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George Fletchers Ride
by Susan Allen, click here for bio
Program: Open Range
Date: March 29, 11
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The year is 1911, the contest; championship saddle bronc rider, the place, Pendleton Roundup… That year, rodeo’s classic event changed the sport . In the words of W. K. Stratton author of Chasing Rodeo and by the way on of my favorite books on the history of the sport “the color line was firm, never mind how well Fletcher rode” and apparently no one rode broncs like George Fletcher. As a young black child George was rescued from the brothels by a pastor and raised on the Umatilla Indian where he honed horsemanship skills that would make him one of our first “horse whisperers”. He became renowned for his method of starting a horse without breaking it’s spirit. A talented rough stock rider George was banned from most rodeos because of his skin color. But on that day in 1911 he got to ride at the Pendleton Roundup, and received a standing ovation for his spectacular ride. Obviously Fletcher would be crowned saddle bronc champion. John Spain was awarded the winning saddle that day midst loud booing from the crowd. Angered by the prejudice judging Pendleton Sheriff Till Tayor sold enough pieces of George’s cowboy hat to purchase the black bronc rider his own duplicate championship saddle. While George Fletchers ride changed history that day, sadly other rodeos refused to allow him to ride, George channeled his talent into becoming a legendary horse trainer and respected member of the Umatilla Indian tribe.
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