By Ken Knopp
Legend has it that the four cowboys -- the Bascom brothers, Earl and Weldon, along with two other cowboys, Jake Lybbert and Waldo Ross, traveled from Warner County, Alberta, in western Canada, during that 1935 summer. They arrived in Mississippi ready to cowboy on the Hickman Ranch and to produce a rodeo -- the first in Mississippi.
To help put on the rodeo, other cowboys already living in the area were rounded up -- Don and Ferrol Pearce, two brothers from Utah; Ashel Evans, also from Utah; brothers Horace and Lester Flake, from Snowflake, Arizona; local rancher Sam Hickman, with his son-in-law Clyde Hatchell; and Ed Diffey of Kokomo, who worked with some of the bucking stock.
With their combined cowboy skills, they brought the "Old West" all the way from their hometowns in Arizona, Utah and Canada, and planted it squarely in the Deep South. Rodeo history was in the making.
Taking over the baseball field in a city park, with its grandstand and spotlights, these cowboys made a rodeo arena constructing bucking chutes and corrals.
For the rodeo, wild Mississippi cows and steers were trailed in from the Hickman Ranch near Arm in Lawrence County. Wild mules came from the Buhrer farm in Kokomo, and trailed to the rodeo. Wild horses came from west Texas.
Earl Bascom and Sam Hickman went to the stockyards in New Orleans to buy Brahma bulls to use as a special rodeo event -- Brahma bull riding.
Columbia is known in rodeo history not only as the “birthplace of Mississippi rodeo,” it is the “birthplace of rodeo Brahma bull riding” where Brahma bull riding got its start. The Columbia rodeo was also the first rodeo held outdoors at night under electric lights.
In continuing years, other people of note took part in the rodeos held in Columbia -- Ted Elder and his wife Pearl Elder, world champion trick riders from Raymond, Hinds County, Mississippi; Milby Lybbert, Jake's older brother, who was a bronc rider and also had a mule trained to count (the Lybbert brothers were descendants of Powhatan Indian Princess Pocahontas); and the entertaining rodeo clown Jasbo Faulkerson.
Since 1935, rodeo in Columbia, Mississippi has become a tradition -- the first and the oldest rodeo in the state. Some say it is the first and oldest rodeo in the entire Deep South.
Headquartered in the Marion County Museum, the Mississippi Rodeo Hall of Fame has inducted several rodeo people and with more to come. Inductees include Earl Bascom, Sam Hickman, Lecile Harris, local cowgirl and movie star Rose Bascom, and others who have been part of Mississippi rodeo history.
Those cowboys, who started the sport of rodeo in Mississippi some 85 years ago, are heralded as "rodeo pioneers." They brought notoriety to the City of Columbia, and left a heritage for the entire state.