WHOO-EEE!! I don’t know ‘bout y’all but Cookie was sweatin’ bullets at the rodeo watchin’ Cal ride that man-killer and then the thrill of the Bride Race! Why the ol’ coot even shed a tear durin’ the ceremony…Yes ya did ol’ man and don’t go blamin’ it on dust…
Now that we’ve spent some time followin’ in Cal and Josie’s tracks… Cal asks that y’all please back away now … And ya’ll have read (I hope) the final chapter of RACE TO MARRY let’s head to the Sheridan fairgrounds and get a look at the actual 1909 Wild West Show that planted a seed in my mind and grew into a story (that kinda smarts a bit, too).
The October 2, 1909, and October 5, 1909 issues of the Sheridan Daily Enterprise, reported on a Wild West Show and rodeo organized by Jim Jennings. The show ran from Thursday through Saturday, but it was so thrilling and drew such large crowds that a half-page ad in Saturday’s paper announced a special show was planned for Sunday. “IF YOU DON’T ATTEND IT WILL BE YOUR LOSS: THE SHOW COMMENCES AT 1:30!”
From the accounts in the newspaper, the participants were Sheridan locals or from neighboring communities. Events included a marathon, a hold up of the Deadwood stage, roping and tying exhibition, a relay foot race with four teams, a wild horse race, and a pony express ride; just to name a few.
One of the novelty races was the midnight race. “The most laughable event of the day.” Contestants started 200 yards from the wire and rode to the front of the grandstand. There they donned longshirts, mounted and raced around the track. For this race “A fast horse counted for little…It was the handy man with a shirt who won.”
For another race contestants were required to carry umbrellas. Then they rode to the wire where they “turn their coats wrong side out, light a cigar and ride with umbrellas raised.”
While the novelty races and trick exhibitions entertained the crowds, two events stole the show: bronco-busting and the race for the bride. Reports in the Enterprise, exhibit the bronco-riding held quite a few exhilarating moments. “Corkscrew, a wild outlaw, threw every man, Bud rich went down like the sound of a pile driver hitting the top of a wet log.”
“Clyde Brown on Aeroplane had a narrow escape in his broncho [sic] busting contest. He was thrown and his foot caught. People averted their heads for fear the crazed horse would stamp the man to death. But by a dexterous twist Brown himself got loose from his perilous position in safety.”
But the climax of the bronco-busting was the ride of Jim Jennings on the back of Corkscrew. Jennings was a Sheridan local with a ranch on Mead Creek, fourteen miles from town. He traveled with Buffalo Bill for four years, touring in Europe in 1903 and 1904. “He is one of the best riders in the state, and that is the same as saying the best in the world, for Wyoming horsemen have no superior.”
Corkscrew entered the rodeo a noted man-killer, sending a Buffalo, Wyoming man to the hospital for several weeks and severely injuring another cowboy just a year before. Jennings, having few equals as a rider, was game to ride Corkscrew and subdued the outlaw. However, Corkscrew had the final word sending Jennings to the ground with a hard thud on his back. “Jennings is carrying around a fractured rib as a memento of the occasion.”
The crowd went wild for the “Race for the Bride.” The bride’s name was given as Hazel Foster and Lillian Foster. However, it appears as Hazel Foster in most records and on Sheridan’s official website. The “grooms” name was Harry Lewis. Lewis participated in the pony express ride, bronco-busting and the wild horse race, as well as the bride race. While riding his bronc, he didn’t place and he came in second to Sage Collins in the wild horse race, but he would outride Sage to capture the bride.
The “lady and the cowboy catching her would be married on the spot. Judge Story, it was said, would perform the ceremony without cost.”
All we know of Hazel Foster was she hailed from Rock Creek, and was obviously an excellent horsewoman as she gave her pursuers a run for their money. Hazel was given a 200-yard head start and made good use of it not intending to get caught.
“Sage Collins, on his favorite roan, was after her, but whether or not he would have overtaken her will never be known. Harry Lewis started late and realizing that Sage could never be overtaken, he doubled back, intercepted the bride on the last quarter, and carried her to the grandstand,” much to the crowd’s delight. Harry Lewis won $50 and the hand of Hazel Foster.
Jennings show was such a success he decided to take it on the road. By the end of Sunday’s performance he already had a long list of applications from the Wyoming cowboys participating. Enough applications, in fact, that he planned to take the show to Billings, Montana the next week.
As for the bride and her cowboy, I am not sure I would ever want to know what happened after the race. I prefer to make up my own happily ever after ending for the couple.
So from two newspaper reports Cal and Josie’s story sprouted. I reduced the show to one day. Cal’s character emerged from Jim Jennings wild ride on Corkscrew and Harry Lewis’ daring capture of his own bride. Yes, Siree, it takes two men to make one of Cal. But it all started when I read about a young woman, Hazel Foster, agreeing to be the fox to seven Wyoming hounds. What would make her do such a thing? Excitement? Was she a spinster? Or did she need to save the family ranch? From these questions, and Hazel’s race, Josie Allison was born.
Hope y’all enjoyed RACE TO MARRY and the look behind the scenes!
THE SHERIDAN DAILY ENTERPRISE. Saturday, October 2, 1909. Sheridan, Wyoming: pages 1 and 4.
THE SHERIDAN DAILY ENTERPRISE. Tuesday, October 5, 1909. Sheridan, Wyoming: pages 1 and 4.