🏆 ELLENSBURG RODEO HALL OF FAME

Inducted 2002

Harry Knight

“Has rodeo changed much since the 1920s and 30s?” a reporter once asked the great Canadian saddle bronc rider Harry Knight. Knight answered in the frank and down-to-earth manner that characterized his generation of rodeo cowboys: “It sure has,” he said. “Today the emphasis is on the athlete and his scientific sport. Back then, it was just cowboys dolling up their regular chores in the arena.”Harry Knight, a 2002 Inductee to the Ellensburg Rodeo Hall of Fame, certainly did his share of the “regular chores” in cowboy country before achieving glory in the rodeo arena.Born in Quebec City in 1907, Knight soon moved west with his family to Alberta. Young Harry loved animals, especially dogs and horses, and he worked as a livery stable groom and packhorse wrangler at his father’s resort on Banff’s Lake Louise. At age 14, he became a working cowboy, wrangling and breaking horses on Alberta’s ranchlands. Interestingly, Harry also mushed dog-racing teams in Canadian and international competitions, building the tremendous leg muscles he would soon use as a saddle bronc rider. Harry Knight entered his first rodeo in Sundre, Alberta in 1925, thus beginning a half-century career in professional rodeo.An original “Cowboy Turtle” (the first rodeo cowboy professional organization) and gold-card member of the PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association), Knight soon became one of the top saddle bronc riders in North America. Although he never won a world title (he won the Canadian saddle bronc titles in ’26 and ’32), Knight won day money, his event buckle, or the all-around at nearly every major North American rodeo. These rodeos included Ellensburg, the Calgary Stampede, and the Fort Worth Stock Show Rodeo, where Knight once won nine of the eleven go-rounds. Harry Knight became one of very few hands (his close friend and fellow Albertan Pete Knight—ERHOF ’98—was another) to ride the infamous bronc “Five Minutes to Midnight.” Moreover, he rode a full 10 seconds (today’s qualifying time is 8 seconds) on “Fiddle Face,” one of the rankest broncs of his day.During the first decade of the Ellensburg Rodeo, Harry Knight was a crowd favorite. Knight won the Ellensburg Rodeo saddle bronc buckles in ’29, ’31, and ’32; in 1931, he won the coveted Ellensburg All-Around title. Harry Knight was a regular on the Pacific Northwest circuit, competing in the “Big Four” rodeos (Ellensburg, Pendleton, Lewiston, and Walla Walla) and also winning the Pendleton Roundup all-around title.From 1937-1971, Knight pursued a career as a professional rodeo stock contractor, most prominently as Gene Autry’s partner in the Flying A Rodeo Company and, later, as owner of his own Harry Knight and Company stock and rodeo company. Working out of Yuma, Arizona, he furnished stock for premier rodeo venues—Fort Worth, Madison Square Garden, and Boston Garden—and he was stock contractor for the first Houston Astrodome Rodeo.All who knew Knight described as a soft-spoken cowboy who earned a reputation for honesty and complete professionalism. In the classic Man, Beast, Dust: The Story of Rodeo (1946), Clifford P. Westermeier remembered Knight as a man who enjoyed diverse friendships ranging from New York’s upper crust to “the poorest ranch hands in Arizona and Texas.”“As most top-drawer bronc men do, “ wrote rodeo historian Willard Porter, “Knight acquired a canny understanding of the chemistry that goes into the makeup of a dead-end bad horse.” With this expertise, he bought and contracted the rankest of bucking broncs; Harry Knight’s Misty Mix, Joker, Jake, and Big John all won PRCA Saddle Bronc of the Year titles. Knight retired from stock contracting in 1971 and moved to a ranch near Fowler, Colorado,Harry Knight not only served the rodeo profession as a competitor and stock contractor—like several of his great contemporaries, he became a leader in the Rodeo Cowboys Association (RCA, the predecessor to PRCA). He was the first stock contractor representative on the RCA’s Board of Directors (1966-76) and also served on the PRCA Administrative Advisory Board. In 1985, Harry Knight was inducted into both the Canadian Cowboy Hall of Fame (Edmonton, Alberta) and the National Cowboy Hall of Fame (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma); he was a Founding Inductee to the ProRodeo Hall of Fame (Colorado Springs, Colorado).Harry Knight, saddle bronc champion, stock contractor, and founding father of modern professional rodeo, died of a heart attack on April 5, 1989, at his Colorado ranch. He was 82 years-old.

 

Harry Knight Was Star During Golden Age of Rodeo

By Willard H. Porter
 
The Oklahoman | May 4, 1986
 

The name “Knight” is a famous one in rodeo circles. It evokes images of rugged men and scenes from the Golden Age of the sport.

There was old Harry Knight, who rode with the Buffalo Bill Cody Show and who later lived in Arizona, ranching in the Prescott area and feeding cattle in Yuma.

There was Nick Knight from Cody, Wyo., a bronc rider with special moves, a talented guy who rode for money plus the sheer fun of it.

There was Pete Knight, called by many the greatest bronc twister that ever lived. Born in Philadelphia, he moved to Canada when just a lad to become four times world champion in the rough-stock event with saddle.

