Fremont County, Iowa

Rodeo Memories
by Roger Irwin

View from the Attic ~ A Weekly Series
Fremont County Historical Society
July 30, 2013

I was born on a farm in rural Mills County, south of Malvern, Iowa, in 1941. My family consisted of my dad, Opal Irwin, my mom, Darlene and several brothers and sisters. As I was growing up there were two main events, I looked forward to with great anticipation every summer, the Mills County Fair, at Malvern, and Iowa's Championship Rodeo at Sidney. There were such large crowds and so much fun.

During my earlier years, Dad would take us to Sidney in his 1934 Chevy. Often, we would go on a Wednesday afternoon and watch the parade as it went around the Town Square while rodeo participants threw out candy for all of the children. After the parade, our family enjoyed the picnic lunch Mom had prepared for us to eat at the rodeo grounds. It usually consisted of bologna sandwiches, chips, sweet pickles, orange or grape pop and a bottle of Coca Cola. There were no canned pop containers at that time or plastic bottles.

After our meal Dad would go to the ticket office and get our tickets for the bleacher section. Dad was given his change in silver dollars. Sometimes Dad would give us each a silver dollar or Mom would give us a dollar from her egg and cream money. Then we would go through the area in front of the grandstand where vendors had set up tents and tables with all kinds of western merchandise displayed for sale.

Dad always enjoyed going to the penned livestock area, and seeing the wild horses, calves and most famous were the Braham bulls. Dad would caution us to watch were we stepped so as not to cut our foot (or step into a pile of manure.)

We went through the food area, with all of the great smells, of hamburgers and onions cooking. It was a good thing we had eaten our lunch earlier so we didn't have to spend 10 or 25 cents for those hamburgers.

While our parents were talking with some friends, we kids were allowed to enter the land of every kid's dream, the Carnival Midway. It was exciting with all the flashing lights, sounds and carnival people trying to entice people to play their games. I liked to ride the bumper cars and Ferris Wheel the best. It was wonderful when the Ferris Wheel would stop with me at the top so I could see over the entire rodeo grounds. Rides were 10 cents each, so with my dollar, rides were ridden several times.

After all that excitement we entered the grand stand and went directly to the bleacher section. Dad told us to sit down and behave. We did so without hesitation or argument because we knew if we didn't, justice would be served later.

The grand entry was awesome with so many mounted cowboys, cowgirls, trick riders, local riders and the clowns, who often rode mules, who gave us a review of the main events to follow.

After a long and exciting day, we arrived home around 11 p.m. or so, tired and grateful for our parents for taking us to the Rodeo.

(Taken from a letter, written by Roger Irwin to Robert Birkby.)

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