Bill Pickett's perfection of his version of the technique was the source of his fame. This along with his good nature and humility made him a favorite of the ranch hands and performers. However it did get him and the show in some trouble in Mexico where such an act was considered an insult to the bull. With some effort all escaped without serious injury.
Bill Pickett was born in Texas around 1870 and was of African American and Indian descent. He went to work on the 101 Ranch in 1905 and remained there for thirty years. He founded the art of "bulldogging", now known as steer wrestling in the rodeo circuit. He was the first person to slide off a horse onto the back of a running steer, twist its neck forcing the animal to the ground while biting the lip of the steer to hold them down, then theatrically throw his hands into the air.
Pickett traveled through North and South America and England with the 101 Ranch Wild West Show. He was headlined as the "Dusty Demon". Colonel Zack Miller of the 101 Ranch described Pickett as, “…the greatest sweat-and-dirt cowhand that ever lived-bar none.” In 1923, this working black cowboy was featured in a film produced by the Norman Film Manufacturing Company of Florida titled, “The Bull-dogger”. In advertising for the silent movie, Pickett was described as, “(The) World’s Colored Champion” and the “Colored Hero of the Mexican Bull Ring in Death Defying Feats of Courage and Skill”. In 1932, he was kicked in the head by a horse and died eleven days later on April 4, 1932. Prior to his death he had requested to be buried on Monument Hill. In 1936, the Cherokee Strip Cow Punchers Association erected a simple red sandstone marker at his gravesite that simply reads:
Pickett was inducted into the National Rodeo Hall of Fame, a division of the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in 1972. He was the first African American, first "bulldogger", first 101 Ranch Showman, and the first Ponca City, OK resident to be inducted. August 20, 1994 was designated as Bill Pickett Day in Ponca City, Oklahoma to pay tribute to Bill Pickett and his legend. In 1994 the United States Postal Service honored the world-class black athlete by placing his image on a postage stamp honoring legends of America’s Old West.
Bill Pickett Biography
Who is Bill Pickett?