Their Happy Trails Blazed Pathways of Respect and Historic Achievements for African-Americans
Prairie View- Since 1957, the Prairie View Trail Riders Association has been active in keeping the Black History and Heritage of the Old West alive.
This year is no different with 200 riders mounted up and traveling with 7 wagons on their annual pilgrimage from Hempstead, Texas to Houston for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
Some 60 years later, the group is still going strong and over the past 29 of those years has involved itself with a keen focus on community by making numerous stops annually at the elementary schools, retirement communities, day care centers and also distributing schools supplies/back packs to deserving students en-route to Memorial Park to display its wagons and animals for the children and adults.
According to Prairie View Trail Rider Historian Junell Cain, it all started with the vision of two men – Dr. E. B. Evans, President of Prairie View A&M University and Community Leader James Francies Jr.
Cain is a life-time member of the Prairie View Trail Riders Association and serves as secretary of the trail riders.
In 1956, Dr. Evans, Francies called for a meeting with Veterinarian Dr A. N. Poindexter, Myrtis Dightman Sr. and Jim Mosley to discuss the idea.
Cain noted that PVAM wanted an avenue for their Agriculture Department could exhibit their hogs, then called the Houston Fatstock Show and Rodeo, where Blacks were not permitted to enter.
Francies and others present wanted an avenue to join other trails like the Salt Grass Train as an All Black Trail Ride joining the HFSR.
From these visionary men, a plan was laid out to present the HFSR and the first step was to get an all-Black trail ride established.
The Prairie View Trail Riders Association and Trail Ride was born under the direction of Francies, who chartered the name in Austin and then sought a meeting with Houston Fatstock Show and Rodeo Committee. Then HFSR President David Weekley and Jim Kline of the Trail Ride Committee agreed to meet and they agreed to allow the Prairie View Trail Ride to added to the lineup in 1957.
Prairie View became the Number 5 Trail Ride to join the lineup and secured permission to allow PVAM Agriculture Department to show hogs in the exhibits as well.
In 1957, history was made when PV Trail Ride mapped out their route of travel with two wagons – The Prairie View Trail Riders Association Wagon with Jake Brown as mule handler and Wagon #2 with KCOH Radio Station with Skipper Lee Brown and Dizzy Lizzie as Wagon Bosses.
It provided a way to record the history making inaugural run for the Prairie View Trail Ride.
Cain said that at that time, music and daily broadcasts were came from the trail as the group made its 60-mile trek from PVAM University into Houston Texas.
About 20 riders and their horses braved weather conditions to make the ride. Of those riders were the Francies family, J.B. Collins Sr. family, Edgar Cain Sr. family and the Myrtis Dightman family. During that historic run, the trail was led by Jim Mosely served as Scout with other members of the PVAM Ag Department.
The History of the Texas Trail Ride
Texas was once a land of many trails — the arteries that linked the outlying areas with settlements. The only transportation in the early days was powered by horse, mule or oxen, and many trails in different parts of the state were originally paths formed by the repetitive use of settlers.
Stagecoach routes also helped establish more trails, and today’s highways are modern day versions of those same routes which connected the more populous areas of the state.
The groups of people who comprise the 13 trail rides that converge on Houston are like small cities of settlers, combining their leadership and resources to bring their group over many miles. They are people from all walks of life, and each trail ride has many interesting stories. Their appearance in Houston signals the start of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo as they merge via many routes into Memorial Park and proudly ride Saturday morning in the Downtown Rodeo Parade.
Some Trail Ride Facts
Today, more than 3,000 riders saddle up from all directions, including Louisiana and Mexico.
- 13 Trail Rides participate in the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Downtown Rodeo Parade.
- Nearly 1,800 miles is covered by all 13 Trial Rides.
- Longest Distance = 353 miles: Los Vaqueros Trail Ride begins in Hidalgo, Texas.
- Shortest Distance = 70 miles: The Texas Cattlemen’s Trail Ride begins in Montgomery, Texas.
- All Trail Rides are led by Trail Bosses, who a responsible for ensuring safety.
Life In Houston-Overcoming Barriers
Once the Prairie View Trail reached Houston and joined with the other four trails in Memorial Park, PV Trail trail riders were not permitted to camp with them because of the racial conditions of the day. It was not until three years later that riders were able to join their rider colleagues on the campground of Memorial Park.
During that time period the ride grew to five wagons and 100 riders.
