Cowboy Heroes

by Jim Olson

Everett Shaw– First on the List

On October 30, 1936, sixty-one men signed a simple piece of paper which turned out to be a historic document and a cornerstone in the foundation of professional rodeo. The document simply states: “For the Boston Show, we the undersigned demand that the Purses be doubled and the Entrance Fees added in each and every event. Any Contestant failing to sign the Petition will not be permitted to contest, by order of the undersigned.”

After presenting the signed petition to Col. William T. Johnson (producer/stock contractor for the Boston Garden Show), he told them, “Strike and be damned.” Those men did indeed strike and refused to compete at that night’s performance—hoping their demands be met. While it was a little shaky at times, the cowboys and Johnson finally got together on an agreement. Shortly thereafter, the cowboys gathered round and formed the Cowboy Turtles Association (predecessor to the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association or PRCA). The rest, as they say, is history.

The cowboys originally called themselves “Turtles” because they had been slow to stick their necks out and get started. Someone had to be first even to “stick their neck out” and sign the petition, that fateful October day in Boston, before others would follow. The man whose name appears very first on that list is none other than — Everett Shaw.

Born June 7, 1908, in Hogshooter Creek, Oklahoma, Shaw was known as one of the best single steer roping competitors in rodeo history. He started out however, as primarily a calf roper in 1926 at Nowata, Oklahoma (his first rodeo). His first major win at the professional level came in the calf roping event at Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1932. He won Madison Square Garden (Considered the World Championship rodeo of the day) in ‘34, ‘36 and ‘39 as a calf roper.

Throughout the late 1920s till the early 1940s, he competed in both calf roping and steer roping. Sometime in the early ‘40s however, Shaw decided to focus mainly on single steer roping. At an age when many professional ropers are winding down their careers, Shaw who was in his late thirties, just hit full stride. It began with the win of his first world title (the 1945 single steer roping title). He won six world steer roping world titles over a seventeen-year period thereafter (1945, ‘46, ‘48, ‘51, ‘59 and ‘62) and during a period from 1945 to ‘65 he finished in the top five in the world fifteen out of twenty-one seasons.

From the time he entered his first rodeo to the last world title was a whopping thirty-six years! He remained competitive at the professional level for over forty years! Shaw even competed actively until eventually winning his last roping event in 1977 at the age of sixty-nine! He then retired to his ranch near Stonewall, Oklahoma.

In an old newspaper interview, when asked about his longevity in rodeo, Everett said, “. . . once saw a rodeo and got the bug. Thirty years later  —I still got the bug.”

Shaw won most of his championships on a bay horse named Peanuts who was Hancock bred. He had been hired to train the horse by Fred Lowry (Everett was well-known for his horse training abilities). However, he was so impressed with Peanuts that he bought the horse instead. He paid $2,000 for the horse, an amazing sum of money back then. It was not money ill-spent however as Peanuts and Shaw roped together for about sixteen years and the duo won most of Shaw’s Steer Roping titles together. Peanuts is now honored at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum on the Trail of Great Cow Ponies.

So how did Everett’s name happen first on that historic strike document from 1936? Was he the first to stand up, the most vocal and passionate about what it represented? Probably not. Was he arbitrarily picked by accident because he was close at hand once it was typed up? Maybe. There is only one man left alive at the time of this writing who was actually there when it all happened. When asked what he remembered about Everett signing the document, he couldn’t recall the exact details, but Louis Bowman did say, “Everett was one hell of a roper and horse trainer. He was quiet and unassuming in his leadership role. He led by example and was a great representative of rodeo.”

While we may never know for sure how he became first on the list, what we do know is that Everett Shaw was a solid supporter of rodeo and its fledgling organization. He signed up with the “Turtles” and was given card number seven (indicating he was the seventh member of what is now the PRCA). He also was the very first calf roping director for the organization and was on the executive committee. In all, Shaw spent twenty years on the board of the Turtles and its successor, the Rodeo Cowboys Association (RCA), which later became the PRCA. In fact, when the Turtles reorganized in 1945 to become the RCA, it is said that Shaw played a major part in the event. Later in life, he was in high demand as a rodeo judge because of his honest ways. He even judged the National Finals Rodeo (NFR) while it was in Oklahoma City.

Everett Shaw married Nell Truitt on Feb 13, 1936. That act made him a brother in-law to none other than Dick Truitt (1939 World Champion Steer Roper) who was a mentor to Shaw on rodeo circuit in his early days. Eventually, the Shaws had a daughter (Mary Sue Shaw) who married another rodeo cowboy (Sonny Worrell of Kansas) in 1957. All three men are now in the Rodeo Hall of Fame at Oklahoma City. Shaw and his extended family represent quite a family of rodeo cowboys!

In May 1979 the Oklahoma State Senate passed a special resolution commending Everett as one of Oklahoma’s greatest cowboys. He had become a living legend. Shaw was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 1979, and the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum Rodeo Hall of Fame in 1980. On November 11, 1979, the great Everett Shaw passed away due to complications from heart surgery.