Red Sublett riding a steer, Frontier Days,
photo by Ralph Doubleday
The most famous rodeo clown in the show was
John Dixon "Red" Sublett (1894-1950), a Texan, shown above and below. Sublett was regarded as the world's greatest
rodeo clown, performing internationally including London and Dublin as well as all the major shows in the
United States. Sublett had a trained mule, Sparkplug. Sublett and Sparkplug would steal a show when
they would satirize an elaborate exhibition being put on by a trained horse
Red Sublett and Sparkplug, Frontier Days, approx. 1920. Photo by Ralph Doubleday
Sparkplug died at Fort Worth in 1931.
Red Sublett and Sparkplug, Chicago, photo by Ralph Doubleday
John Van "Tex" Austin's Rodeo was a traveling wild west show which performed in Madison Square Garden and
twice traveled to London, once in 1924 where it played before Princess Beatrice and again in
1934. In both instances the show was less than a sucess. As a result of the Steer Roping Contest, a summons was issued for
animal cruelty at the behest of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Accordingly, the audience
had to be excluded from the contest. As an aside, currently PETA has petitioned to have
the Bucking Horse and Rider logo eliminated from the Wyoming license plates.
Sublett boasted that he could ride just about any kind of animal.
In fact, among the animals ridden by Sublett were zebras, ostriches and buffaloes. However, as indicated by
the next photo, some animals could just not be ridden.
Red Sublett being thrown by Whiskey Pete, photo by Ralph Doubleday
Rodeo clowns, however, have an important function. In the event a rider is thrown, it is the sometimes dangerous
job of the clown to divert the attention of the animal, bull or horse, from the rider, so that
the rider will not be trampled or gored.
Wild Cow Milking Contest, 1924. photo by Ralph Doubleday
The wild cow milking contest is a timed event. When the cow is released from the chute, a three man team
attempts to rope the beast. Two members of the team, known as "muggers" attempt to hold the cow's head while a third
attempts to milk the cow into, typically, a long neck bottle. The cow's rear is not held and is permitted to
buck to and fro while the cow is being milked. When an ascertainable quantity of milk is in the bottle, a member of
the team will run th bottle to a judge who will pour the milk out. Fastest time wins.
Wild Cow Milking Contest, 1929. photo by A. E. Gordon.
Red Sublett on "Topsy", Frontier Days, 1921, photo by Ralph Doubleday
Topsy belonged to McCarty and Elliott. In addition to the riding of various animals, a favorite contest was the
Wild Cow Milking Contest still a part of some rodeos.
Wyler on Headlight, Frontier Days, undated, photo
by Ralph Doubleday
Next page: More Parade Photos.