Several days ago, as Reno’s oldest special event came to a close, I happened to be perusing some old files about that event. I speak, of course, of the Reno Rodeo. One of the items concerned a number of past Directors. It went thus:
Every year about this time a half-dozen cowboys wake from their slumber, pull on their Levis—some of which are well-worn, while others are pressed with a knife-edge crease – and head for the tack room.
Shaking back the accumulated dust of ages form their saddle blankets, they grab their individual saddles and tack and move on to a ghostly corral, half shadowed in the mist. In the corral, fiery steeds prance nervously, their nostrils flared as they sense the approach of the crusty crew of cowpokes. In a flash the experienced wranglers have cornered their mounts and are saddled-up, ready to go.
A faint glow of dawn illuminates the scene as the snorting horses are brought under control. As one, the ‘pokes head for the gate, sitting comfortably in the burnished leather of their saddles and swaying in time to the varied gaits of their horses.
As the first rays of sunshine illuminate their faces we make out the features of wiry Harry Frost, genial Jack Walther, a stove-up Harry Drackert, Adonis-like George Solari, burly Jack Utter and flawlessly dressed Ray Peterson.
These wonderful western wraiths are off to ride (in memory) yet another Reno Rodeo.
The other item was about the main participant in the Rodeo:
Thin, almost to the pint of gauntness, from a long winter on the range, this creature with its skin burnt to a deep mahogany by the fierce Nevada sun and weathered to leather by long exposure to wind, rain, sleet and snow, travels with back bent from long hours hunched over or hunkered down on legs that are permanently bowed.
With hands calloused and gnarled, it can fingernail-snap a match into bright flame and hand-cup it against the strongest breeze to bring life to a twisty combination of hand-rolled paper and tobacco.
Slow-moving by nature, it somehow manages to reach any goal while mastering the beasts with which it shares the range.
Its most riveting feature is its eyes. Squinted into mere slits in the deeply-lined face, they are invariably of a steely nature and have an almost hypnotic effect on both man and beast.
Along with a mystic and universal appeal to the female of the species, it has also earned the undying envy of its most domesticated counterparts.
It—of course—is the working cowboy.
In those halcyon days of yore, about two dozen Directors ran the entire show with the help of some four-score volunteers. It was my good fortune to be a Director along with such iconic figures as Charles Mapes, Ray Peterson, Harry Frost, George Solari and Professional Cowboy Harry Drackert.
Reporter Guy Clifton has authored a fine book about the history of the Reno Rodeo entitled, “Reno Rodeo: A History…”