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Gila County Rodeo Reunion

Our expectations were high. We hoped the rodeo cowboys and cowgirls who participated in Payson’s Rodeos from the 1950s through the 1970s would gather to visit and tell tales of the past. We hoped that the people who watched them back then would come to meet them again and get their Rodeo 101 books signed. Our expectations were met – and then some.

The oldest rodeo cowboy who came to the reunion was E.C. Conway of Greenback. His cousin, Leroy Tucker, was on hand to tell some stories about E.C. – a tough cowboy who roped in the Payson Rodeos in the 1920s and 30s – and also boxed at the arena set up on Main Street for a rodeo attraction.

Both of E.C.’s sons, Eddie of Greenback, and his wife, Betty Sue, and Bill of Payson, and his wife, Penny were at the Reunion. Eddie rode bulls professionally from 1959 to 1970. He went to the National Finals in 1963 and 1964. He was eighth in the world in 1963. Eddie quit riding in 1965 when he got hurt, but returned to the sport for a couple of years to travel with his younger brother, Bill, who also excelled in bull riding.

Eddie Conway won the bull riding at the 1967 Payson Rodeo. Bill started riding bulls professionally in 1969. He placed in the bull riding in 1971 and 1973 at the Payson Rodeo.

Bill married Penny Simon, daughter of Milt Simon. She has made herself known in the rodeo world with her roping abilities. She has rodeoed professionally and has been to the Professional Women’s Rodeo Association Finals several times as a team roper. In 2001, she won the world championship team roping as a header. Penny learned to rope with her brothers, Jay and Mark Simon, both who have been to the national finals.

Bill and Penny’s son, Kyle Conway, was also on hand. With both Conway and Simon bloodlines, he is a good roper. He holds the record for the youngest to ever win the calf roping in the Arizona Junior Rodeo Association – at age 9. Kyle is now 23 and a big, handsome guy who trains horses.

Dave Ericcson, and his wife, Jennifer, made the trip from Globe to Payson for the Reunion. Dave is the cowboy who graces the cover of our Rodeo 101 book. “Graces” is not the right word for this rough and tumble cowboy who has made his living horseback. Dave rode rough stock in the rodeos and he gathered wild cattle and horses for many years. He also gathered wild asses out of the Grand Canyon.

Dave always had a crowd around him at the Reunion, listening to his stories. One went like this. “A feller asked me if there was still money in buying and selling cattle. I told him, ‘Feller, there’s lots of money in sellin’ cattle, but when you start buyin’ them, it cuts into your profit.’” Cowboys got a laugh out of this – especially the ones who really know Dave Ericcson.

J.C. Trujillo, and his wife, Margo, were also in attendance. They came across the highway from the rodeo arena to visit with old friends. We were sure glad that they did. J.C. started his rodeo career in junior rodeos, as many do. He participated in the Arizona State University rodeo team in bareback riding and won the 1968 National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA) championship. Trujillo turned professional in 1967 and hit the circuit full throttle five years later, eventually qualifying for the National Finals Rodeo 12 times! He was inducted into the Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame in 1994.

Other Hall of Famers at the Reunion: Frank and Tammy Kelly of Queen Creek, AZ. Frank is known for winning the bull riding in a professional rodeo in five consecutive decades, 1950s through the 1990s. His wife, the petite Tammy Kelly, is a six-time world champion in woman’s bull riding. Both signed many Rodeo 101 books.

Our special guests, Lynn and Nancy Sheppard are also in the Cowboy Hall of Fame. We’ve written about them before, but only those who met Nancy and Lynn can fully appreciate their talents. Nancy, a world famous trick rider of the 1950s and 60s, still holds the record as the only woman who can stand on a running horse while spinning two ropes. No cowboy at the reunion could top that! Nancy looked beautiful. She was very gracious and took time to talk to people as she signed their books. Lynn was right beside her, doing his part. Their son, Lex, and his wife, Marion, were in attendance with their daughter, Lexie, and Lexie’s baby son. So we were pleased to have four generations of Sheppards were at the Reunion.

