Often the most important participant in a watershed activity doesn't truly appreciate that he or she will be remembered in history for having a vision.
Usually the activity becomes the most memorable -- and is normally overlooked during its time of creation.
Such was the case of a 22-year-old cowboy who lived along the East Verde River, above what today has become Payson.
Having lived through a major Apache attack that caused the death of his father and brother, Charlie was on a slow track to becoming a rancher -- an honorable profession in the wilds of Arizona.
Charlie was an exceptionally good looking guy: tall, nicely cropped moustache and chin hairs and clean-cut features. By any standard, he was a keeper.
History relates that Charlie was in Payson for supplies and mail when he and some other cowboys concocted a steer and calf-roping contest. It would be for entertainment before the fall roundup -- a very busy time for every ranch hand -- and would assuredly take away a bit of boredom that normally falls in August. Who knows, maybe there would be lots of pretty unmarried women in attendance, too?
The word went out far and wide around the tiny communities that were sprinkled throughout the forest and dotted over the grassier valleys. Everyone -- especially the fellas that knew how to throw a rope -- was invited to head to Payson and have some fun. If there was some jingle in the pants pockets, maybe there could be some wagering, as well.
So what was the first rodeo called in Payson? Well, it was not called the first annual or much of anything else. It simply became the "August Doin's."
There was no rodeo arena or special venue for the contests of ranch skills back in 1884. Everyone just collected in the pasture of the Pieper family. The pasture was about where today's Sawmill Crossing is built -- just west of Highway 87.
Now when you're a cowboy, it is important to be thought of as the best. Those with the most knowledge and best skills normally get paid more. Having a few cowboys get together to compare roping skills and see who owned the best horse definitely would count as a coronation. Having braggin' rights was about as good as a buckle or purse.
Much has changed in Payson. Today Payson is known for having one of the best rodeos in the United States. Now known as the Annual World's Oldest Continuous Rodeo, the Arizona Rim Country competition brings champion cowboys from all across the nation to participate in this Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association rodeo.
The cowboys and cowgirls still want to earn braggin' rights, but the cash money for the eight events pays the bills. Each winner of an event leaves with a buckle, as well. At the end of the year, the best of the best head to the finals in Las Vegas and vie for top honors.
Rodeo is still made up of handsome guys, beautiful women and lots of kids. Everywhere you look are horses tied to stock trailers, bulls crashing against fences and calves milling around a pen. Music blares from loudspeakers, scents of fresh popcorn, fry bread and bratwurst fills the air, and cold drinks are neatly packed in troughs of crushed ice.
Like in the 1880s, the most important part of the rodeo is the families and the fans. Fans are those people who come early and watch the tractor loosen the dirt in the arena, become excited when the grand entry passes, and remove their cowboy hats to show respect to the U.S. flag. Fans are the ones who clap for every entrant -- even if he or she is not in the money. You can be a fan for just the price of admission.
At the end of the performance, most everyone has taken terrific action-pictures, eaten lots of tasty food and bought a gift or souvenir for everyone back home. Without a doubt, everyone leaves with memories that will last a lifetime.
Come on up to Payson and Arizona Rim Country and be a part of history. The August Doin's Aug. 14-17 will be the highlight of your summer.
Oh, and don't overlook reserving a hotel or rustic lodge room 'cause there are fabulous country/western dances after the rodeo. You are going to be up late dancing with all the handsome guys and all of the beautiful women.
Call the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce for more information, (800) 672-9766.