Thursday, November 01, 2007

Hard Money: Remembering the Texas Prison Rodeo


I've always regretted never having seen it, but The Back Gate reminisces about the world-famous, now-defunct annual Huntsville Prison Rodeo, which in its day drew as about as many spectators as (100,000+) as a big-league college football game. The new Back Gate website doesn't have permalinks to its articles, but go visit them and scroll down.


Reports the Texas Prison Museum,
A favorite event unique to the Texas Prison Rodeo was the Hard Money Event. Forty Inmates with red shirts were turned into the arena with a raging wild bull with a Bull Durham tobacco sack tied between its horns. The object was for some brave inmate to get the sack and take it to the Judge. Fifty dollars had been placed in the sack but donations often ran the pay up, sometimes to $1500. This became a very popular event for the inmates due to the amount of money involved and was one of the most dangerous ones as well. The fast action kept fans on the edge of their seats throughout the event.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I remember the prison rodeo. Even worked it as a guard back when it was a big deal in Huntsville. I really hated to see it go. It was a Texas tradition that unfortunately went away when the word "liability" came knocking at the door.

Anonymous said...

That hard money event sounds groovy. Like bullfighting, but with the bull getting an even chance.

Anonymous said...

The bullshit was much sweeter back then. Almost tasted like molasses. Unlike today's bullshit, rigid and much harsher to swallow.

Anonymous said...

The Rodeo "went away" because the upper TDCJ Administration didn't want to work every weekend in October. "Repairing the seating was not cost effective", was the official reason but spending $30,000.00 after making in excess of $10,000,000.00 seems like a minor expense to the average person.

The local Huntsville officials thought the State should build them a Rodeo Arena and let the City of Huntsville make the money. Of course that didn't happen.

Retired 2004

Anonymous said...

Everybody used to make money off of that event. All the college fraternities would charge money for parking and work at concession booths.

Anonymous said...

City's can build multi-million dollar stadiums for football teams to make millions , why can't this happen to the texas prison rodeo??? Can anyone say ESPN ????

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Anonymous said...

As the VERY last winner of the 1986 TEXAS PRISON RODEO HARD MONEY EVENT.
I was telling friends about what a halcyon time that was for a convict to be in the TDC...
The world was very different back then...
It was Judge Patrica Lycos that sent me down the road to Huntsville as a 25 year old first time convicted felon.
The day I arrived at the unit all the talk was about the rodeo.
To a "new boot" and young city slicker out of Houston; I was in awe of the fact there was an event like this being put on by the TDC prison officals.

Although I was not a cowboy by any strech of the imagination.
I was young and full of beans with "plenty of time of my hands" and jumped at the chance to be a part of the Rodeo.
Looking back on it, I still remember being in the ring with that massive Brama bull and determined to grab the sack full of money and give it to the warden.

As the last Champion of the HARD MONEY EVENT event, I can tell you that there will never be another time in history that will allow anyone to duplicate the famed TEXAS PRISON RODEO.
It's place in American history is rare and it's novelty in Texas lore and tradition is profound.

Personally, it is one of my fondest recollections of my life some 26 years ago.
The rodeo was a source of Texas pride for both prison officals and convicts alike.

One could only imagine what might have been if the prison rodeo had been allow to continue on as one of the states most unique and forward thinking "reform" ideas in the great history of Texas.
Once I was released I never returned back to the TDC as my time there was life changing for me.
But the TEXAS PRISON RODEO remains a positive and fond part of my life and many others.

Maverick M. TDCJ #01710549