Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Rodeo's First Superstar

From the Glenbow Museum:  "The great Canadian cowboy Tom Three Persons was born in March, 1888 to Ayakohtseniki (Double Talker), a Kainai (Blood) woman.  His natural father was Fred Pace, a North West Mounted Police recruit-turned whiskey trader. ... An industrious boy, he worked as a mail carrier for the Indian Agency, as a scout for the NWMP and as a cowboy on roundup crews for local ranchers. ... He proved to be a hard worker, an excellent rider and an astute businessman.  But in 1907, he lost the majority of his own herd over the disastrous winter of 1906 – 07, so he hired on as a cowboy for the annual fall roundup.  His skill as a roper and rider so impressed friends and employers alike that, by 1908, they convinced him to enter the bronc riding at the Lethbridge Fair.  A second-place finish launched his new career and for the next few years, he juggled rodeo competitions with life on the roundup.
'Tom Three Persons riding at the 1912 Calgary Stampede. This bronc is not identified, but Three Persons earned the World Championship when he topped the black gelding, Cyclone, who had bucked off some 130 riders.  Photos Courtesy of Glenbow Museum Archives/NA-335-79.'
... The inaugural Calgary Stampede attracted competitors from all over North America and was held in August, 1912.  At the end of the six-day event and in front of a very large and distinguished crowd, Three Persons became the only Canadian to win a top award when he rode the notorious Cyclone to a standstill.  He was crowned the world’s bucking horse champion, having beat out the professional cowboys.  Three Persons was pushed into the national spotlight; yet this flash of celebrity would be his first and last.  Barred by racism from rodeos in the U.S. and unable to evade the paternalistic control of the Department of Indian Affairs at home, he was prevented from pursuing a professional career.  Restricted to local contests, he continued to win respect as a rider and roper, and served as trainer and mentor to generations of Kainai youth.  However, if he was frustrated in his progress as an athlete, he never allowed himself to be held back in commerce.  The savvy businessman built his cattle and horse herds into an empire, despite the interference of Indian Affairs.  Three Person’s home ranch, a few kilometres west of Spring Coulee, proved ideal; the corrals were the best quality, the house was large for its time and the barn was a showpiece.  Three Persons, by now a wealthy man, became one of the most successful breeders of thoroughbred horses and purebred Herefords in southern Alberta.  In 1946, he suffered a serious accident from which he never recovered, leading to his death in 1949 at the age of 63. ... In 1983, Tom Three Persons was the first contestant inducted into the Canadian Cowboy Hall of Fame."

TODAY'S GOOD NEWS: The Calgary Stampede still sports the world's toughest broncs!