by Roger Irwin
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
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
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 lettrer writen by Roger
Irwin to Robert Birkby.)