Earl Anderson History

 

By Traci Hatten Laramie, Wyo.

 

Earl John Anderson was a rather soft-spoken man but when he said something, he very seldom had to say it twice. He was not a man who possessed many material things, yet he gained the re­spect and admiration of many. Earl took pride in the simple things, like owning a fine horse and saddle or a good bull ... or in helping a young cowboy or a neighbor who was in need. There wasn't anything fancy about Earl-he wore Levi's and chewed tobacco. His skin was tanned from working long days under the hot, prairie sun but no matter how tan his face was, there was always a rosi­ness to his cheeks and a twinkle in his eye. Earl was very well known for his fondness for joking and teasing and he had a great sense of humor.

Earl was born in 1894 and so he was a true man of the West. In those days, he built his own reputation and then stood by it ... he was a man of integrity.

Earl was born in Orchard, Colo. to two Swedish immigrants, John Peter Anderson and Ida Marie Johnson. The family homesteaded a place south of the Pawnee Buttes area, where they ran a few cows and horses and began raising a family of five. Ida Marie passed away in those early years, leaving one of Earl's older sisters to run the household and take care of the younger children. Each member of the family had their own chores to do and on one particular day, it was Earl's turn to chum the cream. Earl's sister had asked him several times to start the churning, but Earl was busy breaking a colt so he decided to improvise so he could com­plete both tasks at the same time. He jumped off of his colt and tied the cream can to one end of his rope and then he tied the other end to his saddle horn. He got back on, figuring if he drug the cream can around and let it bounce for a while, the cream would eventually turn to butter. Well, the cream can did bounce and as it bounced, it made quite a racket so the colt started to buck a little. The more the colt bucked, the more the can bounced with Earl on board and the cream can on board and the cream can whipping at the end of the rope. Earl was finally able to get the rope loose and stop the colt but needless to say, there wasn't any cream, and certainly no butter, but there was one mad sister waiting for him back at the house.

During those years out near the Pawnee Buttes, the land was still all open-range and Earl and his brother, Gus, both participated in the last big round-ups in that country, covering territory from the South Platte River to the Wyoming border. Earl and Gus also participated in the rodeos that were held around there: Rodeos that took place without any arenas or fancy bucking chutes. Most broncos were snubbed to another horse and eared so the rider could mount-up.

During those years, Earl developed a great fondness for rodeo and he very much respected a man with the ability to ride a good bronc. Earl was known to have started a lot of cowboys who went on to be good ones, such as Paul Carney, Paul Crane and Willie Burbach.

Before the Depression, Earl moved with his father, who had re-married, to a farm/ranch near Galeton where he and his father farmed for several years. In 1924, Earl met and married an Eaton telephone operator by the name of Mary and the Andersons continued to live in that area until they leased the Andy Barnett ranch out near the Prairie View School. Earl had Texas Longhorns that he used for bucking stock during those years, until a blizzard in the early '30 s wiped out nearly all of his herd. Shortly after the blizzard, Earl, Mary and their two children, Jack and Peggy, moved to the Willow Creek ranch just west of Grover.

Earl was determined to stay in the rodeo business so he sent to Texas for a carload of Brahma Bulls. He bought dogging steers from Mexico and from Louisiana when the borders were closed during the war years. One of the shows that Earl provided stock for was the Greeley "Spud" rodeo. Earl began producing that rodeo in the early 30' s and he produced it for 36 consecutive years, after that.

In those days, they trailed the rodeo stock from Grover to Greeley, a trip that took two days to complete. They would overnight the stock at the Galeton railroad yards and take them on into Greeley the next day. As the stock went down the streets of Greeley, worried house wives would stand in front of their lawns shooing those big Brahma bulls with their aprons.

The Grover Rodeo was held many years before Earl began to produce it but it was he who kept it going.

Notes from the minutes of the Grover Community back in 1947 state that the rodeo went $111 in the hole and Earl donated the money to put it in the black again.

Earl was well-liked by all the people around the rodeos and if there was a good cowboy who didn't have quite enough money to enter, Earl would pay his fee for him. Rumor had it that Earl had a box of bad checks at home that he never even bothered to collect.

Earl always had an abundance of good help at the rodeos he produced and none of Earl's help ever went hungry, thanks to Mary Anderson. They had an old school bus that they drove from rodeo to rodeo and it was in that bus that Mary prepared many a meal. It didn't matter how many there were, Mary al­ways had plenty of food for them.

The Blizzard of ' 49 took its toll on Earl's rodeo outfit with the loss of all but a few of the approximately 60 head of bulls that Earl had. Bull #3 survived that blizzard, though, and it was that bull that came to sire a new herd of bulls, with the most famous being #5. Earl also had a good string-of bucking horses, which in­cluded Tar Baby, Andy Gump, Cheyenne and a horse named Two-Row.

Two Row received that name because every spring, Earl would take him to a farm near Galeton where he was used on a Two Row Cultivator.

Earl was also a real family man and he had a soft spot for children. He organized and produced the first Little Britches Rodeo on the Eastern slope which took place in Littleton, Co. Earl also organized many rodeos in towns that never had them. Earl and Mary would produce 10 to 12 rodeos per year along with raising stock cattle on their ranch.

Earl produced the Greeley rodeo and the Grover rodeo up until the time of his death in 1960.

Because his life left such an impression on so many people, the Grover Community declared the Grover rodeo to be held as a memorial to him. An all-around trophy was also begun to honor the memory of Earl. In order to qualify for a leg on the trophy a cowboy must place in two events, a riding event and a timed one. The stipulation was that the cowboy who succeeded in placing at both ends of the arena would be the kind that Earl Anderson would have respected for his talent and versatility.

A tribute to him by the late Eddie Hanna said, "He was a man's man and a cowboy's cowboy." And, he was.

Author's Note: I would like to thank the following peoplefor their help with the information on this article: Warren and Peggy Adams, Jack and Joan Anderson, Dale and Gale Kennedy.

Reprinted from June 14, 1993 Fence Post