Featured Piece: Commemorative Bill Pickett shirt

Bill Pickett (1870–1932) grew up on a ranch northwest of Austin, Texas, where he learned to toss rope and handle cattle. In the 1890s and early 1900s, Pickett traveled through Texas working as a ranch hand and later ran a business with his brothers breaking wild cattle and horses.

While working with cattle, Pickett pioneered his famous “bulldogging” technique, which would become the foundation for modern-day steer wrestling. To bulldog a steer, Pickett would ride alongside the animal, jump off the horse onto the shoulders of the steer, bite its upper lip, and wrestle it to the ground in a headlock by digging in his feet. Pickett made his name as a performer in the 101 Ranch Wild West Show, which was headquartered at the Miller Brothers’ working ranch in modern-day Ponca City, Oklahoma.

The 101 Ranch hosted a crew of working cowboys who doubled as performers, traveling with the show to cities across the United States, as well as Canada and Europe. Pickett’s fame and skill also led to several film roles in 1920s Westerns, which helped to bring the cowboy to an even larger audience. (https://youtu.be/zEHTyymQIWo)

Inspired by Pickett’s reputation as a cowboy and rodeo star, in 1984 Lu Vason founded the touring Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo, which is still running to this day. Vason’s goal is to educate the public on the culture of the Black West and the important role that Black cowboys held in advancing the sport of rodeo and Western history. And due in part to Vanson’s efforts to revive the cowboy’s legacy, Pickett was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 1989. This commemorative jacket celebrates Pickett’s life and legacy, helping to spread awareness of his name and connection to Texas history to all who come across it.