A much-honored early-20th century cowboy who often brought horses to the Rifle sale yards was honored last Saturday on National Day of the Cowboy.
With its annual Cowboy Keeper Award, the National Day of the Cowboy nonprofit group has recognized individuals, organizations and projects that have contributed to the preservation of pioneer heritage and cowboy culture since its founding in 2005, according to the group’s website. Earl Bascom was among four honorees to receive a 2014 award.
The National Day of the Cowboy has been celebrated on the fourth Saturday of July across North America over the past 10 years. It is an annual commemoration of the cowboy, cowboy culture and the cowboy way of life.
In the early 1900s, Earl Bascom’s father, John W. Bascom, who was a lawman and rancher in Uintah County near Vernal, Utah, trailed bands of horses from the Uintah Basin to the sale yards at Rifle.
John Bascom, Earl Bascom’s son, said his father helped get the horses to Rifle.
“They’d buy wild horses from the Utes in Utah, break them and trail them to the Rifle stockyards,” John Bascom said. “From there, they’d be shipped to Texas and other places to be sold.”
During Earl Bascom’s lifetime (1906-1995) he drove a stagecoach, cowboyed and rodeoed, invented rodeo equipment, was a rodeo champion and a rodeo clown, worked in a coal mine, graduated from Brigham Young University, worked in the shipyards in California, was a rancher, a western movie actor, a schoolteacher and a famous cowboy artist.
“He did so many different things,” said John Bascom, who lives in Salt Lake City. “A lot of it was being in the right place at the right time, but he always had an inventive mind.”
All of Bascom’s rodeo innovations and inventions are still used today at rodeos around the world, John Bascom said. Earl Bascom’s artwork has been displayed in famous museums worldwide.
Earl Bascom received many honors across the United States, Canada and Europe for his western art and for his rodeo achievements, but for John Bascom, one of the most memorable was being honored on the National Day of the Cowboy.
“It’s a wonderful honor and a great way to give some recognition to real cowboys,” he said.
“I had no intentions of learning to [graft] queens. It was a job, and I was going to go live in Hawaii,” he said. “I started to like it and fell in love with it. When I got back I was really adamant about raising my own queens.”