At one time or another practically every kid in America has wanted to be a cowboy. But very few ever get the chance given to Chan Davis of Belle Fourche, S.Dak. (see page 26) to go galloping into the middle of a wild and woolly western rodeo. In a sense, it is a good thing they can't, for, as the pictures at right and on the following pages show, the life of the rodeo cowboy is not always smooth. In a standard rodeo there are five events—saddle bronc riding, bareback bronc riding, steer wrestling, calf roping and bull riding. In each one of these events the cowboy has anywhere from eight seconds (Brahma bull riding) to 20 seconds (calf roping) to outlast, outsmart, outwrestle and otherwise subdue a fast-moving critter who outweighs him by anything up to a ton. And these are not just any old animals. A rodeo bronc is a born rebel who has the instincts to perform his wicked acrobatics the day he walks out of his mother's stall. For the rest of his working life, which may last for 30 years, he gets meaner and meaner, learning how to twist, kick, sunfish and hit the earth with a stiff-legged jolt that will send even the most rugged professional rider sailing toward the mud of the rodeo arena. The Brahma bull is, if anything, even nastier than the bronc. Whereas the bronc tosses his man just to get rid of him, the Brahma tosses him for a starter, then does his best to trample or gore his rider before the man can scramble away. In short, it is the kind of life where, as one top cowboy said recently, "You don't have to think about retiring."
For all of that, however, the cowboy's life is still the stuff of which a small boy's fantasies are made. When the gates of the bucking chute bang open, in Cheyenne or Augusta, Montana, out comes the broncobuster kicking his legs and flashing his spurs to the cheers of thousands. If he lasts through the ride, the cheers grow louder. If he wins the event or the whole rodeo, he has cash to buy more cowboy clothes and steers for his ranch. And if, at the end of the year-long rodeo circuit, he wins more money than anyone else, the newspapers, the rodeo fans and his fellow riders will greet him with the title King of the Cowboys. Any boy, 7 or 70, who says he doesn't want that just isn't telling the truth.
Heading for the dirt,-professional rider Sonny Linger from the town of Burk Burnett, Texas commences unrehearsed dive during bronc competition in Cheyenne, Wyo.
Bucking Brahma sends rider Bill Rinestine tumbling into dust of arena, then is diverted by cape-waving rodeo clown (below) as Rinestine scrambles for cover
July 5, 1959
Daring youngster Chan Davis, 12, of Belle Fourche, S. Dak. scorns bucking rope to try no-hands ride. Gallant gesture ended seconds later with Chan on ground and calf still cavorting in ring