It seems historical information and traditions of our Grangeville Rodeo were passed on through word of mouth. There is no written time line for the development and changes of Idaho’s oldest rodeo.
THE FIRST RODEO HELD AT THE LOCATION OF TODAYS SPENCER RANCH
The first rodeo was held in a cow pasture on September 1912 near today’s Spencer Ranch at the southeast side of town. Each year temporary posts were set and high canvas banners attached. The canvas was tall and thick enough so livestock could not see through and accepted the material in the same aspect as a strong wooden fence. The arena was set up in a few hours and the Rodeo could begin.
In those days cow boying was both a job and a competitive recreation and only local men participated. Then a patriotic three day celebration grew around the rodeo and BORDER DAYS was born. The original rodeo grew with more and more contestants coming to compete. Finally, the whole Northwest was represented by buckaroos.
After a few years the BORDER DAYS Rodeo was moved to the month of July to avoid conflicts with the haying season and fall harvest.
The BORDER DAYS Rodeo was held continuously with exception to the period during the second World War, due to the lack of participants. Everybody was able to ride after paying an entry fee until the Cowboy Rodeo Association was founded. “From this day on” pro Rodeo and amateur Rodeo was kept separate and pro’s were not allowed to compete against amateurs and visa versa.
HOW WAS THE NAME “BORDER DAYS” COINED?
Many people might ask themselves how the official name ‘BORDER DAYS’ came about. It is more or less an unusual name for an event like this. Word has it, the name was chosen since Grangeville borders a large wilderness area that reaches clear down to the Saw Tooth Mountain range near Idaho’s capital, Boise.
WHEN WAS THE RODEO RELOCATED TO THE PRESENT DAY ARENA?
A new arena was built during the early 1920′s at the northeast end of town. The rodeo has remained at the current arena location to this day.
JACKSON SUNDOWN AND THE NEZ PERCE TRIBE
For many years, members of the Nez Perce tribe participated in the rodeo and the worlds longest saddle horse parade, which lead through Main street and ended at the rodeo grounds. It is remembered that Nez Perce Indians would ride into Grangeville, setting up camp at the creek below the rodeo ground’s.
Most Native American’s were participating as spectator’s and joined the parade. But there were a few exceptions i.e. Eely Wilson and Jackson Sundown. Jackson won the World Championship title in 1916 which he held over several years. While Jackson, already retired from the rodeo circuit, visited Grangeville Border Days in 1922, he gave an exhibition ride nobody of the older generation forgets.
An extremely broncy horse had been shipped via train from Pendleton. So far nobody had been able to ride this saddle bronc and all Grangeville participants passed this horse on. Guess who did not? Jackson Sundown. He saddled this horse swung up and jelled cut ‘em loose. In deed, all hell broke loose and the strong horse tried his best to get rid of the unwanted rider. Well, Jackson stood on and the crowd was cheering and threw silver dollars into the arena.
WHEN WERE GAMES ADDED TO THE BORDER DAYS TRADITIONS?
Many of such stories could be told and competition was one aspect of BORDER DAYS. Soon entertaining games were developed as a fund raiser for BORDER DAYS. It is passed on that all visitors had to wear western clothing and men had to grow a beard. However, Cowboys were able to buy a shave permit if they rather did not want to grow beards or wear western clothing during the Rodeo celebration. Anyone caught without a permit not wearing western clothing or men without a beard were brought before ‘Kangaroo Courts’ and a short trial was held. A fine was set and paid to the BORDER DAY committee. This tradition has not been carried on.
Information and parts of text provided by: Maxine Pell & Mr. Horace Henderson
Do you have an old photo of Border Days that you’d like to share? If yes, please take it to a photo shop or have a friend convert the photo to a digital file in jpg format and a minimum of 800 pixels wide. Then email the image file along with as much detail as you’d like to include about who is in the photo or what the photo represents and possibly even the year that it was taken at the Border Days event. Send photos to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll start a nostalgia collection of old historic photos in honor of our Border Days tradition.