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Chester A. Byers

© 2000-02 Betty Ralph

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   Chester Allen Arthur Byers was born January 18, 1892, in Knoxville, Knox County, Illinois, the son of Jessie and Eliza Jane Gray Byers. About 1895 the family moved to Mulhall, Logan County, Oklahoma. Chester, or Chet as he was later known, remembered walking with his father in Mulhall and seeing men riding into town fitted out with chaps, ropes, and big hats. He thought growing up to be a cowboy would be the most wonderful thing in the world.
   He was only 13 years old when he had his first roping job with the Pawnee Bill Show in Guthrie, Oklahoma. It must have convinced him that it was the life for him for when he was 15 he went on tour with Lucille Mulhall's Congress of Rough Riders. Chet's first contest rodeo was in Los Angeles, California, in 1911. He won the championship in fancy roping at the Sheepshead Bay Stampede in 1916 and retained the title until 1933, the last year a trick roping contest was held. His fancy roping and "big horse catches" delighted audiences in the United States, Mexico, Canada, South America, and England. In 1931 Chet, Will Rogers, singer Jimmie Rodgers, and the Revelers singing group made a marathon benefit tour of drought ravaged Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Texas. They performed in fifty towns and cities in eighteen days and raised $221,191.
   He was one of the first cowboys to endorse a product, in the 1930's he was pictured in advertising for the Hobbs Manufacturing Company horse trailers. In 1928 Chet wrote a book titled "Roping;" in the forward Will Rogers says "I only have two things that I will always die very proud of, one of them was that I used to teach Chet Byers tricks with a rope, and the other was that I waved at the train that Queen Marie was on, and I will always believe she saw me."
   Chet and his family resided in Fort Worth, Texas, but he still made trips back to Mulhall, Oklahoma, to visit the friends of his youth. His friendly manner and droll sense of humor endeared him to the world of rodeo until his death in November, 1945. Chester A. Byers was inducted into the Cowboy Hall of Fame April 25, 1969.

Sources

"The Western Horseman" July, 1969
"Who's Who In Rodeo" by Willard H. Porter, Powder River Book, Co., 1982
"Rodeo Sports News" May 15, 1969
"My Fifty Years in Rodeo" by Foghorn Clancy
"A History of Mulhall, Oklahoma" by Kathryn and Max Stanbury, Transcript Press, 1988
"Roping" by Chester Byers, 1928
"Will Rogers, A Biography" by Ben Yagoda, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc, 1993
Gladys Byers Hedley


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