By Laree Orton-Peck
How does a rodeo of 64 years begin? It started with a community of kids needing a place to ride. So the town got together and a rodeo site was picked. Sixty four years ago the arena was the town dump, so it took quite a lot of work to get it into shape. A true challenge that has pulled a community together in what has now lasted for decades. The first rodeo arena was pretty much a trial and error process. Somewhat primitive by today’s standards, not that it dampened anyone’s enthusiasm for the event.
Friends and families would get together on the 4th of July. They would rodeo until the last contestant was finished, and then they would hold horse races up and down the streets of Gunlock until last light. Picnics were packed, kids ran wild, and adults worked, played and visited. The first arena was made of cedar posts, cottonwood poles, and wire thrown together just strong enough to hold livestock. The first cattle were leased from James Yellowjacket from the Shivwit Indian Tribe and they were trailed up the creek to the arena. After two years the town decided they couldn’t afford to lease the cattle outside of the community. So every family in town was asked to furnish 3 head of livestock for the rodeo. If you didn’t own them, it was your responsibility to lease them from someone else. This was considered Gunlock’s early Ward Budget.
There was no concession stand and the bathroom facility was an outhouse out by the old ditch. A night rodeo was attempted in which make shift lights were strung out on wire across the arena with light bulbs every so many feet. It didn’t work too well, but they didn’t give up.