Rodeo A Way Of Life For Lead Volunteer

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Rex Hinshaw pretty much learned to ride a horse at the same time he was learning to walk.

"There are pictures of me with my father holding me on a horse when I was only 18 months old," said the Arizona native.

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Rex Hinshaw is chairman of the rodeo board of the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce. This is his fifth year to lead the corps of volunteers who present Payson's World's Oldest Continuous Rodeo.

He was 4 when he received his first horse. His father was a veterinarian, specializing in cattle and horses, so he grew up around livestock. Hinshaw competed in rodeos in both grammar and high school, as well as in college. As a boy, he participated in steer riding, then when he was old enough, he became a bull rider.

"In my 20s I cowboyed for a ranch north of Prescott, the P-6 Ranch in Perkinsville," Hinshaw said. He did the work over a 10-year period, much of it during roundups.

Between about 1972 and 1980, he served on the rodeo committee for the Prescott Frontier Days, and in 1978 was the committee's chairman. So, when he joined the efforts to put on the Payson rodeo, he brought a wealth of experience to the job.

Hinshaw has made his home in Payson for the past 10 years, forming a partnership, Spragins & Hinshaw Architects, with Gary Spragins. He was born in Safford and spent about 28 years in Prescott.

He has served as chairman of the rodeo board of the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce for five years.

"It's about a six-month job for me," he said. "The board is growing and still has members who were on it when I first started."

The job starts in December, when Hinshaw and other members of his board go to the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association convention in Las Vegas.

"We hire our stock contractor and specialty act and make contact with our national sponsors (at the convention)," he said.

"Pat Johnson at the chamber stays in touch with all of them, making sure the contracts are signed -- she shepherds the business side of the rodeo and really makes my job a lot easier.

"The greatest strength of the Payson rodeo is its history," Hinshaw said. "Over the last 120 years, through the Depression, World War I and World War II, when other rodeos were canceled, this one continued. This is a tribute to the local people and ranching families who supported it and kept it going. That is something unique and special among all rodeos. It reflects the strength of people in the area and in this part of the country."

Having been involved with rodeos most of his life, Hinshaw said today's most popular event is bull riding, but the most classic event is saddle bronc riding.

"It harkins back to the days when breaking horses was a necessity of ranch life," he said.

Hinshaw said he hopes the rodeo audiences will leave the performances with an appreciation that the Payson event is as close as they can get to the tradition of the home-grown sport of 50 years ago.

"I want them to feel as if they could have been in the stands 50 years ago, witnessing the grit and determination demonstrated by the cowboy contestants back then. I want them to get a feel for the legacy of the cowboy life and the old west."

Hinshaw said he is grateful for the help of all the volunteers who are behind the rodeo.

"They make my job easier and enjoyable," he said.

There is still time to be one of the rodeo's volunteers, he said.

"There's a real sense of pride in being part of this," Hinshaw said.

To volunteer, call Pat Johnson at the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce, (928) 474-4515.

Read more about the history of the Payson rodeo in "Rodeo 101, History of the Payson Rodeo, 1884-1984," by Jinx Pyle and Jayne Peace Pyle. The book will be available at the couple's Rodeo Reunion at the gym on the Tonto Apache Reservation, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 20.

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