Rodeo in Pecos
CONTEST BECOMES ANNUAL EVENT
The date was 1883 -- July 4, to be exact. It was on that date in the small West Texas town of Pecos that a "top cowboy" was named in local competition and a rodeo tradition was born.
Pecos was the trade center of the area's cattle empire at the time, the place where cowboys congregated on payday to spend their time and their cash and to brag a little, or a lot, about their exploits and their skills.
The first rodeo may have been an informal test of skills, a good-natured local contest to pick the top ropers and riders from the huge and competitive area ranches. But, there was cash money posted for the winners -- $25 for top spot, and a $15 second prize -- and barbecue was to be provided for spectators and contestants alike.
That first rodeo drew quite a crowd, approximately 1,000 people. And the top cowboy turned out to be Morgan Livingston of the NA Ranch, with Trav Windham of the Lazy Y taking home the second prize. Henry Slack, who may have been the youngest participant, noted that it wasn't a "wild and wooly" contest, but that it was conducted in a "quiet and orderly manner." Slack gave up the cowboy life for business, but remained an avid supporter of the rodeo, and either led or rode in local rodeo parades when they were instituted in the 1930s. He died in 1944.