“It is not known whether we were finally accepted, but we did walked around and met with other fellow trail riders,” Cain said. “We told our stories of the trail ride and ate meats that were being cooked on open fires, chili and cowboy stews… but we still had to be careful because not all were happy with us.”
However, differences were obvious. One such example involved the watering of horses.
“If our horses were horses were drinking from the water barrels provided for the park, no White trail rider brought his horse to the same barrel,” she said. “The reality of it all was that our horses were in better shape.”
Each had Coggan’s test and Health certificates because we know that Black trail riders had to follow and meet all the rules and regulations set by the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, she added.
As time passed, the trail ride grew faster than founders could ever imagined, especially with the support of beer companies that sponsored youth groups with a wagon. Some of those at the time included Falstaff Beer sponsoring of the agriculture students of George Washington Carver High School in Aldine ISD, under the instruction of Voyde Caraway and Howard Washington of Falstaff.
Coors Beer put its first coach under the direction of Ferdie Carrier and sponsored a group of children from the inner city of Houston.
Miller Beer under the direction of Harvey Johnson and Charles Birmingham provided the Prairie View Trail Riders with their first sound system equipped van to improve communications with wagon bosses and riders. The company also furnished lunches out on the ride for the riders and also provided food and refreshments and music until time for us to rest for the next day’s journey.
Adding to the solid horse stock was the ability to compete at the PVT was allowed to enter and compete in the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo in categories that included bull riding, bronco riding, steer wrestlers and barrel races.
Some of the Black cowboys and cowgirls who competed and later became champions in their events included Myrtis Dightman Sr., World Champion PRCA Bull Rider; Leon Coffee, World Champion PRCA Calf Roper; Marvel Rogers, Saddle Bronc Rider; Lucille Carter, at the age of 8 in barrel racing; and Billy the Kid from DeRidder, La.; Albert Franks, Rodeo Clowns and Bridley Gardner of Oklahoma Steer Wrestler to name a few.
The second great historical element that makes the Prairie View Trail Riders Association special is that commitment to perpetuate the tradition of the western world to blaze a trail across the county with cattle rides and families relocating to other parts to reclaim and raise their children, crops and cattle and join in with the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
In 1986, the HLSR recognized the PrairieView Trail as the best trail ride for that year.
Prairie View Trail Riders Association established in 1957, will celebrate its “White Diamond, 60th
Anniversary in 2017.
The Prairie View Trail Ride has grown to 20 wagons and 500 riders coming from every part of the city and rural communities including Houston, Humble, Magnolia, Huffsmith, New Caney, Anderson and Montgomery and as far as Logansport, Louisiana.
There have been at least two main reasons for the growth.
One is Blacks owned about 35-percent of horses in Houston and their owners were always happy to show them off from Quarter Horses to Thorobreds and Tennessee Walkers and Rodeo horses.
Prairie View has gone on for 60 years with accomplishing great things for Black America by getting scholarships to Prairie View A&M University in Agriculture to creating a path for a second Black Trail Ride to come into the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo named the Southwest Trail Riders of Houston.
The Prairie View Trail Riders Association is also recognized as a 501c3 Non-Profit Organization.
This recognized status provides greater opportunities and resources enhancing the vision and purpose for the PVTRA.
“Many have come to make this dream, of former Trail Boss James Francies Jr. a reality,” Cain said. “I have written this history with the love and respect of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and more importantly, The Prairie View Trail Riders Association.”
Lifetime Members of the Prairie View Trail Riders Association
Mr and Mrs Sweeney-Diamond L Ranch
Mrs. Mattye Hilliard – Sids Ranch
Mr. and Mrs Edward and Alfreda Cain – Circle-EC Corral
Jake Brown – Mule Handler
Joe Willie Johnson
L.J. Jackson – Scout
Cassie Branch- Scout
Jim Mosely- Scout
Deputy Dawg- Scout
J.B. Collins Sr.
Voyde Carraway- Agriculture Teacher
Ferde Carrier – Wagon Boss
Sydney Cole – Mule Handler
Stella Qualls – Secretary
Azzie Lee Hayes – Wagon Boss
Fred Misher – Scout
Dorothy Moore – Secretary
Herman Moore – Scout
Roy Tieful – Trail Boss
A.N. Poindexter – DVM
Wendell Baker – DVM
Freddie Richardson – Prairie View A&M
Sheryl Fuller – Prairie View A&M Representative
John Fuller – Prairie View A&M
Mr. Hoover Carden – Prairie View A&M Extension Programs
Rufus Green – Horse Trainer
Wille Roy Carr – Rodeo Club
By: Darwin Campbell