The spirit of the West lives on through the sport of professional rodeo. And that spirit descends on Payson Aug. 14-17 during the 124th World's Oldest Continuous Rodeo.
Professional rodeo cowboys keep the skills of the West's working cowboys alive. Jobs such as roping cattle and breaking horses, which were refined by 19th century cowhands, continue today in competition among rodeo cowboys.
Rodeo was born on the ranches of western America. Informal competitions sprang up among cowpunchers to determine the best riders and ropers.
Payson's rodeo history dates back to 1884, giving it claim to the World's Oldest Continuous Rodeo held each August. A native son, Charlie Meadows, is credited with founding the Payson rodeo. He left the area to travel with a Wild West Show, and when he returned he had the idea of putting together contests in the format of shows.
Preceding the "organized" contests, the ranchers and cowboys competed more informally during the general roundup of late summer, when cattle were brought in from the open range, so new calves could be branded.
There were riding and roping events, and even horse races for both men and women. People came from throughout the Rim Country to the August Doin's. In the 1970s the Payson Pro Rodeo Committee and others put together what was called the Senior Rodeo, held in early summer, and designed to attract older competitors who still liked to show off their skills. There was also a Junior Rodeo, usually held in July, which gave the next generation of athletes a chance to compete with future rivals in Pro Rodeo contests.
Later, the Senior Rodeo became the Spring Rodeo and then, to honor a longtime Rim Country rodeo cowboy, the Gary Hardt Memorial Spring Rodeo.
Rodeos in Payson are now a formal sport, following the rules and regulations of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
Of course, the sport has changed drastically over the years. Some events have been dropped and others have been added.
Learn the lingo
Rapid-fire announcers blaring over the loudspeaker and frenzied fans can make the average Joe feel a bit lost at the 124th World's Oldest Continuous Rodeo. But with these definitions and descriptions under your oversized belt buckle, Mr. City-slicker, even you can converse like a real cowboy.
Added Money: The money the rodeo committee contributes to the prize money in an event. Prize money is the sum of contestant entry fees and added money.
Arena Director: Responsible for keeping the action going, the rodeo running smoothly, and making sure the rules are followed. The arena director supervises the arena by making sure the chutes are loaded and the arena is clear.
Association Saddle: A saddle built to the specifications of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and used in saddle bronc riding.
Average: The winner of the average is like the winner of the final heat in a race. In rodeo, there's prize money for the best finish in each round of competition. But the winner of the average is the big winner; they outperformed every other competitor.
Barrier: A rope stretched across the box or chute. The rope is dropped, signaling the contestant's time has started and releasing the horse and rider.
Breaking the Barrier: Leaving the chutes too early, which adds a 10-second penalty to the contestant's time.
Day Money: Prize money paid to bull riders who make a qualified ride.
Entry Fees: Money paid to compete in each rodeo event. Fees range from $25-$200, varying with the amount the rodeo has dedicated to prize money.
Fishing: A missed roping attempt that turns into a legal catch either by accident or on purpose.
Flank or Flank Strap: A sheepskin-lined strap fastened between the ribs and hips of a bronc or bull. The animal bucks in an effort to get rid of the strap.
Go-Round or Round: Period in which each contestant competes on one head of stock. Rounds can vary from one, in small rodeos, to seven or more in large rodeos.
Ground Money: Extra prize money divvied up among contestants. When fewer people qualify in an event than there are paid awards, the extra prize money is divided among those who qualified. If no one qualifies, the money is divided among all contestants.
Hazer: Cowboy who rides alongside a steer wrestler and keeps the steer running in a straight line close to the wrestler's horse.
Honda: The eye at the end of a rope. Passing the rope through the honda creates a lasso.
Hooey: A half-hitch knot used in calf roping. A half-hitch is a temporary attaching knot and is the start of several other hitches.
Jackpot: Winners split all or part of the entry fees, with no money contributed by the rodeo committee.
Mount Money: Money paid in riding, roping or steer wrestling exhibitions, but not in a contest.
NFR: National Finals Rodeo
NHSRA: National High School Rodeo Association
NIRA: National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association
No Time: A signal, made by a field flagman, that calls for the contestant not to receive an official time. Prompted when the contestant improperly catches or throws an animal.
Pickup Man, Piggin' Man: Mounted cowboy who helps a bronc rider off at the end of a ride. He then removes the flank strap and leads the bronc out of the arena.
Piggin' String: Short piece of rope used to tie the feet of a roped calf or steer. The roper carries the pre-made loop in his mouth, then cinches it around one of the calf's feet and ties the feet together with a hooey.
PRCA: Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (formerly the Rodeo Cowboys Association)
Prize Money: Paid to event winners, it is comprised of entry fees and the rodeo purse (money contributed by the rodeo committee). Professional cowboys are paid only by their winnings, not by salary.
Pulling Leather: Holding onto the saddle during a bronc ride. Doing so before the end of an 8-second minimum disqualifies the rider.
Re-ride: Second bull or bronc ride in a given round. A first ride can be ruled unfair for a number of reasons, like inadequate bucking or when a rider is hit, or fouled, in the chute.
WPRA: Women's Professional Rodeo Association (formerly the Girls' Rodeo Association)
Part of the preceding information came from the media guide materials provided by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.