a post directly. "When the wreckage was observed, the steer was the least harmed and extricated itself from the mechanical debris in a few minutes."

Carter claimed victory since the bovine was on the ground long enough to tie. Stephens disagreed pointing out that the gas cap had come off in the collision and the animal was merely asphyxiated. However, "a board of cowboy judges...awarded Mr. Carter first money."

Indeed, Carter needed the cash. His "big auto" was totaled!

(Formily titled Crazy Cowboy Tricks)
True stories of bear roping and buffalo riding!

Ultimately, when it comes to ranching chores and dealing with livestock, a horse knows what he's doing; an automobile does not.

CLICK HERE for a listing of Prescott "Firsts"
Prescott is widely known as Arizona's First Territorial Capital. Here are some other "firsts" surrounding Prescott and Yavapai County history.

CLICK HERE for all the Prescott AZ History Articles in Chronological Order 


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Weekly Journal-Miner, 4/11/1917;  Pg. 4,  Col. 7. 
Weekly Journal-Miner, 7/2/1919; Pg. 3, Col. 7.  
Weekly Journal-Miner, 6/19/1912; Pg. 8, Col. 2. 
1917 Fair Program Image: Prescott Journal-Miner 7/3/1917, Pg. 1.
1919 Fair Program Image: Prescott Journal-Miner 7/2/1919, Pg. 2.


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