The final IRA rodeo of the 1951 season concluded at the Cow Palace with an award ceremony honoring the likes of Casey Tibbs, Jim Shoulders and Chuck Sheppard.
By JERRY ARMSTRONG • Photography by BAKER, as written in the January 1952 issue of Western Horseman
The second day of the Cow Palace arena classic, announcer Cy Taillon orated via the mike: “The next rider out is Deb Copenhaver, the famous second-place bronc rider. Deb has probably won more seconds than any cowboy in rodeo; he placed second in the average at Calgary, Cheyenne, Pendleton, Chicago, etc., etc., and at this time is in·second place in the IRA saddle bronc point count. But someday Deb will be the champion.” That “someday” was Sunday, November 4, 1951-eight days later.
At the start of the Cow Palace show, the final IRA rodeo of the season, Casey Tibbs was holding a narrow lead in IRA saddle bronc riding points, but here Deb fared better than did Casey, overcame Tibbs’ lead and thusly became the IRA champion saddle bronc rider of 1951. Both of these young cowboys are, and for long have been, action bronc riders of the showstealing variety. But here the likeness ends, both being opposite types in all ways. Deb is a family man, possessing a wife and two children. During the Cow Palace show, we observed much of Deb and his little family, and it was ever evident that he is a very happy pappy. During dinner, Deb would forsake his own heaped-up plate to spoon-feed the kids. When introducing the two little cowboy garbed tykes, Deb would beam with pride. When he beams and when he smiles, a dimple appears in each cheek. As Casey said, during the award ceremonies, “A very good boy beat me.”
Due to the new IRA ruling that the all-around winner be an all-around hand and chalk up points in both riding and roping events, a second very good boy, Del Haverty, beat Casey, the high point and big money winner of 1951 IRA rodeos, out of the IRA all-around title. Del, a good-looking young cowboy from Arizona, won points in roping, dogging, and bareback bronc riding. “I was lucky,” he said, and that he was, but nevertheless, young Haverty is a mighty classy all-around cowboy.
Pinky Boylen, who for long has managed the details connected with the annual IRA award ceremonies, became ill and was hospitalized before the event. The senator from Idaho and IRA vice president, Harry Wall, carried on, with an assist from Cecil Jones and Tulsa Scott. An hour before the scheduled award presentations, no one concerned knew just exactly where and when the doings would take place. This was eventually settled, and at the conclusion of the bull riding, the final rodeo event of the final IRA rodeo of 1951, cowboys, donors of awards, and big wheels of rodeo trekked out into the churned up tan-bark arena. The mike was set up, and then it was discovered that Cecil Jones and the award checks were missing. To add to the confusion, the trophy buckles to be awarded were, for security reasons, too tightly secured in their holders and were not immediately available for presentation. But calm and cool and right on schedule, the debonair Harry Wall took over the mike. He gave a nice little talk on rodeo, introduced IRA officials, and had started in on the winning cowboys of the season when up trotted the tardy Cecil Jones, reformed bull and bareback bronc rider and custodian of award checks, and “all’s well that ends well.”
Champion IRA calf roper is Chuck Sheppard, the all-around top hand from Arizona. When asked when he was going to win the all-around title (he was the runner-up this year and for several years past has finished right up there), Chuck grinned and said, “Someday, if I can hold together long enough.” For the past few months, it was apparent that one of five ropers was going to end the season with the title. But which one would do it was ever in doubt. The number was narrowed down the last week of competition at the Cow Palace, but the eventual winner could not even be guessed at until the last of these hot ropers had tied (or not tied) his final calf. Two months back it appeared that Vern Castro was the coming champion calf roper. Then Vern sustained a wrist injury, which did not halt, but did handicap the sharp California cowboy. Then it appeared that J. D. Holleyman was going to do it, and then it was Royce Sewalt; but in the end, Chuck Sheppard came from behind to take the title. A month before the Cow Palace show, Chuck was in fifth place. Royce Sewalt finished the season the runner-up, with Vern Castro third, and Troy Fort, fourth.
IRA champion dogger is Dan Poore, for long an outstanding roper as well as a top dogger. Dan’l started out this year in a winning groove and in fine fettle at Denver, where he won $844.48 on his first calf of the season. Then at his second show, Fort Worth, he racked up a win of the average in dogging. His rodeoing was of this caliber ’til Pendleton, where it appeared that bad luck, of which he has had plenty, had again caught up to Dan’l. The brawny cowboy was banged up dogging his first steer and carried out of the arena on a stretcher. In spite of the mishap, Dan’l had finished the chore and had chalked up the winning dogging time of the first go round.
IRA champion bareback bronc rider is Casey Tibbs. It is ironic that both this year and last year, Casey came to the Cow Palace leading in both bronc riding events, and at the conclusion of both shows he left the arena the champion of but a single event. Last year Jim Shoulders and Harry Rowell’s bronc Duel In The Sun did him out of the bareback title. This year Deb Copenhaver, a “so-so” mount, and then Snake, whom he spurred himself off of, beat him out of the saddle bronc title. But Casey, it appears, has held his lead in both of these events in the RCA point award system, and besides this he owns a Cadillac and is in the movies now, with a long-term contract.
IRA champion bull rider is Jim Shoulders. Jim was the IRA and RCA champion bareback bronc rider last year. The previous year he won both the bull riding and the bareback bronc riding via the IRA and the same two titles, plus the all-around championship, in the RCA point award. Jim is now 23, is married and has two children and an automobile body and fender shop in Tulsa. Tied for the IRA team roping championship are Buck Sorrells and Olin Sims. Olin stayed at home, but Buck was again in action at the Cow Palace. Last year Buck was the RCA champion team roper; for 1948 and ’47 he was the IRA champion calf roper.
The Christensen Brothers were the Cow Palace stock contractors with some additions from the Bob Barmby string. Henry Christensen was the arena director, with brother Bob Christensen and Bub Gatzman the pickup men. The Christensens are serious-minded young men and have deservedly come a long way, from a humble start, in rodeo. They put on a fast action show, and all their stock is pretty uniform. We quizzed bronc riders as to their opinion of the rough string and all were in agreement that a good rider always has a chance to make money at a Christensen rodeo. One boy said: “You won’t draw a man killer, but you will get a good, showy purse horse, and if you can use him right for 10 seconds! you’ll be eating a steak dinner that night.” That kinda sums it up.
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