Rodeo Jail Committee Urges, 'Go Western, Young Man And Woman'

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The daily attire of new Payson School Superintendent Herb Weissenfels qualifies him more for the cover of Gentleman's Quarterly than any Western publication.


But with Payson's Western Wear Week just around the corner, he agreed to get decked out in some Western duds Thursday afternoon to serve as a role model.


Those who aren't dressed in Western attire next week may be ambushed by a jovial and rowdy band of dance hall girls and cowboys and placed in a traveling jail cell. Then they'll have to pay up or stay put. This is how the Rodeo Jail Committee raises money for scholarships in the week before Payson's August rodeo.


There is a third option: plunk down $2 for a Rodeo Jail Committee button, available at many local businesses.


Johnny Angell, a trooper with the Rough Riders and manager of Payson's Corral West Ranchwear, walked around the store with Weissenfels and helped him pick out 1880-period clothing by Wah-Maker. The company replicates clothing found in museums of natural history in Colorado and Montana.


"There's the standard Western wear that most people wear," said Angell. "Then there's the historic clothing that the Rough Riders wear -- a lot of us dress like this."


Weissenfels had two colors to choose from, black and tan, although Wah-Maker puts out many other colors. "I actually have but two," Angell said.


He explained that authentic Western wear of the late 1800s did not include leather vests. "They had cloth vests with pockets 'cause their shirts didn't have pockets and cloth dried faster when it got wet."


Even Western wear had a sense of status about it. Some Western pants had no creases, Angell said. "Creases meant you got them at the general store and couldn't afford a tailor."


Weissenfels found some black pants, a fancy black vest, white shirt, boots and a hat and put them on. But he wasn't done.


"Garters," said Angell, handing him a pair of black silky things to put on his arms. "Men's shirts were built and, in a lot of cases, they didn't have sleeve lengths. Rolling up the sleeves was socially unacceptable. You put garters on and pull the sleeves up above them.


"More and more people are buying historic clothing," Angell said.


Weissenfels looked authentically Western in his get-up. But even that may not keep him out of rodeo jail next week.


"Someone can call and say, 'I want so-and-so arrested," said Lori Foss, chairman of the jail committee. "They pay me $25. That's a warrant for his arrest. The person who seeks a warrant can also set bail. If he or she doesn't, then it takes $10 to get out of jail."


Foss explained that the committee of 35 to 40 "saloon girls and cowboys" give the jailed person a cell phone. He or she has unlimited time on the cell phone to raise money for bail.


This year, Wal-Mart will have a stationary jail in front of the store, and has promised to match funds up to $2,000.


It's all for a good cause -- raising $5,000 or more each year for scholarships for recent Payson High School graduates who want to continue their studies at trade schools, colleges or universities.


Foss' husband, Newman, built the little jail out of 2-by-4s and PVC pipe and it's not very sturdy. Any hardened criminal could escape without the use of a cleverly slipped in file, Foss said.


But for those on the hot seat, sitting under a hangman's noose, the scenario takes on a semblance of reality.


"It's very effective," said Foss. "It's all in fun. We're just there to make people happy. You'll see us all week all over the place."

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