The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo trail ride started in 1952 with just one wagon and four men who went on the 70-mile trek from Brenham to Houston.
Fast forward to 2014 and you have 13 different trails coming from places as near as Brazoria to as far as Reynosa, Mexico.
Altogether, more than 3,000 men, women and children made the trip. And they represent a diverse mix of cultures and ethnicities. Philip Martin is chair of the trail ride committee.
“It’s just a big host of good people coming together, different ethnic groups, diversities – we take ‘em all. They’re all celebrating their Western heritage. They’re here to promote the Livestock Show, and we got their backs 100 percent.”
Today, most of them set up camp in Memorial Park. They’ll stay here for the night and ride into downtown for the Rodeo Parade tomorrow.
Ed Kowis Sr., trail boss for Texas Cattlemen’s Trail Ride
The Texas Cattlemen’s Trail Ride was one of the first outfits to arrive in Houston. Its trail boss, Ed Kowis Sr., says the ride from Anderson went smoothly.
“Ride was great. We had good weather all but one day. Luckily, that day was over layover day, so we were able to stay out of the mud and rain, you know, out of the rain and in the mud. And we did about 80 miles since we left last Saturday. We had a real good ride, nobody got hurt, we had accident free. Had a real good time.”
For Kowis, a rancher from Buffalo, Texas, this is the 44th year of taking part in the trail ride.
“It’s a heritage and it’s a carry-over, and it’s just passing our way of life on. I’m still a rancher by trade. I’m a semi-retired rancher, but I still have cows and horses and I have acreage and do just like the old-time cowboys do, instead I have a Cadillac to drive instead of a horse.”
For this ride, there are no Cadillacs, of course, and only one or two horsepower.
Joe Cantrall, trail boss for The Spanish Trail
Joe Cantrall is the trail boss for The Spanish Trail. The trek from Shepherd 60 miles north of Houston took them five days.
“We travel about 3.5 to 4 miles an hour, and once we hit Montgomery County, we’re escorted all the way to the park by law enforcement, so it’s pretty easy. I have some scouts that work with me and they take care of traffic.”
And Ed Kowis, with the Texas Cattlemen’s, says motorists don’t always show their appreciation for this rodeo tradition.
“Oh yeah, got yelled at. I’ve got given the ‘single finger salute.’ But, you know, you laugh at them. That small, that little, well OK, fine. I just figure it this way, they’re not real Texans if they can’t put up with a horseman for once a year. If they don’t like it, they can leave the state. Wouldn’t hurt my feelings none. We’re overpopulated anyhow.”
You can see all trail rides during the downtown rodeo parade on Saturday, starting at 10 a.m. at Walker and Bagby streets.