Time turns back to simpler, yet much sadder times, while life as it truly was is being revealed in rodeo arenas throughout the country.
Stories of The Great Depression are beyond imaginations of even Baby Boomers, whose grandparents, and sometimes even parents, lived the now incomprehensible struggles of the great stock market crash coupled with Dust Bowl Days of the 1930s. Today’s generation has no clue of the terminology, and even less inkling of what it was really like.
That is until they’ve been to “Cody’s Roundup.” Each and all go away with at least a vague understanding of what their forefathers endured, and that they must be recognized in part for privileged lifestyles so taken for granted by most today.
“People have no idea what it was like for families to have regular jobs, and what they considered financial stability. Then, wake up after the Wall Street Crash of 1929, beginning of a 10-year depression that affected all Western industrialized countries, and find out banks were closed, and they had nothing, were literally broke,” said Cody McGee, Platte City, Missouri.
“The Roaring Twenties, the decade that followed World War, and led to the ‘Crash,’ was a time of wealth and excess. Building on post-war optimism, rural Americans turned their horses out, immigrated to the cities in vast numbers throughout the decade, with the hopes of finding a more prosperous life in the ever growing expansion of the industrial sector,” McGee continued.
Telling that story was the inspiration for “Cody’s Roundup,” contract act developed by McGee, and being presented to rodeo crowds throughout the country, and to be featured attraction for the Linn County Fair Rodeo at Mound City, Kansas, August 7-8.
“The best way to describe ‘Cody’s Roundup’ is an old time Wild West themed specialty act that is new to the rodeo world, and it is a crowd favorite for all ages of fans,” according to John Teagarden, longtime Linn County Fair Rodeo official.
“I was lying in bed one night, thinking about developing a rodeo specialty act. I had just read a book about the Great Depression of the 1930s. Much of rural America was without fuel for their cars, so they hitched their horses to the front bumper, piled the family in the vehicle and went to town. These vehicles were referred to as ‘Hoover Wagons,’” McGee said.
“Slowly, the ‘Cody’s Roundup’ act evolved in my mind, and after about 18 months of building the ‘truck,’ and acquiring and training animals, I was ready to start booking rodeos,” McGee explained.
“Cody’s Roundup features a 1920’s era stretched-out-vehicle that has parts from a ’27 Buick car body, a ’31 Ford rear-end and a ’29 Dodge front grill,” McGee said. “The flatbed truck does not have a motor, but there’s plenty of horsepower when I hitch my big Belgium gelding Bob to the front.”
Also included in the ‘Cody’s Roundup’ presentation are Ralph, a Longhorn bull with a 74-inch horn spread; a Longhorn steer named Albert, a star in his own right when ridden in rodeo grand entries, and sometimes other parts of the show; and Soda Pop, a miniature pony that rides in the seat on the truck.
McGee has been involved with rodeo all of his life. “My dad, Bobby, was a clown and bullfighter, and mom, Dandelle, had a rodeo contract act. They said I made my first rodeo arena appearance in one of their acts when I was two-months-old,” said McGee, noting that his parents now operate a large carriage business in Kansas City.
Headquartered at Weston, Missouri, while growing up, McGee then attended Manhattan Christian College, majoring in family sciences, and continued unrelated studies in a different field, becoming proficient in equine dentistry.
However, the rodeo showman saw his calling working in promotions for the American Royal in Kansas City. “After that, I worked about eight years promoting and producing Professional Bull Rider (PBR) events around the nation, but now I’m back in my own genre, entertaining at rodeos,” McGee said.
“My wife, the former Leslie Gibson, a Jayhawk-Linn graduate who I actually met at the Mound City rodeo 18 years ago, and our three children, Tessa,12; Laney, seven; and Cade, five, generally travel to the rodeos with me together as a family,” he noted.
Spectator appeal of the act is verified by the rodeos that feature “Cody’s Roundup.” McGee verified: “I booked 15 rodeos, and several western events for 2015, my first year on the road. We are doing 35 performances this year, and we already have 75 performances contracted for 2016.”
In the next several weeks, “Cody’s Roundup” will be in Mooresville, North Carolina; Abilene, Texas; Kiowa, Colorado; Mound City, Kansas, August 7 – 8; and Lake Lucerne, Board Walk and West Plains, in the state of New York. Next year’s lineup features major events in Oregon and a string of California rodeos.
McGee, the historian-entertainer, is also an inventor. “Rodeo bull riding is a dangerous sport, and I’ve developed a helmet specifically for bull riders. There are a lot of helmets, but proper fit for participants in the sport of bull riding is essential,” McGee said.
“We now have the B100XHelmet uniquely designed for bull riders, so cowboys will be eligible for insurance coverage, and can compete longer in the sport, so important to rodeo,” contended McGee, who has been busy introducing the new helmet at youth, high school, college and professional rodeos and related organizations.
“We’re busy, but that’s the way we like it; rodeo is our life,” McGee assured.