Bill Bashor remembers his rodeo days
June 15, 2009
The Earl Anderson Rodeo in Grover, Colo., will be Father’s Day Weekend, June 20-21. It is a fun old time kind of PRCA rodeo. This is a story of one of the old timers that has been with the rodeo all his life.
Bill Bashor of Grover, Colo., remembers rodeo as “Lots of fun. Lots of people.” He comes from a ranch background, the oldest son of Lester and Agnes Bashor who had ranches in Grover and Hygiene, Colo. He and his brothers, Clint and Dave, rode “anything they could” around the ranch. Bill started rodeoing right here in Grover in the kids calf riding. He won it his first try, but at a steep price. In the process, he broke his arm. Glen Calley and Jim Zitek helped him out of the arena and took him to the local Grover doctor. The doctor had them each pull in opposite directions on his arm to get it back in line. It made Jim sick to his stomach and Bill too, but they held it in line until the doctor got it in the cast.
Bill ended up running the ranch at Grover by himself when his folk’s hired hand got hurt and left. It was his freshman year in high school and he had to ride his horse to and from school every day. When he stayed in for sports he made the ride after dark. He knew the way by heart, exactly how far he could lope before he had to slow down to miss some badger holes and then away he’d go.
Earl Anderson, lived northwest of Grover and he began inviting Bill out to his ranch. Bill liked the warm meals and people to talk to. It sure beat the cold lonely ranch. He soon was working for Earl, at the ranch and the rodeos he produced. He began competing and at only 16, won the bull riding at Grover.
After graduating from Grover High in 1948 Bill attended Colorado A and M (now Colorado State University) in Fort Collins, Colo. Naturally, he fell into the company of other country boys that liked to rodeo. They formed a rodeo team to represent the school. The rodeo program back then was disorganized. So, as president of the Colorado Aggies rodeo team, Bill attended several of the planning meetings along with several other college representatives to help found the NIRA (National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association.) They developed rules and guidelines to give all college rodeos some structure and uniformity. The final version of the constitution was adopted at the first NIRA National Convention, April, 1949 by the 13 member schools, representing Colorado, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Wyoming and Texas. They divided them into three regions, Southern, Northwest, and Rocky Mountain. The NIRA has grown and changed but continues to be very important to ProRodeo as it is a stepping stone where many of the top cowboys got their start.
Back in the early days of the NIRA the teams wanted each member to be in as many events as they could to earn more points for the team. Bill not only rode bulls, his main event, but rode bareback, saddle broncs and did wild cow milking. He mentioned that he even tried bull doggin’, once. He had a good run, winning the event, adding he could say of his bull doggin’ career, “I retired undefeated.”
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It took more than college rodeos to make ends meet so Bill rodeoed outside of school in the summer or whenever he could. He quipped, “I had to. That was my only way to make money. I financed my way through college rodeoing.”
Bill and some friends went to Sidney, Iowa to a big, 10 day rodeo. Bill placed second in the first round of the bull riding winning a pretty good check. When he went to pick up his winnings, the secretary said to him, “If you’re this far away from home, you’re a professional. You have to get a card (RCA card) or I won’t give you your prize money.” Bill argued that the NIRA bylaws allowed students to compete on their NIRA card, but he ended up getting his RCA card anyway.
Bill was consistent, winning or placing most of the time, both on the college level and in RCA (now PRCA, the Prorodeo Cowboys Association) rodeos. He said his biggest win was probably the All Around Championship at the Phoenix, Arizona rodeo in 1951, where he won a hand made Hamely saddle and $350 in prize money. That sounds like a little pot to win now days, but back then winning an event might be only $20 or $30. It took a lot of rodeoing to pay for a college education, even though, Bill adds, “Back then college didn’t cost so much.”
Amusing and interesting memories always come up when Bill starts talking about rodeo. Like the time he and Warren Adams went up to a rodeo in Torrington, Wyo. Bill was in the bareback and bull riding. Warren was bull doggin’ and doing his trick riding act. Warren tied his horse outside the trailer so they could use the inside for sleeping quarters. Though under a roof, they shared it with all the mosquitoes! In the night, Bill woke up, complaining that his lips were chapped and blistered. Warren thought he knew where there was some Chap Stick and stumbled out into the pitch black looking for it. By and by he came back. Bill gladly put it on and smeared it around generously. However, when morning came they discovered that instead of the Chap Stick, Warren had gotten his wife’s lipstick. He about broke in two with laughter as he looked at Bill all smeared up. Bill recounted how he about “scrubbed the hide off.” He was so embarrassed he wouldn’t go anywhere and even threatened to turn his bull out so no one would see him.
Bill was willing to try about anything so when Earl Anderson came up with the idea to have an exhibition chariot race at the Spud Rodeo in Greeley (now the Greeley Independence Stampede,) Bill agreed to be a driver. This was an instant crowd pleaser as the movie “Ben-Hur,” depicting the old Roman Empire was popular. They used three teams each pulling a heavy old time chariot. Each driver wore a Roman Toga and had a wreath around his head, really looking the part. To make it more spectacular, roman candles were attached to the spokes of the wheels so they would shoot off as they ran.
As they were preparing to start, one of the teams started acting up. It bolted Bill’s direction. The tongue of the other chariot hit Bills, driving it against the grandstand and one of the other teams horses jumped into Bill’s chariot with him. Surprisingly, after getting the mess untangled, none of the horses or drivers were injured and they did run the race, roman candles shooting and all.
Bill kept rodeoing after graduating with a degree in Animal Husbandry, getting married, and having a family. Then in 1955 Bill was drafted by the Army to fight in the Korean War. He took an inactive status on his RCA card and never went back to competing after the war, but he didn’t leave rodeo. He worked in Grover as the arena director for many years then passed the job on to a younger Community Club member and became chairman of the Kid’s Calf Riding. He enjoyed this and liked helping kids get a start in the sport of rodeo. He’ll never tire of reminiscing about all the fun he had back in his rodeo days.