Rodeo. Just to think of the word brings excitement to many people. Excitement was in the dusty air of Pecos in 1883 when a few cowboys met to find out who was the best at rid- ing and roping. From the beginning of time, there has been competition among men. So it was with those horsemen who made a living in the daily chores about the ranch headquarters or trailing a herd of cattle in the wind, dust and rain storms. As these men crossed trails and met in places such as Pecos, there always came the question, “Who is the best?”
Trav Windham had become well known after driving cattle from Abilene to the Hashknife Ranch just north and west of Pe- cos. This ranch had been established as a place for cattle used to feed workers on the T & P Railroad which was moving west from Sweetwater. Windham later became foreman for the Lazy Y outfit after he decided to quit the trail. Morg Livingston of the NA ranch had earned a reputation as a roper. Since bragging could not determine a winner, they decided that the two of them would meet in a contest. Word spread quickly and other cowboys also wanted to compete to prove their abilities.
A place was chosen on the flat land west of the river roughly where the present courthouse and law enforcement build- ings are located. The date chosen was July 4th. Since that was a holiday, most ranchers, cowboys and townspeople could attend. When that day came, there were horses, wagons, people walking – coming from all directions to see what was going to happen, and to find out how their favorite cowboy would fair.
Most stories about that day concerned the time it took Trav Windham to rope and tie his steer — 22 seconds — to win that event. Later Morg Livingston beat Windham in a matched roping. Before the day was over, cowboys from Hashknife, W, Lazy Y and the NA spreads were part of the action. One story from that day named Pate Beard of the Hashknife and Jeff Chism as having walked away with honors. Others named were Jim Mannin, John Chalk, George Brookshire, Howard Collier, Jim Livingston, Brawley Oates, Jim and Henry Slack, E.P. Stuckler and Henry Miller.
Henry Slack, grandfather of R. C. Slack of Pecos, was proba- bly the youngest rider there. While he did not remain a cowboy, he never lost his love for the cowboy life even as a business man. Since he was a famous figure from that cowboy event, he had the honor for many years to lead or ride in the rodeo parades when they began in the early 1930′s. Many people came to know and respect ” Uncle Henry.” The late Evelyn Slack Mahoney often recalled stories her father, Henry Slack, and about being there on July 4, 1883.
Through the years, many stories were told of the Pecos event and other towns began to claim the first rodeo. Barney Hubbs of Pecos a longtime newsman and historian, began to gather information to verify the facts handed down from generation to generation. He obtained signed affidavits from various people, some whom attended that first rodeo. The Encyclopedia Britannica publishers discovered Mr. Hubbs’ newspaper account of the first rodeo and asked for his proof. He was successful, after much controversy, in getting Pecos named as the host of “the first public cowboy contest wherein prizes were awarded to the winners of bronco riding and steer roping. No admission was charged to the spectators.” In getting this recognition for Pe- cos, Hubbs lost his affidavits, as they were never returned.