Editor’s Note: This story first appeared in the March 1966 Western Horseman.
The Casper College Thunderbirds from Casper, Wyo., tied up the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association Championship for the third consecutive year in the 1965 finals held in Laramie, Wyo. After five terrific, top-notch performances, they made intercollegiate rodeo history, being the first team with a consecutive three-time win since the beginning of the NIRA, which has been in operation for 17 years.
The T-Birds won the title in 1963 at the finals held in Littleton, Colo., and came through with another championship in 1964 at the NIRA finals in Douglas, Wyo. The 1965 performance at Laramie climaxed the T-Birds spectacular try for the top.
Although the T-Birds are a devoted team, they not only ride for Casper College, but for the entire Casper community. A third victory was doubly important in 1965 because it was the 75th anniversary of Wyoming’s statehood, and these fellows were bent on upholding the western frontier tradition of top-notch rodeo hands in Diamond Jubilee style.
The six cowboys that made up the 1965 team were Pink Peterson, Claude “Whip” Wilson, Ned Londo, Tom Jarrard, Bill Peterson and Wayne Not Afraid.
Pink Peterson is what you might call the “point-getter,” always good for 200 to 300 points a rodeo. Pink is from Kersey, Colo., and when it comes to rodeoing, you name the event and he works it. As his past record shows, he is liable to win first place in any one of them. Pink was the reigning NIRA all-around, saddle-bronc-riding and bareback-riding champion for 1964. He showed them how to do it at the 1965 finals, too, winning the bronc riding, placing second in bull riding, and winning part of the bareback riding. Thus he was crowned NIRA world champion for 1965. It surprised no one, though, and at the NIRA banquet that night, “Sonny” Sikes, secretary-manager of the NIRA said, “If Pink keeps riding like this every year, we’ll have to call this the Pink Peterson benefit.”
Casper College is the first two-year school to ever have the championship team, and has gone all out in supporting it. The school grants scholarships to help the cowboys toward their education, and thus recruits top cowboys.
Another example of this is the T-Bird team member from Avondale, Colo. Claude “Whip” Wilson is a small, compact sort of guy who has the power where it counts when it comes time to strap on a bareback riggin’ or a bull rope. Whip proved his ability by winning the regional bareback championship. He won first or second at just about every regional rodeo.
Whip rides pretty handily under pressure, as he showed at the NIRA finals. He was tied for the national championship with a Minnesota cowboy, “Bucky” Baker, going into the last round. Baker disqualified on his last horse, and this rested the championship on Whip’s shoulders.
I can remember that ride real well. It was so quiet when Whip was getting ready to come out that you could have heard a pin drop. Everyone was looking at chute number six as if President Johnson were going to ride that bronc. The chute swung open and Whip went on to make a good ride and was named the NIRA champion bareback rider, another first for Casper College.
Only the top two teams in each region get to compete at the finals, so there are a lot of top cowboys from all parts of the country trying their level best to capture a championship there. The 1964 saddle-bronc-riding champ, Ned Londo from Las Vegas, Nev., another Casper College asset, was also competing in the 1965 college finals. Although Ned didn’t win a national championship in 1965, he did win a go-round in the bareback and saddle bronc contests. Ned tied with Pink for the 1964 saddle-bronc-riding title, and he also won the 1965 regional saddle-bronc-riding championship.
Another top bronc buster from Kaycee, Wyo., who made the T-Bird team, was Tommy Jarrard. Tom is a former high-school champ who works all six rodeo events and is capable of placing every time he nods for one. Tom is a hard man to get on the ground in the riding events, and that’s what it takes to make a championship team. Tom did pretty well at the college finals, placing twice in the bronc riding field.
Casper College won the NIRA finals with better than a 400-point lead; but there is a little bad luck that plagues some cowboys as T-Bird team members Bill Peterson and Wayne Not Afraid found out when they made their debuts at the finals.
Bill Peterson, brother of Pink, failed to place at the finals, but he did climax a good year at the regional rodeos. Bill is a real handy bull rider and also works the calf-roping and ribbon-roping events.
Wayne Not Afraid, as you might have guessed, is an Indian boy and hails from Lodge Grass, Mont. He works the two roping events and can be tough when he enters. Wayne is a very quiet but likeable guy and was a real help to his team in making points at the regional rodeos that helped qualify the T-Birds for the NIRA finals.
You’re probably wondering who is responsible for gathering this conglomeration of top cowboys to make this championship team. Dale E. Stiles is the proud and devoted coach of the T-Birds. Dale, a professor at the college, travels to all the rodeos with the boys, giving them riding tips and the moral support it takes to birth a championship team. Dale is also a former NIRA all-around champion.
The T-Birds, now the NIRA world champions for the third consecutive year, deserve a pat on the back for the continuing top performances and top arena sportsmanship for which they are nationally famous.