Frontier Days


From Wyoming Tales and Trails

Continued from Previous page. This Page: Rodeo Clowns, Red Sublett, Wild Cow Milking Contest

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About This Site

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 act.

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.