Another Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Famer, Chuck Henson, and his wife, Nancy, were present. People were so happy to see them. We didn’t get any information on Chuck Henson for our Rodeo 101 book, so it was really nice to meet these folks. Chuck, now in his 80th year, is a retired rodeo clown. His father, Charles "Heavy" Henson, was a saddle-bronc rider and steer wrestler. Heavy married Margie Greenough, also a saddle-bronc rider, on the rodeo circuit in 1929, when Chuck was just three years old. Margie died a year ago at age 95.

Chuck Henson grew up on the rodeo circuit. He roped, rode saddle broncs, and was a clown/bullfighter. He came to Payson Rodeo first in 1960, then came back a few more years. He was happy to see all the bull riders at the Reunion.

Speaking of bull riders, following are a few of the ones at the Reunion, other than the ones mentioned above: Glenn Adair, Bill Baker, Ronnie McDaniel, Ronnie O’Daniel, Bobby Ski, Harry Shill, Duke Haley, Doyle Crabtree, Angel Tellez, H. T. Shadoan, Lex Sheppard, Dick Derwort, Tony Koch, Mike Huckabee, Gerald McDowell, Jim Spain, and Buff Billings, among others.

Among the bronc riders were J.C. Trujillo, Dave Ericcson, Bob Ski, David Thompson, Leroy Smith, Leon King, Jim Kracht, and Dallas Stock.

Among the ropers, other than the ones mentioned above, were Leroy Tucker, Walt Murdock, Joe Haught, Walter Grantham, Kyle Conway, Penny Conway, E.C. Conway.

Some descendants of the famous Tonto Basin race horse people were there: Bill Byrne of Globe, along with three generations of his family; Roxie Lynn Holt, granddaughter of George Cline; Dwight Cooper and Velma Tucker, son and daughter of Chester Cooper; and Joe Haught, son of Alfred Haught. Dwight Cooper’s daughter, Tessie, was there, with her husband, and her son, Byron Haught. So the Cooper’s had three generations present.

Cathy Brenton Townsend, daughter of Weeb Brenton and niece of Poog Brenton, the two men Ronnie McDaniel wrote about in the Introduction to Rodeo 101, was there to meet Ronnie and talk about the younger days her deceased father. She’s a neat gal.

This Reunion turned out great, as far as we are concerned. We saw where we could make improvements and plan to do so for the next Reunion which will be held Saturday, August 19, 2006.

We thank Ed Childers who came to emcee the event, Duke and Terry Wilbanks who helped with tables and chairs and set up a wonderful family photo display, Leroy Tucker who told stories, Pat Cline and Jerrie Tipton for Texas Sheet Cakes, Raymond Cline for standing as guard over the Reunion, as he does over Rodeo 101 (see page 225), Lorraine Cline for the Texas Sheet Cakes and for her support in all we do, and we thank Jayne Hatch and Jeanne Peace who worked hard and did whatever was needed.

The band, headed by Taylor Hale of Hashknife, was great. Don Gibson, Shawn Haught, Eddie Armer, and a fiddle player by the name of Billy Roten from Globe made some good dance music. Our many visitors were amazed while watching the locals dance the old Payson dances. Hats off to Harry Shill who got up and sang a song!

While Raymond Cline “guarded” Rodeo 101 Reunion, reigning over it was 1982 Payson Rodeo Queen Paula Pyeatt Waterman. She met people at the door and signed many books. Peggy Randall, attendant to Payson’s first rodeo queen in 1954, was at the Reunion. Payson Rodeo Queen Attendant of 1961 and 1962, Annie Emmett Ryan, was present. Tommie Cline Martin, 1968 Payson Rodeo Queen, attended and 1974 Queen, Angela Taylor Godac stopped by as the Reunion was ending.

Myrtle Pyle Warter, Anna Mae Ogilvie Deming, and Marguerite Noble, were the attending matriarchs of the Reunion. Rodeo photographer, Roger Buchanan was hand, visiting with the cowboys.

Last, but certainly not least, were the food people! The barbecued beef, beans, and cole slaw were outstanding. Preparing it were Jack and Joyce Warter and John and Flora James of Globe. Gene Warter brought Reunion T-Shirts, and Jerry and Darlene Daniels spent the day taking pictures. We have a mess of them and they are great, They will be on display next year.

We thank all who attended. Each and every person contributed something to make this a great Reunion and we are grateful.

Written by Jayne & Jinx Pyle

For more Gila County history visit

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