Frontier Days

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From Wyoming Tales and Trails

This Page: Frontier Days continued, Bulldogging, Phil Yoder, Sam Brownell, Floyd Irwin, Hugh Strickland.

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About This Site

Phil Yoder, setting record of 8 seconds. Photo by Ralph Doubleday.

In addition to Ray Bell, discussed on the previous page, one of the most popular cowboys from Wyoming was Phil Yoder (1898-1941). Both competed in the same contests. Each carried away almost an equal number of first place wins. Yoder had won the 1918 bucking contest. In 1920 he won the steer roping contest. Bell had won the bronc contest at San Antonio and was best at Pendleton. He placed first in roping at Boise in 1920 and 21. Thus, there was a friendly rivalry. In March 1922 when they returned from competing against each other in San Antonio, they announced to the newspapers that they intended to resolve the question of who was best by staging a special competition on May 6 and 7. Each would ride ten bronchos and rope ten steers. They would be judged by mutually chosen experts. A side bet of $1,000 would resolve the matter. After a flurry of publicity, the contest was quietly dropped on the basis that they could not find a location for the contest, but they were considering holding it in Omaha. No record has been found of the contest ever being held. The following year at Pendleton, Bell won the Bronc Championship of the World. But in 1924, Yoder was one of the judges for the rodeo conducted at the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley.

Sam Brownell on Rainbow, undated. Photo by Ralph Doubleday.

Brownell, from Iron Mountain, competed in Frontier Days since 1904. One of his more memorable rides was in the 1913 show. Two weeks before he had broken his collar bone at Winnipeg. His horse, Highball, broke through the fence, fell headlong, jumped back up and recommenced his pitching. In the finals, Brownell rode Stemler Bay to a standstill. Nevertheless, Brownell only placed fourth.

. . .
Left, Phil Yoder; Right, Floyd Irwin
Newspaper engravings.

A fourth extremely popular local cowboy from Wyoming was, Floyd Irwin (1895-1917), the son of C. B. Irwin. The younger Irwin had been competing since he was 14 years old when he was proclaimed as the "Champion Boy Rider of America." In 1912, he won the steer roping and trick riding contests and was second in the Bucking Contest at Vancouver. In 1915 he was first in the bucking and trick riding contests at Idaho Falls. In 1916 he won the "Pony Express" at Pendleton. In 1917, he promised his wife Edith that he was be at Frontier Days for one last time and would then withdraw from rodeo in order to manage the family ranch on Horse Creek.

On Tuesday, July 18, three dozen of the leading riders and ropers for the forthcoming Frontier Days show put on a brief three hour show for the visiting Belgian Minister to the United States and his entourage. The next day, The Tribune reported that among those participating were Hugh Strickland, world champion rough rider; Sam Brownell, 1917 Rough Rider Champion of the World; Samuel Thomas "Bugger Red, Jr.," champion broncho rider of Texas; trick roper Johnny Judd, "Si" Perkins, 1917 Champion bulldogger; "Prairie Rose" Henderson, Floyd Irwin as well as others. That evening Floyd was at Frontier Park practicing for the upcoming program. A steer broke loose and Floyd playfully roped it. Floyd thought that he had missed the throw and turned his horse away but he had not missed. As the steer ran there was a violent jerk on the rope, causing the horse's head to hit Floyd. The horse fell, pinning Floyd underneath with a fractured skull. Floyd died at 10:00 a.m. the next morning. The funeral service was conducted at Cheyenne Elks Lodge No. 660. And once again, the chimes tolled in remembrance of he who did not answer when his name was called. At Frontier Park, Indians cried their wail of mourning. Two years later, Floyd's widow Edith married Phil Yoder.

Hugh Strickland, 1917. Image based on newspaper engraving.

Strickland won the 1919 contest.

One of the most famous bulldoggers to perform at Frontier Days was Mike Hastings. H was born in Cheyenne, the son of a saloon keeper. Hastings ran away from home at age 11, making his living breaking wild horses. In 1910, he entered his first rodeo in Laramie.

Mike Hastings. Photo by Ralph Doubleday.

In Cheyenne he won the 1931 Steer Wrestling Contest. Mike married well-known lady bronco rider and bulldogger Fox Hastings. Fox Hastings ran away from a convent at age 16 and joined the Irwin Bros. Wild West show. She learned bulldogging from Mike. The two later divorced. She remarried. In 1948, her husband died of a heart attack. Two weeks later she committed suicide in her hotel room in Phoenix, Arizona.

Hasting participated in a number of international competitions including Calgary, London, and South America. In the 1930's Hastings worked for San Antonio rodeo producer "Colonel" William Thomas Johnson (1875-1943). Johnson produced the Madison Square Garden and Boston Garden Rodeos. In 1936, Johnson's parsimoniousness led to the cowboys appearing at the Boston Garden going on strike. The Boston Garden strike led to the formation of the Cowboys Turtle Association, a predecessor of today's Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association. Shortly after the strike, Johnson left the rodeo business. For a period thereafter, Hastings worked rodeos in South America until returning to the United States in 1939 to work on a dude ranch in upstate New York. He later provided stock and worked for noted stock contractor Gene Autry. Upon his death, Hastings's ashes were spread on a ranch owned by the children of Col. Johnson. Johnson, himself, even in death, remains an outcast amongst rodeo cowboys.

Next page, Bulldogging continued.