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"Black American heroes in the old West"

Updated on September 10, 2013

Black American heroes in the old west"

Bill Pickett was the most famous black rodeo rider of all times.
Bill Pickett was the most famous black rodeo rider of all times.

"Black American heores in the old west"

We had black rodeo riders back in the old west according to Lillian Schissel, the Author of Black frontiers.

Bill Pickett and the Black Rodeo:

Bill Pickett was one of the famous rodeo riders of all times. Tradition has it that his family was part black, part white, and part Cherokee. Bill's father, Thomas Jefferson Pickett worked on ranches north of Austin, Texas and Bill spent his youth watching cowboys work. One day he saw a cow "dog" pull out a frightened cow hiding in the thicket.

The dog went up to cow and bit it's lip. The cow was startled it stood perfectly still, and the dog led it gently within reach of the cowboys. If a dog could stop a grown cow, perhaps a man could do the same. Bill tried the trick on a calf. He grabbed the calf's ears and twisted it's head then, just as he had seen the dog do, he bit the calf's lip.

The calf held still and Bill flipped it over and threw it to the ground. Bill practiced the trick again and again. Soon he learned to ride a galloping horse, spring from it's back and wrestle a steer to the ground, bite it's lip until it rested in stunned surprise.

Pickett began performing the trick at country fairs. In the 1890's Bill and his brothers formed the Pickett Brothers Bronco Busters and Rough Riders Association. By 1903 he was bulldogging in rodeos through out Texas and Arizona. A newspaper reporter who watched him ride in Cheyenne, Wyoming wrote: Pickett...Mounted on a horse and caught up with the steer that had been turned loose a little in advance of his start.

There were many in the audience, who thought that it would be impossible for a man to throw a steer with his teeth and the interest became intense. The silence of expectation which settled on the grandstand, as the horse drew near the lumbering brute deepened to a dead calm and the negro's horse dashed alongside the animal catching stride of the steer and then the negro leaped from the horse to the steer's back.

Pickett wound himself around the steers neck and fastened his teeth in its upper lip. Then, with a series of quick jerking movements, Picket forced the steer to its knees, then it rolled over on it's side. The immense crowd cheered and he again jumped on the back of the steer, which regained its feet and repeated the performance.

In 1905 Bill Pickett joined the 101 Wild West Show. The 101 ranch spread out across 101,000 acres of Oklahoma Territory. But some said it got its name because it was 101 miles from Oklahoma City, 101 miles from Tulsa and 101 miles from Wichita. Ranch owners were determine to put Oklahoma on the map, and they decided to stage a huge rodeo for the general public and for the newspaper reporters and editors.

Thirty trains brought sixty-five thousand people to the 101 Ranch for a roundup. There was a grand parade led by the Oklahoma Territory Calvary Band. Geronimo the old apache chief, led two hundred Indians in war paint from seven different tribes. Geronimo was officially a prisoner of the army but he had been promised he could kill one last buffalo before he died. Among the cowboys was Tom mix, who would later star in Hollywood movies, and Lucille Mulhall, America's first cowgirl who performed on her trianed horse Governor.

Dozen of ranch hands pretended to be homesteaders in ox- drawn wagons and the audience watched as the frontier became an afternoon 's entertainment. Geronimo killed his last buffalo, which was cooked and served to the editors, and there were bronco riders and roping contest. Then Bill Pickett, billed as the"Dusky Demon", rode his horse spradley into the ring.

He leaped onto a thousand - pound steer grasped a horn in each hand, dug his his heels into the ground ...and began to twist its neck. He sank his teeth into the steer's tender upper lip" and bit down hard. The steer fell on its side and the crowd rose with a standing ovation. Bill Pickett and the 101 Wild West Show toured the United States, Canada ,South America, and Great Britian. In 1907 the 101 included ninety cowboys and cowgirls, seventy Indians and three hundred horses, buffalo, and longhorn cattle.

They performed before thousands of people. In 1923 Pickett Played himself in a silent movie called The Bull-dogger, but there were not enough black movie goers in the days of silent films, for Bill to become a successful Hollywood cowboy like Tom Mix. Who made 370 western movies and more than six million dollars.

In 1932 Bill Pickett died When he was kicked by a wild horse. Almost forty years later in 1971, Bill pickett was induced into the National Rodeo Cowboys Hall of Fame by western movie star Joel Mcrea. He was the twentieth man selected, and the first and only black cowboy to be awarded a place in the western Heritage Center in Oklahoma City.

In 1987 a bronze statue of Bill Picket bull-dogging a steer was unveiled at the Forth Worth Cowtown Coliseum. Jesse Stahl, riding his horse Glasseye, was another spectacular black performer with grace and split - second timing. The negro Rodeo Association was formed by black cowboys in Houston, Texas in 1947, and since then there have been six different associations of black rodeo performers.

