You never know when a “treasure” from the Sheridan WYO Rodeo will surface. These treasures are rodeo memorabilia that have been hidden away in a closet, trunk or box in a shed sometime during the last 87 years and are suddenly discovered. These can be eureka moments.
The latest treasure to surface was found in a box in the attic of a house in Onamia, Minnesota, 90 miles north of Minneapolis. Longtime Sheridan residents, John and Marilyn Leander, were visiting a friend there who gave them the treasure that he had found in the attic of his father’s house. The relic was a 1932 WYO Rodeo poster. John, who is retired from Range Telephone, and Marilyn, a retired Woodland Park school librarian, contacted WYO Rodeo president Nick Siddle about the poster. Nick and I visited with the Leanders and they were kind enough to donate it to the WYO Rodeo. Thank you.
The picture on the poster was the image used on the first WYO Rodeo poster. The artwork for the first poster in 1931 was created by E. W. “Bill” Gollings, a Sheridan artist. The rodeo board paid Gollings a $350 commission for the painting. Gollings drew on local subjects for the painting and from action he had observed at one of the P. K. Rodeos which were held at the PK Ranch west of Sheridan in 1928 and 1929. The main feature of the painting, a bucking horse, was a horse called Funeral Wagon that was blind in one eye. The rider that Funeral Wagon bucked off was Burton Brewster from the Quarter Circle U ranch in Birney, Montana. The pickup men were Curly Witzel, a local boy on the brown horse, and George Gentry, a longtime employee of Eatons’ Ranch, Wolf, Wyoming, on the white horse.
The poster the Leanders were given was different from most posters because it was designed to be free-standing rather than tacked up on a wall. It was printed on cardboard with a fold out flap on the back to support it. It was also smaller than most posters and was most likely used to place on a counter where tickets were being sold or on a counter in a shop. Ken Heuermann, a local historian and dealer in western antiquities has seen several of this type of 1932 poster and says it is quite popular among collectors. As far as I know, 1932 is the only year that Sheridan WYO Rodeo used this poster design. But, never say never.
It’s always interesting to speculate about how treasures reach their final resting place. How in the world did a 1932 Sheridan WYO Rodeo poster end up in a box in an attic 90 miles north of Minneapolis? Did someone from that neck of the woods attend the rodeo and just pick it up? Or buy it at an auction? Or did the advertising arm of the Sheridan WYO Rodeo stretch as far as Minnesota? That is not such a far-fetched idea, actually. In the 1930s days print media was about the only way to advertise, and it was common for a rodeo board member to give someone making a road trip an arm load of posters to put up along the way. One can imagine dozens of scenarios to explain how the poster got in the attic. We will never know the truth. But it’s fun to think about.
Another treasure was recently discovered by Ken Heuermann. It’s a real oddity and certainly a one of a kind item. The artifact is an engraved steer horn. Along the horn are engraved the words “Sheridan-Wyo-Rodeo.” Below is a date, 1935, and above are the initials “W.C.” What is this?
My theory is that the horn was presented to a departing board member, W. T. Cheney, who retired from the Sheridan WYO Rodeo Board of Directors in that time frame. This is the most plausible theory available, but certainly not touted as a fact. Again, while the item itself is interesting, we sure would like to know the true story of where the horn has been since 1935.
Another treasure that occasionally surfaces is a stock certificate from the Sheridan WYO Rodeo.
In the early days the Sheridan WYO Rodeo sold stock to capitalize the rodeo. If you happen to come across one of these and wonder if it’s worth anything, you can stop. It’s not worth a plug nickel. But it’s certainly a treasure — a little bit of history anyway.
Tom Ringley is a Sheridan County commissioner and an Emeritus board member for the Sheridan WYO Rodeo.