|World's First Rodeo Trailer|
Everett bowman was born July 12, 1899 at Hope, New Mexico (the family actually lived near Weed) and he was a cowboy from the word go. Arguably remembered as one of rodeo’s greatest legends, this ten time World Champion Cowboy helped bring modern-day rodeo to where it’s at today.
Everett was the first president of the Cowboy Turtles Association “CTA” (the predecessor to the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association or “PRCA”). As a matter of fact, he was one of the first organizers of the association and signed up as member (card number) fifteen; but first and foremost, he was a cowboy.
The Bowman family moved from New Mexico to the Safford, Arizona area when Everett was about thirteen. One of his first full-time jobs away from his parents ranch was that of a cowboy with the famed “Chiricahua Cattle Company” also know back in the day as “the Cherries” or the “Three C’s” which ran cattle all up and down that rough Arizona – New Mexico border country. The foreman at the time was quoted as saying, “Everett made the best hand we ever had. It was amazing; never saw anything like it! He became a top roper, he was tougher than leather – was the strongest man I’d ever seen.”
At the age of twenty-three, Everett and his brother Skeet, along with eight other cowboys drove a large herd of cattle from Globe, Arizona to Ely, Nevada. This may have been one of the last “old time” great cattle drives, stretching over 900 miles! When they reached Ely, after being on the trail most of the summer, the Bowman brothers decided to “stay on” and give cowboyin’ in Nevada a try. However, one cold winter in that “North Country” changed those boy’s minds. Everett said, “That country has two seasons - winter and late fall.” They cowboyed there a little over a year, then returned to Arizona, making the entire round trip a-horseback.
Once back in Arizona, Everett (along with brother Skeet) pursued a full-time rodeo career. That turned out to be one of the best moves ever made.
Although officially credited with ten World Championships, author (and nephew to Everett), Lewis Bowman, claims Everett won at least eleven. You see, prior to 1929, records were sketchy and, in some cases, championships were determined by winning a certain rodeo. Lewis says he may have won even more than eleven.
Officially, Everett was a two-time World All-Around Champion, four-time Steer Wrestling Champion, three-time Calf Roping Champion and gained one Steer Roping title. He won or placed at most of the day’s biggest shows such as Madison Square Garden, Cheyenne, Calgary, Ellensburg, Prescott and Pendleton to name just a few. He even rode bucking horses till about 1928, but gave it up and stuck with the timed events saying, “Too many events and a man is no good at any of them.” The timed event end of the arena was where he shined anyhow.
At six-foot, two-inches and 200 pounds, Everett was a physical specimen. To date, Everett is one of only three men who have won rodeos “triple crown” (three world titles in a single year) more than once. He accomplished that feat two times. Trevor Brazile and Jim Shoulders are the only other men to do that. Bowman became known in media circles as “Rodeo’s Babe Ruth.” His fellow competitors often spoke of him as “A Cowboy’s Cowboy.” He competed in full-time rodeo competition until 1943, a period of about twenty years!
Other advancements credited to Bowman include towing the first horse trailer on the rodeo circuit and being the first to fly to rodeos. Everett’s older brother, Dick, fashioned a hand-made wooden horse trailer in1924, which Everett and younger brother Skeet took on its maiden voyage from the home ranch in Safford, Arizona to Cheyenne, Wyoming. They put one horse in the trailer and one in the bed of the truck (as was customary then). When they arrived in Cheyenne, the Bowman boys received a lot of strange looks, but it wasn’t long till the contraption caught on. Then in 1929, Everett is credited with being the first cowboy to get the bright idea to charter a private airplane to get him to more rodeos. That idea also seems to have caught on as well. By the late 1930s, Everett bought his own plane and learned how to fly it for himself, something he did the rest of his life.
Perhaps Everett’s biggest contribution to the sport of rodeo however was his involvement with the CTA. He served as the association’s president from its inception in 1936 until it reorganized as the Rodeo Cowboys Association (RCA) in 1945. The guy’s called themselves “Turtles” because it took them so long to get started and have a voice in rodeo business for themselves. For too many years, cowboys had been unhappy with their entry fees not being added back to the pot, the type and order of events and non-standard judging practices.
In 1936, at Boston, all that changed when Everett and his fellow cowboys went on strike and refused to compete unless the aforementioned grievances were rectified. When the dust settled, the predecessor of the PRCA was born, and Everett was a big part of it all. It has been said, that once he got an idea formed in his head, it was hard to change. He went “toe to toe” with many rodeo committee members during his day, in the best interest of the cowboy. Many of the fundamental changes that are now the bedrock of rodeo came about under Bowman’s leadership.
According to Lewis Bowman, “Everett Bowman (president) and brother-in-law, Hugh Bennett (secretary/treasurer) were the cogs that got the Cowboys Turtle Association into gear. The men signed up the cowboys and kicked ‘em straight (sometimes literally). Their sister wives, Lois and Josie, were the official timers and record keepers. The girls stowed the books and association’s money in the back seat of their car and kept records between rodeos.”
Competitor, Phil Mills, said of Everett, “He did more to put the cowboy in good graces than any other man.”
Lewis also tells of another event he witnessed as a boy, “One year at Cheyenne, this fellow and Uncle Everett got into a heated argument about having to join the association to compete in sanctioned rodeos. This fellow took a swing at Everett, who blocked the punch with one hand and landed a crushing blow at the same time with his other - knocking the guy out and breaking his nose. He then threw fifty dollars on the man’s chest and told two guys to haul him to the doctor and get him fixed up. A couple hours later, the guy returned with his nose all bandaged up. He threw twenty dollars back at Everett and said, ‘Here’s your change Bowman - Doc only charged thirty dollars. By the way, I’ll join your danged association.’ Everett smiled, handed the man back the twenty and said, ‘If your going to join, keep this and put it towards your dues.’ The two men remained good friends after that.”
After retiring from rodeo, Everett settled on his own ranch near Wickenburg, Arizona where he spent the last parts of his life. He also worked as a sheriff there for a time. He still loved the sport of rodeo and would, “talk rodeo” with anyone who came by. Bowman judged many rodeos after retiring from competition and added “Mule Trainer” to his resume. Always the showman, he continued to make public appearances up into his sixties. At age seventy, Everett accepted a part in the movie, The Great White Hope, taking the role of a pastor.
As a true natural athlete, he took up the sport of golf, and in his later years, became quite good at it. He even hit a hole in one at age fifty-five. Upon doing this, Bowman put down his golf clubs and retired from the sport of golf saying, “You just can’t get any better than that.” Just as with rodeo, he retired at the top.
In 1951, Everett underwent surgery to remove a throat cancer. It lasted six hours. Rodeo stock contractor, Everett Colborn, heard about this and sent Bowman a letter which stated, “It does not surprise me your surgery took six hours, it probably took about four of that just to get through the hide.” It was done in good nature and as a testament to Bowman’s toughness.
The sport of rodeo also loved Everett Bowman, inducting him into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 1979. He was also admitted to the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City in 1965, the first living man to be so honored. The rodeo grounds in Wickenburg are also named for their long time resident and rodeo legend. The Everett Bowman Rodeo Grounds are still in regular use to this day and the city of Wickenburg has a large bronze statue commemorating Everett.
The “Father of Professional Rodeo,” Everett Bowman, passed in 1971 while flying his own airplane. Then PRCA president, Dale Smith, read the eulogy at Everett’s funeral and famed cowboy, Rex Allen, sang.
Jim Olson © 2012