Rodeoing in Walnut Grove, Minnesota

By Jean Wayt

In 1952 we found ourselves at a rodeo at Walnut Grove, Minnesota…yes the same town that was in television’s “Little House On The Prairie“, which you all know didn’t even exist in those years. Walnut Grove sits way up in the South West corner about 850 miles from our home at Limon and quite a drive to make.

Mr Weaver, a farmer living near Walnut Grove, decided he wanted to hold a rodeo at his place which sat in the middle of some of the most beautiful country I’d ever seen. Trees everywhere and of every species and lots of water. The show ‘Little House On The Prairie‘, did not give it enough credit!

He had built a great arena that sat in some good sandy soil and began to plan his rodeo along with the help of his family. A son and a daughter, Edie and her husband Blackie. Edie had always wanted to be a trickrider and done a pretty darn good job considering she had never done so at a rodeo. He certainly built it with plans to accomodate the cowboys. He had cleared about 3 acres, leaving the trees but removing bushes and what not leaving a dream place to park under trees and on a thick carpet of grass. Now I ask you how many rodeos have you been to that has such a welcome site!?

But all of this would be for naught if there were not many cowboys showed up. He advertised a lot which were of benefit to the spectators but knew he needed some popular cowboys with big names to draw the people. He even went so far as paying their entry fees to come to his rodeo. We talked and discussed it for quite a while then decided what the heck and went. He already had some big name cowboys who said they were coming.

Man, what a beautiful place we pulled in to. Dad parked our trailer under a big tree, put the awning up on the side, put up his little table that the camp stove sat on and his good sized coffee pot. He set down on his camp chair and said, “Now THIS is a camp ground“! He did this at almost every rodeo we went to. Cowboys walk by and Dad would hold his coffee cup up meaning how about a cup of coffee? Their were usually 2 or 3 or more guys sitting around drinking coffee, visiting and hearing Dad tell his tales. Every body liked Dad as he was truly a likeable guy.

The rodeo consisted of two afternoon performances. M.r Weaver had hired Junior Eskew who was at that time very well known. He was a heck of a good trickroper who also roped calves. There were a couple more trickriders plus his daughter Edie and my self plus I trickroped. I also had 2 young assistants, my 2 younger sisters, Julane, age 10 , and Kandy, age 8. They carried my ropes into the arena for me and when I was through they would carry them out after first running under my trickriding horse, Trigger’s belly on their way out!

Dad was judging the bucking horses and bulls, along with another judge. They had a wild cow milking and Dad, Milt and Doug was a team. Keeping in mind that Dad was about 5 ft. 6 ins. tall with very short legs and a little pot belly and 52 years old, Milt roped his cow clear down at the far end of the arena. Doug was there to help mug the cow till Dad could milk out the desired amount of milk in a pop bottle. That done, Dad took off running and the further he ran the slower he got when suddenly Milt and Doug ran out into the arena to meet him. Each grabbing an arm, they started running along side Dad, running and lifting him to get across the line. The spectators were screaming, clapping and laughing to encouraging him. They loved it, as did all the cowboys. It was so funny and was a big hit.

After that fun performance was over, about an hour later the Weavers started putting tables out and loading all kinds of cold cuts,breads, buns, chips, pop, wieners and marshmallows and more and a large stack of sticks to put their wieners and marshmallows on. The cowboys was lining up and ready to get to the vittals. Dad had previously cut a good sized limb from a tree and trimmed it all down till he had 15 or20 weiner sized little limbs sticking all over it. He had rounded up every little kid he could find and told them to get in line behind him. He had stuck weiners all over that limb and came carrying it to the fire with all those kids in line walking behind him. Well needless to say everyone nearly died laughing at this.But that was my Dad!!

I’ll tell you folks we had more fun there any other rodeo we could remember.The Weaver family were some of the nicest people we had ever met and had gone far out of their way with their hospitality. They certainly had put on a great rodeo. Who would have thought that this little town called Walnut Grove with a population of 675 people could have left me with so many great memories. Sadly that was the only rodeo they ever had. We missed going back but have great memories about it especially when they show Little House On The Prairie on television.