Today, the Bil Pickett Invitational Rodeo is held annually in Denver, Colorado and the black world Championship Rodeo is held at the 369th Armory. At 143 Street and Lennox avenue in New York City. Coast to Coast there are more than five hundred rodeo's each year. Rodeo's, along with basketball, baseball and automobile racing has become one of the nation's leading spectacular sports. Black riders like Bill Pickett and Jesse Stahl set a standard of performance that is remembered by rodeo riders across the country.


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    • creativeone59 profile imageAUTHOR

      benny Faye Douglass 

      6 years ago from Gold Canyon, Arizona

      Thank you JY, for your visit and comment and if you have 562 hubs already, you're doing great too. keep up the good work and you will soon past me. Happy holiday. Godspeed. creativeone59

    • JY3502 profile image

      John Young 

      6 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      Wow creative, 2 years and over 800 hubs! I know how much writing you are doing because I'm at 20 months and only have 562 at this time. I also have done a lot of old west hubs as well just about any topic you can name. You are a good writer.

    • creativeone59 profile imageAUTHOR

      benny Faye Douglass 

      7 years ago from Gold Canyon, Arizona

      Thank you toknowinfo, for your visit and comment, I appreciate you. Godspeed. creativeone59

    • toknowinfo profile image


      7 years ago

      Great hub. Thanks for all the interesting info. Voted up and useful.

    • creativeone59 profile imageAUTHOR

      benny Faye Douglass 

      7 years ago from Gold Canyon, Arizona

      Thank you Sean. for your visit and comment. I appreciate you. Godspeed. creativeone59

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      bill picket the best

    • Colette Morris profile image

      Colette Morris 

      8 years ago from UK

      I love the fact that you are educating positively through your hubs :) thank you for your wisdom and energy.

    • creativeone59 profile imageAUTHOR

      benny Faye Douglass 

      8 years ago from Gold Canyon, Arizona

      Thank you pmccray, it's a blessing to have you around. Thank you for your comments and your feedback. blessings to you and yours. creativeone59

    • pmccray profile image


      8 years ago from Utah

      Very interesting and thorough hub. I love western history and had heard the name of Pickett, but never knew how vast his feats were. Great writing creativeone59

    • suiteorchids profile image


      9 years ago

      great hub! I love to read about the many facets of african americans

    • creativeone59 profile imageAUTHOR

      benny Faye Douglass 

      9 years ago from Gold Canyon, Arizona

      Thank you so much for stopping by mine hubs. Godspeed. creativeone59

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 

      9 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Many people are not aware of Black cowboys. I read a magazine article about them years ago I don't remember where though. I have a book in my collection titled "The Negro Cowboy" by Philip Durham and Everett L. Jones. copyright 1956.It is not surprising that former slaves would have ended up in the West for new opportunities.

    • Green Lotus profile image


      9 years ago from Atlanta, GA mouse keeps duplicating my posts. please delete this one. thanks!

    • Green Lotus profile image


      9 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      I liked this hub! I didn't know about Bill, but I know about the Buffalo soldiers from the civil war. They were great heroes

    • creativeone59 profile imageAUTHOR

      benny Faye Douglass 

      9 years ago from Gold Canyon, Arizona

      I guess they're around, we just don't know about them. thanks for the comment and feedback. creativeone59

    • MistHaven profile image


      9 years ago from New Jersey

      Great Hub. The only other Black cowboy I know of was Nat Turner.

    • creativeone59 profile imageAUTHOR

      benny Faye Douglass 

      9 years ago from Gold Canyon, Arizona

      Thank you for your comment , but you're right a bout history and not knowing enough about another kind of history. it's such a lost. thank you for your comment and feedback. creativeone59

    • Lupo profile image


      9 years ago from Boston Area

      I think the history of the western US is rich with so many tales and interesting people. It is sometimes a shame that most have a limited idea about this history, basically limited to a cowboy and Indian (native American) Hollywood version of what those times were like.

      Thank you for the interesting hub, the wonderful introduction to Bill Pickett and giving us a more expansive view of what the old "wild" west was like. What a character Pickett was - jumping on a steer's back, biting it's lip and throwing it to the ground. Wow!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      superb hub, enjoyed it very much. thankyou.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      9 years ago from London, UK

      Oh I loved every word nnd every information. Thank you for writting it. It was so interesting. Thank you.

    • creativeone59 profile imageAUTHOR

      benny Faye Douglass 

      9 years ago from Gold Canyon, Arizona

      You welcome, thanks you all for your comments and feedback. creativeone59

    • Veronica Allen profile image

      Veronica Allen 

      9 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks for sharing this amazing piece of history with us!

    • magdielqr profile image


      9 years ago

      Very good hub. Thanks for sharing.


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