🏆 ELLENSBURG RODEO HALL OF FAME
Harry Knight Was Star During Golden Age of Rodeo
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”
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.
Media & Photo Credits:
- “Harry Knight” | National Cowboy Museum | Inducted in 1985
- “Harry Knight Was Star During Golden Age of Rodeo” | The Oklahoman | May 4, 1986
- “Knights Bad Horses The Best” | The Oklahoman | May 2, 1989
- “Harry Knight” | Ellensburg Hall of Fame | Inducted in 2002
American owned and operated since 2000. ©2023 PRORODEOHORSES.COM. All rights reserved.