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Cowboy Jam Session: Pendleton done right

by Jeri L. Dobrowski
For the September 25, 2010 edition of Tri-State Livestock News.

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Quality endeavors stand out as surely as cream rises to the top of a pitcher of whole milk. Three projects released in celebration of this month’s 100th annual Pendleton Round-up are examples of quality research, writing and editing.

More than five years went into producing Pendleton Round-up at 100: Oregon’s Legendary Rodeo (Graphic Arts Center Publishing Company, 2009, 12 x 10.5 x 1.5 inches, 302 pages, 900 b/w and color photos and illustrations, hardcover ISBN: 9780882407739; paperback ISBN: 9780882407746). Co-authors Michael Bales and Ann Terry Hill were hard at work during that time, chronicling the only PRCA-sanctioned event ever held on a grass field. They dug into official Round-up archives, prospected in photo albums, gleaned from scrapbooks, winnowed through troves of family and business memorabilia.

The result is a comprehensive 24-chapter coffee table book that includes many previously unpublished images. Started in 1910 as a nostalgic western exhibition, the authors cover it all: bucking contests, the cowgirl era, tribal participation and encampments, clowns and bullfighters, the Hollywood connection, legendary performers. Appendices include complete listings of winners, royalty, presidents, Indian chiefs, and hall of fame honorees. (See book video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rx7BJBNW7ew)

Located in northeastern Oregon, the host town of approximately 17,000 residents saw full-house crowds of 17,731 fans in the grandstands on Friday and Saturday nights of the four-day centennial extravaganza. Along with the colorful pageantry by the Umatilla, Cayuse, and Walla Walla tribes and standard rodeo events, there was an old-fashioned snub-bucking competition. (Visit the official Pendleton Round-up Web site: http://pendletonroundup.com/)

Whether you’re a regular at the Round-up or have never attended, Pendleton Round-up at 100 will provide hours of enjoyment. It is available both in hardback ($60) and paperback ($35) from online booksellers, in bookstores, and directly from the University of Oklahoma Press; http://www.oupress.com; 405-325-2000.

Award-winning western singer/songwriter Juni Fisher captures the history and heartbreak of Pendleton in Let ‘Er Go, Let ‘Er Buck, Let ‘Er Fly: A Round-up to Remember. Celebrating 100 years of the Round-up, the album is part story telling, part music, and completely engaging. Like Bales and Hill, Fisher did her research. But, she connects on a spiritual level, something her fans have come to expect.

Among the 16 tracks are songs about the Round-up’s famous bronc-riding, relay-racing, trick-roping, bull-dogging cowgirls Bonnie McCarroll, Prairie Rose and Kitty Canutt; the Nez Perce bronc rider Jackson Sundown; and the bronc saddle ridden by Jerry Ambler. Hands down, my favorite is “Yakima,” written by Fisher about bronc rider Yakima Canutt. (His picture appears on the cover of Pendleton at 100.) She sang the song for me and my husband when she was working on the album, still making corrections and additions to a sheaf of yellow legal papers she carried with her. (Listen to “Yakima” at http://www.junifisher.net)

Fisher is the reigning Western Music Association (WMA) Female Performer of the Year. Her last album, Gone for Colorado, was the 2009 WMA Album of the Year. Gone for Colorado also received the 2008 Wrangler for Album of the Year, as presented by the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.

To order Let ‘Er Go, Let ‘Er Buck, Let ‘Er Fly, send $15 (ships for free; discounts on orders of three or more) to Juni Fisher c/o Red Geetar Records, 2105 Granville Rd., Franklin, TN 37064; 615-289-1292; http://www.junifisher.net.

Shirley Morris combines vintage photographs, film footage and interviews from the Pendleton Round-Up in a documentary entitled Oh, You Cowgirl! A True Story About America’s Unsung Heroes. But, that’s not all. Tracing the development of Wild West shows and the cowgirl’s role in the golden age of rodeo, the DVD also includes clips from Cheyenne Frontier Days and the Los Angeles Rodeo.

Buffalo Bill Cody hired colorfully clad cowgirls and sharpshooters for his Wild West shows in the late 1800s. Not long after Cheyenne, WY hosted the first organized cowboy skills contest in 1896 – the forerunner to today’s rodeo – cowgirls helped fill grandstands with their daring feats. (Watch a trailer of the DVD at http://thecowgirlmovie.com/oh_you_cowgirl)

Among those profiled in the 63-minute film are Bertha Kaepernik, Bonnie McCarroll, Mabel Strickland, and the women who went by the name of Prairie Rose. Juni Fisher appears both in interview segments and performing “When I Was Prairie Rose” from Let ‘Er Go, Let ‘Er Buck, Let ‘Er Fly.

Oh, You Cowgirl! sells for $27.50 (checks, credit cards or PayPal). Order from Oh, You Cowgirl!, 20728 Valentine St., Bend, OR 97701; http://thecowgirlmovie.com; (541) 550-7495.


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