A Cowboy from Start to Finish

by Jean Wayt

My Grandfather, Ed Simon, was born at Taylorville, Ill., August 17, 1869. He was a farmer there for many years. Dad was born April 10, 1900. He grew up on this farm working along with his Father learning the trade, using horses and mules to pull all the farm implements. He grew to become a lover of horses and mules, mostly mules. His Father had done a lot of horse and mule trading on the side. Dad decided he liked that better than farming, but he farmed anyway. His brother, Jigg, was raised the same way.

My Grandfather came to realize that he was making a better living trading horses and mules than farming so he decided to sell the farm and with several good horses and mules and a good wagon to drive and live in, he started his new trade. Dad and Jigg were the oldest of a family of 5 children.They liked riding the horses and carrying a rope and roping goats. As a matter of fact that was how they learned to rope calves. As they grew to manhood they discovered what a rodeo was and the rest is history. They met and married two sisters named Iva and Edna Shirley, and strangely enough their Father, George, was a horse and mule trader also!

Back in those days there were seldom ready-made arenas and chutes. The towns would decide to put on a rodeo so they got everybody that had a car, mostly Model A's, and go to the local ballfield or a pasture and had spectators park side by side in a large circle and that made the arena fence. They would put up some roping chutes by using wooden panels at one end of the arena and broncs were blindfolded and led out in the arena, then the cowboy would get on him and when the blindfold was pulled off, the show was on! Dad told me at one rodeo they had a "first aid" tent down in the end of the arena. He roped his calf just as the calf ran into the tent, Dad jumped off his horse and ran into the tent and tied the calf down then ran back out and threw his arms up in the air and the flagger dropped his flag signifying a qualifying ride!

As the years went by cars got better, horse trailers were invented and got better, horses got better and cowboys got better making rodeo what it is today. How lucky and talented these young people are. I’ve lived and seen how this has changed. Yet when we moved to Colorado in 1939 Dad and Jigg purchaced adjoining places having both farm ground and grass land on them and struggled with the farming as the second World War was going on and we were just coming out of the Great Depression and life was awful hard for a few years. We were not alone though as many people and families were in the same boat. But things got better as us kids were growing up and developing the rodeo bug. Dad and Jigg still had that same bug that infected them many years before. So within a few short years they had built a dandy arena in that good sandy soil, got some new roping horses as they had sold theirs during the War. So many things were rationed, such as gas, rubber for tires, shoes (and that included boots), and much more, making it almost impossible to rodeo and many cities quit holding them because of this.

But the better days did arrive. Dad, Jigg, Milt, Doug and Earl (Jigg's son) started making a few rodeos but I must tell you in all honesty Milt got bit by the biggest bug when it got him! Milt literally lived rodeo right from the start. He would stand and rope a bale of straw until his arm got sore or he would be in the barn in the winter tying down calves. More than once he would have me out in the arena with snow on the ground. He'd shovel the snow out of the roping box, put several calves in the chute and I would open the gate for him. I would be freezing my hands and "behind" off but he would do this during the week before the Denver Stock Show and rodeo would start, to tune his horse and himself up. Every chance he got he would be practicing and thinking rodeo. Not to say the rest of the family wasn't doing it but Milt would always take it a little bit further. He came home one evening with part of his face swollen, where a calf he'd roped threw his head up and hit him, walking around with his belly stuck out. Mom was looking at his face, not looking at the brand new belt buckle he had on. He had just come home from the Colorado State Calf Roping Finals where he won first place. His very first buckle won at 19 years old! Boy Howdy!!! There was no stopping him then!

The next generation of the rodeoing Simons had developed! Milt, Doug and Earl ropers and doggers, and Della and Francis and myself were trickriding, trickroping and calf roping too.

Milt’s devotion to rodeo earned him many awards and an awsome reputation of being "tough to beat". As far as I know he still holds the record of the only cowboy ever to win both calf roping and bull dogging events at Madison Square Garden; the roping in 1955 and the dogging in 1959. He went to the first National Finals, held at Dallas, Texas in 1959 sitting second place in the bull dogging was not able to win first. His rodeoing genes run strong in his whole family.

Mark, his oldest son has been to the NFR finals 6 times. The first time was with his brother, Jay, who was 15 years old and Mark was 19. His youngest daughter, Penny Conway, was WPRA’s Worlds Champion Team Roper in 2001. Milt's Grandson, Shaine Sproul, has been to the NFR finals 5 times.

All the rest of us has had our "day in the sun" many times over. You win some, you lose some, but we all came back for the next one. Little did Dad and Jigg know that their future would be so prominent with memories of the rodeo world when they started roping goats. It truly has been a great life.