Friday, November 19, 2010

Tom Horn Phoenix Roping Revised

November 19, 2010
I have told the story of Tom Horn winning the roping contest in Phoenix where he beat out Arizona Charlie Meadows and how it was on the same weekend that the Apache Kid escaped being transported from Globe to the train station at Casa Grande. The conventional wisdom has long been that because Horn went to Phoenix instead of escorting Sheriff Glenn Reynold's prisoners on November 1, 1889, the Apache Kid probably wouldn't have escaped. Actually, I think Horn claims this in his autobiography.

I went home for lunch today and whipped out a scratchboard of Tom Horn to go along with my Phoenix Roping True West Moment.

Here is my tentative copy which is culled from the best books on the subject:

Tom Horn Ropes A Record
On the first of November, 1889, cowboy and Apache scout, Tom Horn, traveled from Globe to the small town of Phoenix to participate in a new sport—Cowboy Competition (it wasn’t until the 1920s that it would become known as rodeo). Going head to head with Arizona Charlie Meadows, Horn roped a steer in the record time of 58 seconds. Although the steer had a 50 yard head start, everyone present predicted this would be a record that would stand for a very long time. The arena was way out of town (most likely an empty field at McDowell Road and Central Avenue).

To be safe, I sent off my copy to esteemed author and historian Larry Ball, who is writing a new biography of Tom Horn. I asked him to clarify if any of this was not true. When I got back to the office, I got this reply:

"I received your message and am happy that you are using Horn's rodeo experiences in the magazine. Of his various talents, steer roping was one of his most notable.

"Horn competed against Arizona Charlie Meadows at the Payson "rodeo" in November 1888. Meadows beat him out, with Horn coming in second in steer tying. Horn then performed at the Fourth of July 1889 celebration in Globe and won with the remarkable time of fifty-eight seconds. His success persuaded his friends that he should enter the competition at the territorial fair in Phoenix, which took place on 16-18 October 1889. Horn beat Meadows with the time of one minute, nineteen seconds. Apparently, the performances of Horn and Meadows persuaded Buffalo Bill Cody to ask them to join his show. However, I have been unable to document an invitation for Horn. The invitation to Meadows is more substantial.

"At this time, Horn was serving as a deputy to Gila County Sheriff Glenn Reynolds. His assignment was in Pleasant Valley, and he listed his residence as Pleasant Valley when he entered the competition at Phoenix.

"Regarding Horn's boast that he could have saved Reynolds' life had he been with the escort that was taking Apache Kid to prison, this is one of Horn's many exaggerations. Reynolds was killed on 2 November, or two weeks after the territorial fair. Just what he was doing in this intervening time is not known. Had Reynolds wanted Horn as part of the escort, it could have been arranged. A report later stated that the Gila County Board of Commissioners refused to make adequate funds available for a larger escort.

"I hope this helps you with some of the details in your Horn item. Good luck, and I look forward to seeing it."

—Larry Ball

Wow! Just goes to show you how wrong conventional wisdom can be (i.e. all the books I have on Horn and the Apache Kid). So Horn competed in the first Payson "rodeo" in 1888. This is the event that gives Payson the claim that they, and not Prescott, are entitled to be called the oldest rodeo in the country. Then Horn goes to Globe and then Phoenix to the territorial fair. And he lived in Pleasant Valley, not Globe. Hmmmm. Today the fair is held at 19th Ave. and McDowell. I wonder if that was the location then? Have a hunch I'll find out, and I better since this copy and artwork is due at the Arizona Republic on Monday. Ha.

This sure is humbling, in fact I feel rather stupid. Gee, I wonder what old Bertrand has to say about this?

"The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt."
—Bertrand Russell

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