The first sight one sees upon entering the Round-Up and Happy Canyon Hall of Fame museum is War Paint, a saddle bronc horse that instilled fear into rodeo cowboys back in the ’50s.
Preserved by a taxidermist, the horse is quiet now, but in his heyday, he moved with agility, bucking off 90 percent of those who rode him. War Paint was “an honest bucker,” the plaque says, that bucked nearly the same every time, “but even when cowboys knew what was coming, War Paint managed to buck them off.”
Near the three-time PRCA Bucking Horse of the Year sits a teepee that juts up past the second-floor balcony.
The museum, across the street from the Round-Up Grounds, offers an eclectic look at past and present. Visitors to the museum will find everything from a vintage wagon wheel forge to a replica of an overland stagecoach, purchased by the Round-Up for $25,000 after losing two stagecoaches in a 1940 fire that destroyed the south grandstands a month before that year’s rodeo.
The museum offers a peek into the history of one of the world’s biggest outdoor rodeos and also the Happy Canyon Night Show, at 101 years of existence, the longest-running outdoor pageant and Wild West show in the country.
On the walls hang photos of past Happy Canyon and Round-Up courts, presidents of both boards of directors and inductees into the Hall of Fame. Displayed are trophy saddles, buckles and other impressive swag from past rodeo champions.
Visitors who wander through the HOF museum will learn about some of the area’s most colorful and memorable figures.
There’s Sheriff Til Taylor. The lawman, who also served as president of the Round-Up, died when a bandit shot him dead during a jail break in 1920. A few days earlier, Taylor had overpowered the bandit before the man fired at the sheriff. A manhunt ensued involving hundreds of searchers from a three-county area. The bandit was arrested, tried, convicted and hung.
In one area of the HOF hang photos and writings about the women who competed in the early days of the Round-Up, when women could compete in any event. Female competitors included Ollie Osborne, Mabel Strickland, Florence Adams, Ella and Rhoda Lazinka and Bertha Blancett, the first-ever female “pick-up man.” In 1929, the Round-Up board barred women when rough stock rider Bonnie McCarroll died in the arena after her horse fell on her.
On the second floor, a continually running video gives a grainy, sensory glimpse into rodeo life in the early days of the Round-Up, when cowboy such as Yakima Canutt held sway.
Visit the Hall of Fame from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Admission is $5 for adults and $4 for seniors. Children, 12 and younger, get in free.
Contact Kathy Aney at email@example.com or call 541-966-0810.