In 1884 the sport of Rodeo was born in Arizona's Rim Country and has never missed a year since that time.  Some of the world's most famous cowboys and cowgirls got their start at the Annual World's Oldest Continuous Rodeo.  Listed below as some of the early contributors to what is now the longest running rodeo in the World.  For more information about this year's rodeo - click here.

Arizona Charlie Meadows

Arizona Charlie's adventures began when, as a teenager, he rode from Visalia, California, to the Payson area with his family to homestead their Diamond Valley Ranch. Their six loaded wagons and hundreds of horses and cattle must have made quite an entrance into Rim Country in the spring of 1877.


The saga continued with Indian raids that killed Charlie's father and brother and later, the decline of the cattle market. After helping start Payson's rodeo in 1884, Charlie let his riding and roping skills take him into the Wild West Show business. Travel to Australia, the Orient, Europe, and Alaska brought him into contact with Buffalo Bill, Annie Oakley, Rudyard Kipling, Will Rogers, and Jack London.


John Collins Chilson

The Chilson family has been part of Payson's history longer than there has been a Payson.  Emer and Margaret Chilson came to Payson from the Globe-Miami area. The couple had arrived in Arizona in July 1878 from Downey, California.  

Their son John, along with Arizona Charlie Meadows was co-organizer of the first Payson Rodeo that took place in 1884.  Thus etching his name in western cowboy history, as today the rodeo is now a sanctioned PRCA event and is known as the World's Oldest Continuous Rodeo. 

George Cline

George Cline (1886-1976), was a product of the rugged cow country of the Tonto Basin. Like his grandfather, Christian Cline, and his father John Cline, George spent his life in the cattle ranching business and bet lots of money on horse races. An outstanding roper, George earned the title of Arizona Calf Tying Champion during the Payson Rodeo of 1916. He won the World Championship Bull Tying Contest in Phoenix in 1919. In 1923, he rode a train to New York where he won first place in calf tying at Yankee Stadium. On his return trip to Arizona, he won the calf roping, team tying, and wild cow milking events in both Cheyenne and Denver. In 1925, George returned to New York and became to first man to rope a calf in the newly built Madison Square Gardens.


Among cowboys, George Cline was one of the best. He was a well-respected cattle rancher and rodeo cowboy. He also owned some of the best race horses in the world. His family still lives in the Tonto Basin today.

Joe Bassett

Joe Bassett (1911-1973) was a top cowboy both on the range and in the arena. The highlight of his career came in 1942 when he won the title of World Champion Team Roper. The following year he was privileged to perform at Madison Square Garden, New York as a World Champion Team Roper. He stayed in the top ten in the Rodeo Cowboys Association team roping standings from 1945 to 1952. Again in 1952, he was named World Champion Roper, along with his partner, Asbury Schell.


Joe was known as the dean among trainers of racing Quarter Horses in Arizona. In 1969, the won the $100,000 Invitational Quarter Horse Stake Race at Los Alamitos, California, the top Quarter Horse meet in the nation.


Joe participated and won many Payson Rodeos. In the famous hotly-matched race of 1952, between Brown Bomber and Cindy McCue, Joe Bassett bull-dogged Wayne Ewing off his horse after the finish line because Ewing had batted Bomber in the face with his whip. Joe lost the race, but won the fight. Many had bet on this horse race, and when they saw the fight start, they put down bets on the fight.

Asbury Schell

Asbury Schell on Cherokee Jake - Considered one of the stoutest horses ever on the end of a rope. 
Courtesy of Git A Rope Publishing

Lee Barkdoll

Lee Barkdoll ( 1902 – 1938) was born in Bisbee, Arizona, in 1902, to Guy Barkdoll and Irene Chilson.  He moved to the Payson area when he was 14 years old.  For a number of years, ending in 1935, he was foreman of the Bar T Bar Ranch, located on Deer Creek.  During this time, he followed the rodeos and was champion at many.  Lee competed in calf roping, wild cow milking, and team roping all over the state of Arizona especially in his home town of Payson at the August Doin’s.

Floyd Pyle

Floyd Pyle was born in Star Valley in 1891. When he graduated from the eighth grade, he was drawing top cowboy wages from Hi Fuller’s U Bar Outfit headquarteredd at Cold Springs near Payson. He later worked for Hook Larson, of Pleasant Valley War Fame, on the 13 Ranch. By the age of 22 he owned the Myrtle Ranch on Ellison Creek and was a full partner with his sister on the P Bar L in Star Valley. Floyd braided his own rawhide reatas and his roping skill, honed on the Ladino “outlaw” cattle under the Mogollon Rim, became legendary.


As a government hunter of mountain lions, Floyd’s yearly kills often exceeded fifty. He caught the first mountain lion alive for the San Diego Zoo and in the 1920s he caught both lion and bear alive for Zane Grey when the famous author went into the movie business. During the filming of one scene, Floyd roped a lion in mid air as he leaped from a high boulder. Floyd crossed the great divide in 1961 leaving the legacy of a Mountain Cowboy.

Dick Robbins

Dick Robbins and his rope horse, Tacky, traveled the rodeo circuit. Dick roped with Lee Barkdoll, Ben Robbins, and others. Born in 1900 in Tempe, Arizona he always wanted to Rodeo. 

Dick was one of the most colorful characters to ever rodeo in Payson. His quick wit gave many a laugh to competitors and spectators alike. “I know there’s money in rodeo,” quipped Dick at one of the Payson Rodeos, “cause I put it there!” Dick died March 1, 1983.

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© 2020 - Town of Payson 
Parks, Recreation & Tourism Department
1000 W. Country Club Dr.

Payson, AZ 85541  |  928-472-5110

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