And there was still another Knight (another Harry Knight), who last year was honored in a pair of respected repositories that hold the memories of rodeo greats from the past.

In November, 79-year-old Harry Knight of Fowler, Colo., was inducted into the Canadian Rodeo Historical Society at Edmonton in Alberta. In December, he became an inductee in the Rodeo Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City.

He was born in Qubec City, Quebec, a som of Harry T. and Bridget Walsh Knight.

His father’s parents were in the luxury hotel and livery stable businesses, and his mother and a brother who was chief of detectives and another who was fire chief, none of which helped the youthful Harry plunge into or even contemplate similar careers.

Neither did a childhood ambition further any thrust toward making his way in life, in his own words, that desire was only to get out of the Catholic schools he attended as fast as possible.

But in his teens, he developed a fondness for animals particularly dogs and horses and raced in Canadian and international dog-team competition.

Also, at 14, he began wrangling and breaking horses and working cattle on the vast ranches in the province of Alberta.

In 1925, he rode his first rodeo bronc at Sundre, Alta., and it immediately occurred to him that the game of rodeo was what he wanted to be involved in forever more. That was an ambition, or desire, that did come true: he was an active contestant through 1941; then a series of ventures on the production side of the rodeo ledger followed.

His credentials for becoming a contractor roducer were flawless. Had he not ridden the mighty Five Minutes to Midnight? Had he not gone ten seconds (today the official ride is eight) on the formidable Fiddle Face?

As most top-drawer bronc men do, Knight acquired a canny understanding of the chemistry that goes into the make-up of a dead-end bad horse. Equipped with this knowledge, he later owned such double-tough mounts as Sage Hen, Misty Mix, Joker, Jake and Big John.

The latter three achieved honors as PRCA Saddle Broncs of the Year.

Big John, winner in 1962 and ’63, was a bay gelding, a powerful, honest and consistent bucker. He was called a “day-money” horse, meaning if a fellow rode him he was, more often than not, in the chips.

Jake, winner in 1960 and “65, was a tricky sorrel, a campaigner who had a habit of dropping a shoulder and ducking out from beneath an unfortunate cowboy.

During his production years, Knight was connected in one way or another with Gene Autry’s Flying A Rodeos; Col W.T. Johnson, producer of the Boston and New York rodeos; Twain and Bill Clemens of Arizona fame; and two of the most celebrated of all the stock contractors, Leo Cremer of Big Timber, Mont., and Everett Colborn of Dublin, Texas.

Has rodeo changed much since the 1920s and ’30s? “It sure has,” Knight will tell you. “Today the emphasis is on the athlete and his scientific sport. Back then it was just cowboys dolling up their regular chores for the arena.”

 


 

“Knight’s Bad Horses The Best”

By Willard H. Porter
 
The Oklahoman | May 2, 1989

One of the great bucking horse men of the past has gone. Harry Knight died April 5 at his ranch near Fowler, Colo., at 81. His rodeo career as bad horse rider, stock contractor and rodeo producer embraced several decades and was connected with some of the all-time fancy broncs in the game.

A Canadian, he was born in Quebec City, Quebec, on Sept. 19, 1907.

As a boy he lived in Banff, Alberta, where his family operated a lake resort. Horseback riding was one of the recreations for guests, in addition to boating, and young Knight quickly learned to handle horses and break and gentle the most recalcitrant of them.

By the middle 1920s he was a top bronc rider, taking money at some of the better rodeos in the Northwest and Canada. He won money at the celebrated shows in Pendleton and Ellensburg, and in 1928 took first place in the Amateur Bucking Contest at Cheyenne.

Though the contest was for neophytes, many of the entries were accomplished riders. The broncs, too, were just as rank as those populating the open (the professional) contest. (Some of the “amateur” winners through the years included Mel Stonehouse, Chet McCarty, Eddie Woods, Hub Whiteman, Tommy Grimes and Artie Orser, good riders all.) In 1926 and ’32 he won the Canadian bronc riding championship. In his day, he rode such famous buckers as Five Minutes to Midnight and the spirited Fiddle Face, owned by Leo Cremer, a Montanan whose reputation stock Knight took over in 1959 when a company, Harry Knight, Inc., was formed. (Another part of Harry Knight, Inc., was Everett Colborn’s World Championship Rodeo Company.) In a recent obituary in Pro Rodeo Sports News, the following was pointed out: “Knight’s career in rodeo included two important firsts.

He served as an advisor in 1959 to the first National Finals Rodeo Commission. He also saw the PRCA from the inside, serving as the association’s first stock contractor representative on the board of directors from 1966 to 1975.

“He was far more than just a bucking horse man.”

In his book “Man, Beast, Dust,” Clifford P. Westermeier wrote in 1947: “Harry Knight is one of the few people in rodeo who possesses true sophistication and much charm which are entirely independent of any effort on his part. He knows how to do things in the grand manner without ostentation. He has a knack of making money and an even more remarkable knack of getting rid of it fast.”

One of Knight’s horses, Big John, was voted Bucking Horse of the Year (1962 and ’63) by the boys who rode him or rode at him.

Harry Knight was inducted into the Canadian Cowboys Hall of Fame in Edmonton, Alberta, in 1985, and into the Rodeo Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City.


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