Pendleton, Oregon"Let'er buck" is more common as a greeting
than "howdy partner"
at one of the world's biggest rodeos and Wild West celebrations: the Pendleton Round-
Up, held the second week of September each year.
This year's 95th Roundup wrapped up recently with Athens, Texas native Cash
winning the All-Around cowboy Let'er Buck Trophy.
The Crowd is growing Restless
Fast out of the Chute
Throughout the week long western celebrationwhen Pendleton's 17000 resident
population swells with an additional 50000 gueststhe Let'er Buck Room Bar beneath
the grandstands is Pendleton's favorite watering hole, that is if you like whiskey, the only
drink served. When the whiskey is making them feel frisky, women have been known to
get on the shoulders of a cowboy, pull up their blouse, and well, poke a few eyes out.
The "Let'er Buck" slogan is common throughout the Roundup from the
first words of
a bareback rider coming out of the chute to the Westward Ho Friday Parade participants.
University of Oregon President Dave Frohnmayer, donned in cowboy garb, looked our
way along the parade route from the University's green and yellow horse drawn wagon
and said, "Let'er Buck." We reciprocated with the same. We had already had plenty of
practice as that is how we had greeted our camper neighbors and traveling companions
instead of the traditional good morning. "Let'er buck," followed by, "is coffee ready?"
Cell Phone on Horseback
Allways Time for a Shot
Frohnmayer lays out some Ham
The Pendleton Roundup is unique as it celebrates the cowboy and Indian cultures
equally. Indian is the term ascribed to by the Native Americans themselves at the
Roundup. Not once did I hear Native American used.
The rodeo draws the top PCRA performers in the worldas far away as Australia--,
cast up to 700 riders and ropers compete in bull riding, bronco riding, bareback riding,
steer wrestling, calf roping, Indian relay racing, team roping, steer roping, wild cow
milking and barrel racing. The four-day rodeos pace are fast, furious and exciting. The
Indian Village adjacent to the rodeo arena is home to a temporary village of over 150
teepees, representing primarily the Umatilla, Walla Walla and Cayuse tribes. Part of the
village is Indian arts and crafts vendors, selling high quality handcrafted items from
beads to buckles.
Indian Village at the Roundup
The Indians actively participate in the rodeo fully costumed with horse processions,
dancing and one of the 17,000 fans favorite events: the Indian Bareback Relay Horse
Race, a spectacle of action, skill and thrills as they race around the track trading horses
and riders after each full round.
The Happy Canyon Pageant Show, depicting the development of the region from
the Indian and settler's perspectives, takes place every evening after the rodeo. Tribal
and non-tribal volunteers participate in this visual outdoor feast that includes props of
live horses, oxen, elk and birds. A square dance by eight males and females on
horseback is one of the highlights.
Friday's Westward Ho Parade is massive and fascinating, two exciting hours
colorful cowboys and Indians horseback, restored wagons and stagecoaches, a full
ensemble horseback band and other Western memorabilia. 88-year-old Ruth Porter
Piquet rode horseback, leading the procession of past queens and princesses of the
Round-Up. She is the only Round-Up two-time princess (1933 and 1934). "They wanted
me to be queen one year but my dad said no. He thought that it would go to my head."
"The next time I'll ride in the parade will be in 2010. Every five years there is a reunion
of the royalty. I figure that I have four more parade rides in me," she laughs.
Concord Coach pulled by Mules
One of the most fascinating participants in the 2005 Parade were eight samurai
warriors from Pendleton's sister city Haramachi City, Japan. Riding in full costume, the
warriors had a sword at their sides and carried their family banners. Haramachi City's
Somo Nomaoi Festival began a thousand years ago when wild horses were released to
assume the role of the enemy. The horses were captured and considered sacred.
Samurai in Full Armor
Glad that they're Friends...
A must-see for Round-Up visitors is the Round-Up Hall of Fame at the grandstands.
The horse War Paintconsidered by many rodeo historians and cowboys as the greatest
rodeo saddle bronc of all timeis preserved there in permanent bucking position. War
Paint was born in the early part of the last century on the Klamath Indian Reservation in
Southern Oregon. The Hall of Fame museum tells the story of famous Round-Up
cowboys Jackson Sundown, George Fletcher, Casey Tibbs and Hoot Gibson.
This friendly, middle class Western town rolls the red carpet out for visitors. The
Round-Up officially begins the second Saturday of September, starting with a downtown
dress-up parade, and runs through the following Saturday. The rodeo and Happy Canyon
Pageant and Dance runs Wednesday through Saturday. Monday through Saturday is the
Main Street Cowboy Show, a venue of famous and not so famous performers performing
in several main street locations. Several blocks of main street are closed to motorized
vehicles during Round-Up. Craft vendors and food booths line this area. Oh yah, there's
a mechanical bull ready to be ridden, too, whether you're a cowboy, cowgirl or the
While strolling downtown during the evening, stop inproviding that you
being sardined and rubbed againstat one of the local honky tonks. My favorite was the
Rainbow Bar with its definitive Western flavor, prompt service and bar dancing. They
even serve microbrews to the modern day "let'er bucker." If you have the yen to dance,
go to Crabby's Underground, just around the corner. Don't take a camera like I inside
because cowboys on the prowl have been known to forget who their mates arethat is as
was told to me by the proprietor. Let'er buck!!
While in Pendleton, take time to explore the Pendleton Underground, a labyrinth
passer ways beneath the downtown streets that in the old rollicking days was awash with
bordellos, speakeasies, bootleggers, opium dens, gambling rooms and rooms used by
Chinese rail workers. The Pendleton Woolen Mills should be visited along with the
Tamastslikt Cultural Institute which offers an alternative history of the Oregon Trail, told
from the American Indians perspective.
Bull Giving Rider Full Service
The Pendleton Bull-Riding Classicfireworks includedis held Monday
Tuesdays of Round-Up week (541-276-2553 for tickets). Pendleton is three plus hours
east of Portland along Interstate 84 and is served by Horizon Air. Call the Pendleton
Chamber of Commerce (541-276-7411) or the Round-Up (800-457-6336) for
information, tickets and accommodation information. Most motels and hotels are booked
a year in advance. Some residents rent out rooms in their homes (call the Chamber).
Many fans come by camper, motor home and tents. We brought a camper and stayed at
Pendleton High School where showers are available (military style) for $2 each. It is an
easy walk to the rodeo and downtown from here. The grounds are clean, tidy and quiet.
Revelers and rowdies are asked to stay down at a park near the main road into Pendleton.
It is easy to find with tents, horsetrailors and empty beer cases. Ken Kesey's book The
Last Roundup is recommended reading about the Pendleton Round-Up.
The Round-Up's website is: www.pendletonroundup.com.